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28 Jan 2022
updated 28 Jan 2022

Roustabouts and Roughnecks

The work

As a roustabout you would do basic labouring tasks to help keep the drilling area in good working order. You would work under the supervision of a lead roustabout, and your job would include:

  • cleaning, scraping and painting the deck, equipment and work areas
  • offloading supplies from boats and moving them to storage areas
  • moving supplies and equipment to the work site
  • using lifting gear and winches to load and stack equipment
  • helping to repair pumping equipment
  • mixing the 'drilling mud' to lubricate the drill bit

Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout. As a roughneck, you would carry out more skilled duties as part of the actual drilling operation, such as:

  • adding fresh lengths of drill pipe as the drill moves deeper into rock
  • inserting and extracting the whole drill
  • cleaning, maintaining and repairing the drilling equipment
  • using lifting gear, ropes and winches


You would typically live and work on a rig or platform for two or three weeks, followed by two or three weeks' rest period onshore. You would work up to 12 hours a day on a 24-hour shift rota.

You could work on a fixed production platform with up to 100 workers, or on a smaller mobile rig in a team of around 20 people. Facilities can include living accommodation, canteens and recreation areas. Alcohol and smoking are banned.

The job can be physically demanding, working in all types of weather conditions and at heights. You would need to wear protective clothing, including a harness, ear defenders and a thermal boiler suit.


Starting salaries can be around £18,000 to £22,000 a year. More experienced roustabouts and roughnecks can earn between £22,000 and £30,000 a year.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Entry requirements

You do not need formal qualifications to work as a roustabout but previous experience in areas such as shipbuilding, construction or engineering will be helpful.

Another common way to join this industry is through an apprenticeship scheme. Employers often prefer apprentices to have four GCSEs (A-C) including English, maths and another relevant subject like science or design and technology.

You will need to be aged 18 or over for most offshore jobs and you will need an Offshore Medical Certificate in order to start working on the rigs. Safety and survival training will also be required. This can be done before joining an offshore rig. See the Training and development section for more about this.

To find out more about apprenticeships, visit the apprenticeships, Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) and OPITO websites.

  • Apprenticeships
  • ECTIB – Apprenticeships
  • OPITO – Apprenticeships

You can find more details about working in the offshore oil and gas industry on the OPITO and ECITB careers websites.

  • OPITO - myOilandGasCareer.com (Roles)
  • ECITB - careers

Training and development

Your employer would put you through training when you join, which would include a two-day Minimum Industry Safety Training (MIST) course. This covers nine areas of work, such as:

  • risk assessment
  • controlling hazardous substances offshore
  • personal responsibility
  • working at heights

You would also do the Basic Offshore Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET) course, covering:

  • safety induction
  • fire safety and basic fire fighting
  • first aid
  • helicopter safety
  • survival at sea

Other training could include a five-day 'Greenhand' course aimed at new entrants, which also covers specific training on the direction of cranes and the use of other lifting equipment (known as banksman slinger training). The safety aspects of this course are similar to the MIST, so you may find that training providers combine the two courses. Check with providers for exact details.

You can see more information about safety courses, offshore medicals and find approved training providers for these and other industry courses on the OPITO careers and training websites.

  • OPITO – myOilandGasCareer.com
  • OPITO – training finder

You will take further short courses relevant to your particular job as your experience grows. Your employer may also encourage you to work towards industry qualifications developed in partnership between OPITO and the Scottish Qualifications Authority. These include:

  • SVQ Level 1 in Offshore Drilling Operations
  • SVQ Level 2 in Offshore Deck Operations.

Skills, interests and qualities

To be a roustabout you should have:

  • good practical skills
  • the ability to live and work as a member of a team
  • willingness to live and work away from home
  • good leadership skills
  • willingness to learn and follow instructions
  • awareness of health and safety
  • physical fitness

More information

Unit 5, Mandarin Court
Centre Park
Tel: 01925 515200
myOilandGasCareer.com (OPITO careers site)
Oil & Gas UK

Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB)
Blue Court
Church Lane
Kings Langley
Tel: 01923 260000


The UK offshore oil and gas industry is located mainly off the east coast of Scotland and England. There are also fields in the Irish Sea and west of the Shetland Islands.

Many employers operate throughout the world, so you could also work overseas.

You could work for operating companies with their own exploration and production licences, or for drilling and maintenance contracting companies. Jobs may be advertised in the press, on employers' websites and specialist recruitment agencies.

You would start as a roustabout and progress to roughneck, usually after around six months. With further training and experience, you can progress to derrickman, assistant driller and driller.

You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading:

  • OilCareers
  • Oil and Gas Job Search
  • Offshore Technology

Job market information

This section gives you an overview of the job area that this profile belongs to. You can use it to work out your next career move. It can help if you're looking for a job now or want to do some further training.

The 'Market statistics' charts are based on figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The list of job vacancies under 'Apply for jobs' is from the Universal Jobmatch database. The vacancies are not from the National Careers Service

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