Entry Senior

Drilling and Service Rig Operator

Photo courtesy of Cenovus Energy

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


Work Activities
Applying Health and Safety Principles
Helping ensure the safety of floorhands and labourers.
Ensuring that safety and support equipment are functioning properly.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers or Subordinates
Communicating the progress of the drilling operation with the well site supervisor.
Controlling Machines and Processes
Performing service rig control tasks, such as operating the blowout prevention (BOP) system, coordinating the removal and installation of wellhead components and conducting pressure tests.
Observing the pressure gauge and moving throttles and levers accordingly to control the speed of the rotary tables and regulate the pressure of tools at the bottom of a borehole.
Documenting/Recording Information
Maintaining a record of drilling progress.
Tracking the movement of fluids.
Maintaining equipment logs and preventative maintenance records.
Recording mud flows, volumes and fluid properties.
Maintaining records of footage drilled, the location and nature of strata penetrated, materials and tools used, services rendered, and time required.
Getting Information
Conducting tests on fluid samples, such as methanol, acids and produced water.
Guiding, Directing and Motivating Subordinates
Supervising floorhands and labourers.
Assisting with crew supervision.
Overseeing the loading and securing of pumps and tanks.
Overseeing the operation of the rig.
Overseeing the loading and securing of the rig carrier.
Handling and Moving Objects
Picking up and running tubing into a well.
Participating in the rig-up and tear-out of the derrick.
Mixing fluid chemicals and additives as required by the drilling program.
Handling sections of the drill string assembly from the platform of the rig derrick during tripping operations.
Draining pumps.
Handling fluids.
Participating in emergency response procedures, such as blow out prevention (BOP) drills, confined spaced rescues and fire drills.
Removing core samples during drilling to determine the nature of the strata being drilled.
Identifying Objects, Actions and Events
Identifying the movement of fluids.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures or Material
Inspecting the tubing being placed in a well.
Performing pre-trip, en-route and post-trip inspections of the pump or tank truck.
Interacting With Computers
Operating well data programs.
Monitoring and Controlling Resources
Monitoring inventories of fuels, oil filters, lube oils, greases and other service items.
Monitor Processes, Materials or Surroundings
Monitoring gauges.
Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices or Equipment
Operating drilling fluid systems and pumps during drilling.
Operating the draw-works, rotary equipment and pumps, and supervising the assembly of the drill string.
Operating the rig’s pump, engine and manifold.
Processing Information
Calculating fluid volumes.
Counting sections of the drill rod to determine the depth of a wellbore.
Quality Assurance
Ensuring crew members and third party contractors follow rules, regulations, policies and procedures.
Repairing and Maintaining Mechanical Equipment
Maintaining drilling rig engines, transmissions, heating systems, diesel electric generators, motors, hydraulic systems and other mechanical equipment on a regular basis.
Maintaining the rig’s pump, engine and manifold.
Performing various activities at heights, such as maintaining and inspecting the derrick and its operating components.
Repairing or replacing defective parts of machinery, such as rotary drill rigs, water trucks, air compressors and pumps, using hand tools.
Training and Teaching Others
Assisting in the training of new and junior crew members.
Providing on-the-job training to junior crew members.
Equipment Maintenance
Equipment Selection
Operation Monitoring
Critical Thinking
Career Path
Related Careers
Available Jobs
  • Here are the two most recent postings:

Gas tester - oil field services

Posted on Jul 02 2019

By s+t production testing ltd.

Wembley Dependant upon experience
Directional drilling operator

Posted on Jun 12 2019

By rondor excavations ltd

Winnipeg Dependant upon experience
View All Jobs (2)
Working Conditions
  • Field 2
    Field Visits
  • Steeringwheel
    Driving Required
  • Variable weather
    Inclement Weather
  • Road
    Remote Locations
  • Industrial excavator
    Active Machinery
  • Arrow
    Shift Work
  • Load
    Heavy Lifting
  • Standing
    Long Periods of Standing
  • Physical
    Physically Demanding
  • Heights
    Working from Heights
  • Longshifts
    Long Shifts
  • Hazardous
    Hazardous Conditions
  • Overtime
    Some Overtime Required
Similar Jobs In Other Industries
Careers also exist in the following industries:
  • Forestry and logging
  • Heavy and civil engineering construction
  • Mining and quarrying
  • Professional, scientific and technical services
  • Utilities, including renewable energy
Job Details

Job Category



Oil and gas services


8412, 8232, 8222

Qualifications + Experience


  • 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

Additional Requirements:

  • Ability to pass a pre-employment physical assessment and drug test
  • A reliable vehicle to get to and from a drilling site