Water Well Driller Careers: Salary & Job Description

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Learn about a water well driller's job duties, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a water well driller career.
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Pros and Cons in a Career as a Water Well Driller

Water well drillers may be referred to as earth drillers within the industry. You can decide for yourself if this career suits you by studying the following pros and cons tables.

PROS of Becoming a Water Well Driller
Doesn't require formal training*
Average annual pay is low, but balanced with no education costs ($46,060 average annual salary)**
Faster-than-average job growth (19% between 2012-2022)**
Ability to work in a variety of locations**

CONS of Becoming a Water Well Driller
Job can be dangerous (may involve using explosives)*
Work is often done in all types of weather, including severe weather conditions*
May require regular traveling to different areas for work*
Some states may require licensing*

Source: *Minnesota Energy Careers, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Water well drillers use a variety of equipment, such as rotary and churn drills. They drill into the earth to tap into water that lies beneath. In some cases, explosives may be needed to clear the surface area for drilling, or they may be required to use other large equipment to clear the surface for drilling. Most drilling equipment used is portable so that it can be taken from one spot to another as needed.

Deciding where to drill and what spots may be best for finding water is a skill learned through work experience and may require sampling tests to be done. A driller may also be required to estimate the amount of water needed in order to decide if a water source is adequate for the needs of the area.

Drilling work takes place outside and may be done in all types of weather. Traveling from job to job may require a driller to be away from home often. During winter, drilling may take place only in warmer climates. Safety gear is required in order to protect the driller from hazards, including noise and vibration.

Salary Info

In May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported earth drillers earned a mean annual wage of $46,060. However, these workers can earn as little as $28,240 or less and as much as $69,380 or more per year, depending on the employer and location. The median earnings were $42,600.

What Are the Requirements?

Generally, drillers need only a high school diploma or equivalent to secure a job. However, employers may prefer to hire those who have had some training in areas such as agriculture and mechanics. There are formal training options, but water well drillers are typically trained on the job. Apprenticeships may also be available and the military offers training in related fields, as well. Some states may require a license for water well drillers. Licensing usually involves meeting age requirements and proving skills and knowledge through testing.

Beyond education and licensing requirements, drillers must have the following skills:

  • Mechanical abilities
  • Physical stamina
  • Judgment and reasoning skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers usually require water well drillers to meet qualifications, such as holding a valid driver's license and passing a criminal background check. Check out the following real job ads from April 2012 to learn more about what employers are looking for.

  • A company in California was seeking someone with air lift experience and welding skills.
  • A Colorado construction company wanted someone with knowledge in casings, drill strings and thread types who also had a clean driving record and water well drilling license or could get one.
  • The U.S. Army was hiring civilians who could obtain a type B commercial driver's license, were willing to travel and who could pass a medical examination and drug screening.

How to Make Your Skills Stand out

As evidenced by the April 2012 job ads, employers often prefer to hire candidates who can go above and beyond the basic job requirements. For example, many employers would like to hire someone with a commercial driver's license (CDL), so obtaining a CDL could increase your hiring potential. Additionally, being in good physical shape and being drug free can also help you when searching for jobs.

Other Fields to Consider

Construction Equipment Operator

If you're interested in the construction field, but want a job that involves less travel, consider a career as a construction equipment operator. These workers drive the machines used in the building of homes, commercial buildings, bridges, roads and other construction projects. Typically, you are trained on the specific piece of equipment you will be using. The training is usually done through an apprenticeship which allows you to learn on the job. According to the BLS, this field also has a faster-than-average job growth prediction of 19% from 2012-2022.

Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver

To be a tractor-trailer truck driver, you must have a CDL. You may need some general training in order to obtain your license. Some employers may require you to travel, but there are also in-state companies that allow you to be home each day. Your main job duty is driving loads or shipments from one place to another. You may have to assist with unloading your shipment. This field has a projected 11% job growth from 2012-2022, according to the BLS.

Material Moving Machine Operator

Material moving jobs usually involve working in construction or warehouses. You are responsible for operating equipment, like forklifts, to move materials, products or other items from one place to another within a specific area, such as a construction site or warehouse. This field is expected to grow by 1% between 2012-2022, says the BLS.

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