The oil and gas industry is desperately looking for workers at all levels. They would prefer experienced workers, but beggars can’t be choosers – many of their most experienced staff are reaching retirement age in the next few years and they need those skills transferred before it is too late. Besides roustabouts, a mudlogger is another entry level oilfield job which leads to better things. Many senior staff on oil rigs started off as mudloggers.
- connect various sensors to the drilling apparatus and install specialized equipment
- collects geological samples of rock cuttings from the oil well (as part of the oil drilling process)
- monitor gases coming up out of the wellbore as an indicator of hydrocarbons
- prepares and analyses them geologically
- writes a report on them
- enters the information into the database.
Mudloggers work 12-hour shifts, and there are always 2 of them on an oil rig to ensure 24-hour coverage. The job is strenuous and challenging, especially when you have to install equipment and collect samples while drilling is actively going on. You have to be diligent, because part of your duties includes monitoring the level of dangerous gas which can cause a well blowout.
There is high turnover in this oilfield job. Most mudloggers work for oil services companies – not directly for the major companies like Shell or BP. Larger service companies require you to have a geology degree, and expect you to move up the career ladder quickly. Most mudloggers are young, in their early twenties and single. It is rare to see a middle-aged mudlogger. After 6 months to two years of work, you would ideally gain promotion to data engineer, with more responsibilities. As a data engineer, you will also troubleshoot problems which arise, and maintain and repair sensors as needed. For many mudloggers, the eventual aim is to become the wellsite geologist.
Although a mudlogger is an entry level oilfield job, you will earn at least $50,000 annually. Recent information from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists’ April 2008 meeting showed that graduate students with Masters and PhD degrees were receiving salaries of $80,000 to $110,000. Compare this to $55,000 in 2003.
Another perk of your job is travel. Many oil services companies have operations all over the world. For example, Geoservices has service contracts throughout oil rigs on the North Sea. Their employees get the opportunity to travel throughout northern Europe – Norway, Denmark and Holland – when they are off-duty. Working 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off means that you have plenty of time to explore the countries where you are based.
Some new hires hope to use a mudlogger oilfield job to get hired for bigger things by a major oil company like Exxon. This strategy has mixed success. In the United States, many oil wells are owned by wildcatters, who sell their oil to the oil companies. In the North Sea, too, many subcontractors and service companies are used to operate offshore oil rigs. Typically, companies like Shell have only a token presence on board these offshore oil rigs – the company man. Everyone else works for the contractor.
Right now, geology graduates with advanced degrees are being headhunted even before they graduate. But not everyone can go to graduate school, and not every geology student can score straight A’s to attract a company like Halliburton. If your results are only average, your best chance to get an oilfield job is to use proven oil rig employment placement services.