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Oil & Gas

Career Guide: How to become a Roustabout


The oil and gas industry is synonymous with hard work and resilience, often requiring hands-on commitment in physically demanding environments. Among the essential frontline roles in this sector is the position of a roustabout. Known for their pivotal role in daily operations on oil rigs and in oilfields, roustabouts perform a variety of tasks that keep our energy supplies flowing. This career guide aims to illuminate the path to becoming a roustabout, detailing the responsibilities, required skills, qualifications, and prospects associated with this dynamic profession. Whether you’re just starting out or considering a career switch, understanding what it takes to succeed as a roustabout can serve as a valuable step toward a lucrative and rewarding career in the oil and gas industry.

What Is a Roustabout?

A roustabout plays a pivotal role in the oil and gas industry, primarily working on oil rigs and drilling platforms. Often seen as the backbone of the operations in the field, a roustabout performs a variety of manual tasks, ensuring the efficient functioning of the oil rigs. This position is usually entry-level, providing an essential stepping stone for individuals aiming to ascend in the petroleum sector.

Roustabouts are typically employed to maintain and clean the equipment and the deck, move supplies and equipment, and assist in the general operation of the rig. They work under the supervision of a lead roustabout or a rig manager. Despite the physically demanding nature of the job, it offers substantial opportunities for growth and development within the field. For many, the role of a roustabout is the first exposure to the oil and gas industry, serving as a foundational career path that can lead to more skilled and higher-ranking positions like roughnecks, derrickmen, or even drilling supervisors.

The term "roustabout" itself has maritime roots, traditionally referring to a deckhand or a laborer on a ship, barge, or oil rig. Today, this term encapsulates a key role in the energy sector, characterized by hard work, resilience, and a strong commitment to safety and team collaboration.

Key Responsibilities of a Roustabout

The role of a roustabout is crucial in the functioning of oil rigs and natural gas extraction sites. As an entry-level position in the oil industry, roustabouts are tasked with physically demanding and varied duties, pivotal to successful operations on offshore and land drilling sites. Here, we break down the key responsibilities of a roustabout to provide clarity on what the job entails.

  • Maintenance of Equipment: Roustabouts are responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of drilling equipment and tools. Regular checks and maintenance ensure the smooth functionality of operations and prevention of potential accidents.
  • Assembly: Often, roustabouts help in assembling and disassembling pieces of equipment or temporary structures. This can include setting up drilling rigs and ensuring that all components are correctly configured.
  • Load and Unload Materials: Transporting materials to and from the site is another key task. Roustabouts load and unload various supplies, ensuring that all necessary materials are available on-site and accounted for.
  • General Upkeep: The general cleanup of the site is also under the purview of a roustabout. This involves removing potential hazardous materials and ensuring a clean and safe environment for all personnel.
  • Manual Labor: General manual labor is a significant part of a roustabout’s workday, which can include digging, moving equipment, and various other physically demanding tasks that require a strong physical condition and endurance.

Additionally, safety is a paramount concern in all activities a roustabout is involved in. They must adhere to all safety regulations and guidelines to minimize risk and ensure both their own safety and the safety of their team members. Roustabouts, therefore, need to be continuously mindful and proactive about the working environment and safety practices.

Moreover, since roustabouts work in dynamic environments, their responsibilities can often extend beyond these primary tasks, necessitating flexibility and adaptability in handling any tasks that contribute to the rig's operation and safety. This foundational role not only requires physical strength and stamina but also a dedication to meticulousness and teamwork.

Understanding these key responsibilities aids prospective roustabouts in preparing for the demands of the job and highlights the importance of this position in the broader context of the oil and gas industry.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Roustabout?

Becoming a roustabout is relatively straightforward in terms of time investment compared to many other professions that require formal education and extensive training. The timeline to enter the field can vary based on an individual’s pace, the availability of positions, and specific employer requirements, but generally, it can be a swift process.

Initial Training: The initial step towards becoming a roustabout usually involves a short period of training. This training, which can last from a few days to several weeks, is often provided on the job. New hires learn basic safety protocols, the use of tools and equipment, and the specific operations typical at a worksite. Some employers might also require formal certifications such as the Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET), which can take about three days to complete.

  • Experience: After initial training, the skills of a roustabout are honed through practical, on-the-job experience. Proficiency grows with time on the job, and responsibilities may increase as a roustabout gains more experience.
  • Advancement: For those aiming to advance into more specialized roles or supervisory positions, additional training and several years of experience might be necessary. Advancing beyond a roustabout could require further education or specific technical training, depending on the desired role.

In summary, you could start working as a roustabout within a few weeks of being hired, assuming the availability of immediate training and onboarding processes at the hiring company. Advancing in your career could take a few years, contingent on your personal commitment and the opportunities available within your company or industry sector.

What are the Qualifications Required to Become a Roustabout?

Embarking on a career as a roustabout in the oil and gas industry does not typically require formal academic qualifications, but there are several entry criteria that potential candidates must meet to be successful in securing a position and excelling in this field.

Minimum Age and Physical Requirements: To start, a roustabout must be at least 18 years old. The job is physically demanding and often involves heavy lifting, bending, and working in all weather conditions. As such, physical fitness and the ability to pass a medical examination are essential.

  • Education: While a high school diploma or a GED is generally sufficient, possessing these basic educational credentials demonstrates the ability to follow instructions and comprehend safety protocols, which are crucial in a high-risk environment.
  • Training and Certifications: Offshore roustabouts might need specific certifications such as Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET) and Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET). Onshore roles might require other safety trainings regulated by national or regional safety boards.
  • Drug and Alcohol Tests: Due to the stringent safety standards in oil and gas environments, prospective roustabouts must often pass drug and alcohol screenings before employment and may be subjected to random tests throughout their tenure.
  • Legal Eligibility to Work: Depending on the location, roustabouts must be eligible to work legally. For offshore positions, valid passports and work permits are necessary if the job location is in international waters or foreign countries.

Candidates who are just starting out might consider enrolling in a relevant training course offered by vocational schools or community colleges that include practical modules on oil and gas operations, which could enhance employability.

Despite the minimal academic requirements, having a robust set of basic qualifications and certifications can set a candidate apart and lay a solid foundation for a successful career as a roustabout.

What are the Skills and Knowledge Required to Become a Roustabout?

To excel as a roustabout in the demanding and dynamic environment of oil rigs and natural resource extraction sites, individuals need to possess a blend of practical skills, knowledge, and personal attributes. Here’s an outline of the essential competencies:

Technical Skills and Physical Abilities

  • Manual Labor Skills: Roustabouts must handle setting up, maintaining, and securing oilfield equipment. This includes the physical ability to operate and repair tools and machinery.
  • Strength and Stamina: Daily duties often involve lifting heavy objects, climbing, and staying on your feet for extended periods under potentially harsh weather conditions.

Safety Knowledge

Understanding the rigorous safety protocols is crucial due to the high-risk nature of the work:

  • Knowledge of emergency response techniques, fire safety, and hazard recognition to ensure personal and team safety.
  • Familiarity with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and personal protective equipment (PPE) usage.

Operational and Technical Knowledge

Roustabouts should understand the basics of:

  • Oil and Gas Production: Knowledge of how drilling and extraction work, understanding of wellhead maintenance, and familiarity with hydraulic systems.
  • Machinery Operation: Competence in operating various machinery including winches, cranes, and hoists.

Soft Skills

Effective interpersonal and communication skills are essential in ensuring smooth operations on a rig. These include:

  • Teamwork: The ability to collaborate with a diverse group of colleagues, following instructions, and providing support where needed.
  • Problem-Solving: Quick thinking to troubleshoot and solve problems as they arise during operations.
  • Communication: Clear articulation of issues and observance of communication protocols to ensure safety and efficiency.

Besides these skills and knowledge, roustabouts must demonstrate a strong work ethic and the ability to adapt to the evolving demands of the job. Continuous learning and upgrading of skills are also vital in keeping pace with technological advancements in the field.

How Much Does a Roustabout Make?

The financial rewards of a career as a roustabout can vary widely based on several factors, including geographical location, experience level, and the current state of the oil and gas industry. In general, roustabouts are considered entry-level positions in the energy sector but still offer a competitive starting salary compared to many other fields.

The national average salary for a roustabout in the United States typically ranges from approximately $31,500 to $51,000 annually, with the median salary hovering around $37,340 as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2021. These figures, however, can escalate depending on overtime, hazard pay, and the cost of living adjustments for particular regions.

Beyond base pay, roustabouts often have access to further financial incentives such as:

  • Overtime pay: Due to the demanding nature of the work, roustabouts often work extended hours, especially during critical operational periods, which can significantly increase their earnings.
  • Benefits: Many companies offer comprehensive benefits including health insurance, dental and vision coverage, life insurance, retirement plans, and sometimes even housing accommodations, particularly when working in remote areas.
  • Performance bonuses: Some companies reward hardworking roustabouts with bonuses tied to individual or team performance, adding a competitive edge to salaries.

The financial gains seen by a roustabout can also increase with experience and skill development. Many roustabouts may advance to higher-paying roles within the oil and gas industry, such as roughneck, driller, or even rig supervisor positions, which come with their own respective pay increases.

While the entry-level pay for roustabouts may not reflect the strenuous nature of the job initially, there is considerable potential for financial growth as one climbs the career ladder in the oilfield sector. Understanding these aspects can provide prospective roustabouts a clear picture of what to expect financially in this field.

Career Outlook for Roustabout

The career outlook for a roustabout in the energy and oil industries is a subject of keen interest given the dynamic nature of these sectors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for roustabouts in the oil and gas industry is expected to experience modest growth. However, this growth can fluctuate depending on various factors such as global oil prices, technological advancements, and geographic exploration shifts.

**Economic and Industry Factors:**

  • Oil and Gas Prices: The demand for roustabouts is closely tied to the prices of oil and gas. Higher prices typically encourage more exploration and production activities, thereby boosting employment opportunities.
  • Technological Advances: Innovation in extraction and production technologies can both positively and negatively impact job prospects. Automation and improved efficiency can reduce the need for manual labor, but they can also create new opportunities in maintenance and oversight of advanced machinery.
  • Geopolitical Influences: Changes in political climates and policies, especially in major oil-producing regions, can dramatically alter market dynamics and job availability.

**Location and Mobility:**

Roustabouts willing to relocate may find more opportunities. Regions with active oil fields such as Texas, North Dakota, and offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico are often in need of skilled labor. International opportunities also exist, but these require readiness to work in remote and often challenging conditions.

**Long Term Prospects:**

While some concern exists regarding the long-term sustainability of fossil fuels, the transition to renewable energy sources is gradual. The expertise of roustabouts in rig operations and maintenance will continue to be valuable, particularly in areas where traditional energy resources dominate. Additionally, skills acquired as a roustabout can be transferable to other industries such as renewable energy, construction, and maritime operations, adding to the versatility of this career path.

**Continual Learning and Advancement Opportunities:**

The role of a roustabout serves as a stepping stone to higher positions in the industry, such as roughneck, driller, or even rig supervisor. Individuals who invest in additional training and show a strong work ethic can see significant advancement in their careers.

To sum up, the outlook for a career as a roustabout offers both challenges and opportunities. Individuals interested in this field should be aware of the industry's susceptibility to external economic and political factors but also consider the potential for personal growth and transition to other sectors.

Finding Jobs as a Roustabout

The journey to landing a job as a roustabout might seem daunting, but understanding the most effective avenues for job searching can considerably ease the process. Here, we’ll explore various strategies and resources that you can use to find employment in this field.

Online Job Portals

Start your search by looking at specialized job boards that focus on the oil and gas industry as well as more general job search websites. Websites such as Rigzone, Oil and Gas Job Search, and Indeed are excellent places to find listings specific to roustabouts. Make sure to set up job alerts to receive notifications of new job postings directly to your email.

Recruitment Agencies

Many oil and gas companies hire through recruitment agencies that specialize in the sector. Registering with these agencies can provide you with access to job opportunities that may not be advertised publicly. These agencies also typically provide valuable advice on resume building and interview preparation.


Industry networking is another crucial approach. Attend industry conferences, seminars, and meet-ups to connect with professionals in the field. Networking can often lead to information on job openings and increase your chances of referrals.

Company Websites

Target specific companies within the oil and gas industry and regularly check their career pages for job openings. Applying directly through the company’s website is a proactive way to approach your job search. Furthermore, it shows potential employers your specific interest in their company.

Social Media Platforms

Leverage the power of social media by following companies on platforms like LinkedIn, where many businesses post job openings and updates. Joining oil and gas industry groups and participating in discussions can also heighten your visibility and connect you with potential employers.

Job Fairs and Career Centers

Look out for job fairs which are often hosted by universities or industry associations. These fairs can give you a platform to meet employers face-to-face. Also, don’t overlook the services offered by career centers, particularly those at institutions that specialize in oil and gas or maritime studies.

Volunteering and Internships

If you are new to the industry, gaining some initial exposure through volunteering or an internship can be very beneficial. These experiences not only provide real-world skills but also bolster your resume and expand your professional network.

Finding a roustabout position requires a blend of traditional job search methods coupled with industry-specific strategies. By diversifying your approach and making use of as many resources as possible, you’ll increase your chances of successfully launching your career in this dynamic field.


The role of a roustabout is integral to the operational effectiveness of the oil and gas industry. From setting up rigs to maintaining equipment, the responsibilities may seem daunting but they offer an excellent entry-level opportunity that does not demand advanced educational qualifications.

Embarking on a career as a roustabout provides a foundational understanding of the industry's dynamics, offering hands-on experience that is both challenging and rewarding. With a competitive salary and ample opportunities for advancement, it presents a promising path for those eager to start a career in a field that supports ongoing learning and development.

Certainly, the path of a roustabout is not for everyone. It requires physical stamina, resilience, and adaptability to harsh environments. However, for those who are passionate about hands-on technical work and are looking for a robust introduction to the oilfield sector, becoming a roustabout is an excellent starting point.

In summary, for individuals ready to embrace the physical demands and the challenging environments, a career as a roustabout can be a gateway to lucrative opportunities within the broader energy sector. It provides foundational knowledge and skills that are indispensable in the exploration and production segment of the industry. As the world continues to depend on oil and gas for energy, the demand for skilled roustabouts is likely to remain steady, securing this career as a viable and important role in our global energy infrastructure.


Embarking on a career as a roustabout comes with many questions. Below are some frequently asked questions to provide further clarity on this role.

What is the typical work environment for a roustabout?

Roustabouts predominantly work in the oil and gas industry, spending most of their time on oil rigs or in oil fields. The environment is very physically demanding and usually involves all-weather outdoor work. Roustabouts must also be prepared to handle heavy machinery and potentially hazardous materials.

Are there any advancement opportunities for roustabouts?

Yes, roustabouts can advance to higher positions with experience and further training. Common career progressions include advancing to positions such as roughneck, derrickman, or even a drill operator. These roles come with more responsibilities and higher compensation.

What are the working hours like for a roustabout?

  • Roustabouts often work long hours, with shifts possibly extending up to 12 hours.
  • The nature of the job requires round-the-clock operations, so shifts can include nights, weekends, and holidays.
  • Typically, schedules on rigs are rotational, such as two weeks on followed by two weeks off.

Do roustabouts need any certifications?

While formal educational qualifications are not strictly necessary, holding certifications can improve employability and safety awareness on the job. Common certifications include Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET) and H2S Awareness training.

What are the risks involved in being a roustabout?

The role of a roustabout involves certain risks due to the nature of the work and the environment. Common risks include exposure to extreme weather conditions, handling hazardous materials, and the potential for physical injuries. Employers typically provide safety training to mitigate these risks.

Is experience in related fields helpful for becoming a roustabout?

Yes, experience in construction, mechanical work, or other labor-intensive roles can be very beneficial. It provides practical skills that are applicable to the duties of a roustabout and demonstrates the ability to handle physically demanding work.

How do I find roustabout job opportunities?

Job opportunities for roustabouts can be found on various online job portals, at career fairs, or through staffing agencies that specialize in oil and gas industry placements. Networking within the industry and contacting oil and gas companies directly can also be effective strategies.

If you have further questions about starting a career as a roustabout, it's beneficial to contact professionals currently in the field or a career counselor specialized in the oil and gas industry.

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