About This Career
Drilling and Service Rig Operators operate and maintain drilling equipment at a well site. The type of equipment and the time spent at the site are the primary differences between the two occupations.
Drilling rigs and service rigs each have a distinct function in the oil and gas industry. A drilling rig is used in exploration to determine the feasibility of a formation to produce oil or gas. A service rig is brought to a site after a drilling rig's work is complete to support the well's ongoing production. Service rigs are also used to shut in a well, repair a well or do maintenance to enhance the well’s production. A Drilling Rig Operator can spend weeks or month at a wellsite and once completed, may never return to the site. A Service Rig Operator, meanwhile, may be at a wellsite for days or weeks, returning for ongoing maintenance or to shut-in production.
The typical roles in the drilling crew include:
- Motorhands maintain drilling rig engines, transmissions, heating systems, diesel/electric generators, motors, hydraulic systems and other mechanical equipment.
- Derrickhands operate and maintain drilling fluid systems and pumps during the drilling process.
- Drillers supervise a drilling crew and operate the drill line reels, rotary equipment and pumps.
The typical roles in the service crew include:
- Derrickhands set up and dismantle the derrick, pumps and tanks and service, operate, inspect and monitor the pumps and engines at the well site.
- Operator/Drillers operate hoisting equipment control panels, monitor the progress of operations and supervise the on-site service crew and all operations of the rig.
Education: High school graduation is not required. However, previous experience in an entry-level labourer role, such as Floorhand, is typically required. Both drilling and service rig contractors have structured on-the-job training. Drilling Rig Operators can enroll in a Rig Technician Apprenticeship program while Service Rig Operators can participate in a Service Rig Competency Program.
Employment: This occupation is found in both onshore and offshore environments and is employed in the oil and gas services sector of the oil and gas industry.
Example job titles: Motorhand, Derrickhand (Drilling Rig), Driller, Derrickhand (Service Rig), Rig Technician
Long Periods of Standing
Working from Heights
Some Overtime Required
- Professional, scientific and technical services
- Heavy and civil engineering construction
- Utilities, including renewable energy
- Mining and quarrying
- Forestry and logging
Oil and gas services
8412, 8232 8222
- Grade 10
- H2S Alive
- Standard and emergency first aid
- Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
- Fall protection
- Confined Space Entry and Rescue
- Well Control
- Drilling Rig Operators require a Class 5 driver’s licence and a clean driving record
- A Class 5 or 3 driver's licence (with air brake endorsement) is an asset for Service Rig Operators
- Ability to pass a pre-employment physical assessment and drug test
- A reliable vehicle to get to and from a drilling site