Becoming a Drilling Supervisor: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a drilling supervisor? Get real job duties, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a drilling supervisor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Drilling Supervisor

As a drilling supervisor, you would most likely oversee the extraction of natural resources, such as oil or gasses. Read the pros and cons of becoming a drilling supervisor to determine if this career is right for you.

Pros of Being a Drilling Supervisors
Above-average income potential (median annual salary of about $101,000 for drilling supervisors as of February 2016*; median annual salary of about $91,000 for supervisors in oil and gas extraction**)
Above-average job growth (10% by 2024 first-line supervisors of extraction workers)**
A high school diploma can be sufficient for some positions**
Opportunity to provide safe working environments****

Cons of Being a Drilling Supervisor
Hazardous conditions (39 deaths per 100,000 mining machine operators)***
High level of experience required for supervisor positions**
A wide variety of certifications could be required (well control certification, state certifications for mining supervisors and blasting professionals, Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) certification, Emergency Medical Technician certification, etc.)****
Work can be stressful*****

Sources: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***, ****Job postings from 2012, *****U.S. Department of Labor's O*NET OnLine.

Career Information

Drilling supervisors oversee extraction operations for mines and oil producers. Below-ground natural resources are present throughout the country and many domestic organizations practice extraction overseas. Although extraction safety has greatly increased in recent decades, mining careers are still considered among the most dangerous professions in the U.S.

Job Duties, Career Outlook and Salary Information

In addition to the direct supervision of extraction workers, drilling supervisors are tasked with operating and maintaining extraction equipment, ensuring regulatory practices and developing methods of increasing productivity. You may need surveying skills for studying maps and reading construction blueprints. Computer and administrative skills may also be required for maintaining drilling records and production evaluations. As a drilling supervisor, you may be involved with recruitment and hiring as well as regular reporting to mine or well management.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections, first-line supervisors of construction and extraction workers are expected to see an employment increase of 10% from 2014-2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Although drilling practices persist throughout the country, employment in extraction services is most highly concentrated in states such as Wyoming, New Mexico, North Dakota, West Virginia and Montana.

In 2014, the BLS reported that front-line supervisors working in oil and gas extraction earned a mean annual salary of about $91,000. Professionals with more experience and academic training may be able to earn higher incomes. reported in February 2016 that drilling operations supervisors earned a median annual salary of about $101,000.


Education Requirements

A high school diploma may be enough to begin gaining experience that leads to a supervisory position in extraction. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online, about 54% of first-line supervisors working the extraction industry held only a high-school diploma. However, many employers may prefer or even require a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject, such as petroleum engineering.

Real Job Listings for Drilling Supervisors

Careers in drilling supervision generally require an extensive amount of experience in extraction, both as a technician and in management. Some education may be preferred, and you may also be required to obtain safety certifications through governmental agencies or professional organizations such as the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC). Here are some actual job postings for drilling supervisor positions throughout the country:

  • A Texas crude oil extractor seeks a drilling operation superintendent for office and field supervision. A bachelor's degree in engineering is required, plus seven years of related experience.
  • A deepwater petroleum extractor in Texas seeks offshore drilling and completions engineers and supervisors for contract work. Applicant must be certified in offshore survival and well control. Requirements also include ten or more years of experience along with some rig management experience.
  • A West Virginia coal extractor seeks drilling and blasting supervisor. The position requires drafting budgets, inventory control, operations evaluation and direct supervision of drilling and blasting activities. MSHA certification and state Surface Mine Foreman Certification plus five years of supervisory experience required.
  • Missouri lead producer seeks drilling supervisor. Working knowledge of drilling equipment as well as welding and cutting processes is required. Duties include supervision, inspection and working with mine management. Qualifications include a high school diploma plus 7-10 years of experience.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Employers may prefer or require licensure or certification for various types of extraction work. In addition to training on equipment use and procedures, professional certifications ensure your knowledge of environmental regulations and safety protocol.

Although some jobs may not require a postsecondary degree, you may be able to gain a competitive advantage by obtaining an associate or bachelor's degree in areas relative to your career goals. In addition to gaining a background in geological engineering, you may find a program that provides valuable industry-specific administrative training. Available degree programs include associate and bachelor's degree programs in subjects like mine management, petroleum energy technology, natural resource ecology and management, and petroleum engineering.

Alternative Career Options

Civil Engineer

Civil engineers design and supervise the construction of major projects that include buildings, bridges, highways, airports and water systems. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits college programs geared to prepare you for obtaining a Professional Engineer (P.E.) license. Licensure generally entails completing an approved bachelor's degree program, supervised experience and the successful completion of an examination.

The BLS projects a 19% growth in employment for civil engineers from 2010-2020. Growth should be spurred by population growth and the need to improve the nation's infrastructure. In 2011, the BLS reported that civil engineers earned a median annual salary of about $78,000.

Construction Manager

Construction managers perform general contractor work for commercial or residential building projects. You may be in charge of sub-contracting specific work for plumbing, electrical, roofing and other aspects of construction. As a construction manager, you may need to negotiate costs or bid on certain projects. Most states require a general contractor's license to perform services. This may entail obtaining supervised experience and journey certificates in other areas of construction.

Most construction managers receive formal training through either an associate degree or bachelor's degree program, which can include coursework on topics such as building design, cost estimation, building codes and business administration. The BLS projects a 17% growth in employment for construction managers from 2010-2020. Although income for general contracting services can vary greatly, the BLS 2011 data reports a median annual salary of about $84,000 for construction managers.

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