How Do I Become a Derrickhand?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Someone who wants to become a derrickhand at an oil and gas drilling facility usually starts as an apprentice on the rigging team and works into this position. Oil and gas companies typically have low requirements for entry-level work, such as a high school diploma and a valid driver's license. With experience on the job, personnel can work into higher ranking positions with more opportunities for pay and advancement, as well as increased access to benefits.

A derrickhand can work on an offshore oil drilling platform.
A derrickhand can work on an offshore oil drilling platform.

Work in the oil and gas industry can require travel, sometimes to remote locations, as well as stationing on offshore rigs to provide services to crews there. A person who wants to become a derrickhand should prepare for travel far from home and potentially limited contact with friends and family in some cases. The work also requires a high degree of physical fitness and tolerance for harsh conditions like extreme heat.

A red and white oil derrick.
A red and white oil derrick.

Oil and gas companies regularly list their job openings. Someone who plans to become a derrickhand can pursue job openings and apply for available entry-level positions. The company typically conducts an interview to determine if an applicant is a good fit, and may ask for evidence of physical fitness for the work. If the company likes the applicant, it can extend a job offer. Assignments can vary, and in some cases applicants can request job assignments in specific areas.

While learning on the job as an entry level employee or apprentice, it is important to pay attention to supervisors, especially when discussing safety issues. As people acquire more experience, they can take on more complex tasks. Eventually, they can be assigned to watch and eventually take over responsibilities in the derrickhand position. After someone has become a derrickhand, the job includes assisting the driller with the control of drilling fluids and the lines associated with the drill.

A person who wants to become a derrickhand may find it helpful to pursue some safety certifications before looking for work or while in training as an entry-level employee. These can include training in safety harnesses, working up high, first aid, and handling oil and gas emergencies. These qualifications can make a job applicant more appealing and will be helpful when people are up for promotion. People with more training tend to be preferred, especially when the training shows that oil and gas personnel are committed to continuing safety education to work as safely and effectively as possible.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Are they built like football players or wrestlers? Would you do bench presses squats or snatches to get in shape for such work?


@starrynight - Good point about the salary. I've actually never heard of this job. However, the oil and gas industry isn't very big near me. I guess anyone from my area interested in this job would definitely have to move.

I think it's smart that this article recommends getting safety certifications. I've found that in most industries, having extra certifications and credentials can really help you get hired. And, sometimes employers will pay more if you have a certification.


I did a bit of checking online, and it looks like the average salary for this job is about $48K per year. This is pretty good for an entry level job! Most entry level jobs in my area pay about $10 per hour.

However, you have to keep in mind that you'll be traveling a lot. I think I would probably need a much more lucrative salary to entice me away from my family and friends.

But then again, this could be great for a single person low on options.


If you are in a place with a lot of oil and gas exploration it is pretty easy to find a job as a derrickhand. But be warned. This kind of work is not easy.

It is physically grueling labor. Expect to end every day tired, sore and filthy. You will be praying to get back to your bed for the first few weeks.

And derrickhands are the low men on the totem pole so they usually get the worst jobs and at least a bit of gruff from the higher ups. I don't want to discourage anyone. This can be a great way to get your foot into the door of a lucrative industry. But don't expect to like the work.

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