1. Energy careers
  2. Operators
  3. Drilling and Service Rig Operator

Drilling and Service Rig Operator

NOC #84101, #83101, #82021

  • Environment Primarily outdoor work
  • Education Grade 10
  • Average salary $55,000 to $113,000

Career profile

Drilling and service rig operators operate and maintain drilling and service rigs. They oversee the activities of workers on the drilling rig and facilitate the movement of equipment and ensure the safety of others working on the rigs.

Drilling rigs and service rigs each have a distinct function in the energy industry. A drilling rig is used in exploration to determine the feasibility of a formation. 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.

Drilling rig operators typically fulfil several specific roles as part of a drilling crew including:

  • 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.

Service rig operators typically fulfil several specific roles as part of a service rig crew including:

  • Derrickhands set up and dismantle the derrick, pumps and tanks and service, operate, inspect and monitor the pumps and engines at the well site.
  • Operators and drillers operate hoisting equipment control panels, monitor the progress of operations and supervise the on-site service crew and all operations of the rig.
Oil and gas services

In this occupation activities may include:

  • Ensuring that safety and support equipment are functioning properly
  • 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
  • Maintaining equipment logs and preventative maintenance records
  • Operating drilling fluid systems and pumps during drilling
  • Operating the draw-works, rotary equipment and pumps and supervising the assembly of the drill string
  • Maintaining records of footage drilled, the location and nature of strata penetrated, materials and tools used, service rendered, and time required
  • Supervising floorhands and labourers


  • 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.


  • Standard and emergency first aid
  • Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
  • Fall protection
  • Well control
  • H2S Alive
  • Confined Space entry


  • A Class 5 or 3 driver’s licence (with air brake endorsement) is an asset for service rig operators
  • Drilling rig operators require a Class 5 driver’s licence and a clean driving record

Additional Requirements

  • Ability to pass a pre-employment physical assessment and drug test
  • A reliable vehicle to get to and from a drilling site
  • Minimal or no travel
  • Shiftwork/variable work hours
  • Primarily outdoor work
  • Physical work
  • Safety-sensitive environment
  • Work away from home/in camps

You bring organization and patience. Your leadership and interpersonal skills help shape the work ethic of crew members. You may find yourself dealing with entry level workers with higher levels of turnover.

  • Mechanics
  • Selecting equipment
  • Maintaining equipment
  • Installing equipment
  • Monitoring operations
  • Administration and management
  • Critical thinking
  • Public safety and security
  • Controlling operations
  • Attention to detail