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What Does an Offshore Driller Do?

by Clayton Browne, studioD

Offshore oil production has increased dramatically over the last few decades. The growth has been in spurts, tempered by occasional setbacks such as accidents involving drilling rigs. Since there is so much demand for petroleum products, however, offshore oil drilling companies should have plenty of business for the foreseeable future. More projects coming off the drawing board means more jobs, especially for those with specialized skills such as petroleum engineers, underwater welders and drillers.

Driller Training

Drillers, also known as rotary drill operators, traditionally entered the oil and gas field with little education or training and worked their way up from roughneck to driller's assistant to driller. But that is changing in the 21st Century. Most employers require drillers to have at least a high school diploma. Those with some college, or an associate degree in oilfield technology or a related field, might enjoy greater job prospects. A growing number of vocational schools and community colleges offer O&G-related training programs. Most oil companies also have continuing education programs for skilled employees like drillers, including additional or special training for offshore workers.

Drill Assembly and Preparations

Senior drillers and drilling foremen typically oversee the assembly of the drilling tools and bits before drilling commences, and carefully supervise the process of connecting the sections of drill pipe. They make sure that the right bit for the job is properly installed, and that all equipment is in good repair and safe to operate. Senior drillers often delegate specific preparatory tasks to assistant drillers.

Drilling Operations

A driller's primary responsibility is to supervise drilling operations. He controls the rotation speed of the drill and the rate of drilling based on the type of material being drilled through. Experienced drillers know which bits work best in drilling through various geographic strata, and the ideal techniques for extending the life of the bit. Most senior drillers are also responsible for drill zone safety and drilling crew training.


Drillers are responsible for maintaining detailed records of their daily activities. All deviations from the drilling plan must be noted in the drill log, as well as any breakdowns or safety incidents. Drilling supervisors are also typically responsible for evaluating assistant drillers and filing the paperwork associated with operational or safety training for all members of the drill team.

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Photo Credits

  • Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images