The industry isn't all about spending months at a time on a rig - with over 300,000 UK jobs supported by oil and gas production, there's variety as well as opportunities for travel
Exploring oil and gas fields, extracting natural resources, and refining them so that they are useable is one of the biggest industries in the world - as well as being among the most controversial due to its environmental impact.
Yet oil and gas remain essential for the manufacture of countless everyday products as well as for fuelling vehicles, heating buildings and producing electricity. What's more, there are many different career paths to choose from.
Oil and gas careers
You'll find some of the world's largest and most recognisable multinational companies in the oil and gas industry, such as BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, TOTAL and Shell, along with many smaller organisations.
In fact, according to the trade association Oil & Gas UK (OGUK), the industry, along with its far-reaching supply chain, is spread across Britain. So whether you want to work offshore on an oil rig or in an office at a key energy hub (such as in the South East or North West of England), there's plenty of choice.
From engineers and geologists to office-based roles in accounting and human resources (HR), employers require graduates with varying interests and from many different academic backgrounds.
You could, for example, be a chef supporting the workforce on an oil rig, a chemist undertaking research and development, an environmental adviser ensuring that standards are met, or a subsea engineer designing and installing underwater equipment.
Alternatively, you could work on sustainable energy futures, climate change and international development for an energy giant such as Scottish Power.
For more information on the diverse roles that can be found in the oil and gas industry, see the following job profiles:
- Drilling engineer
- Energy engineer
- Engineering geologist
- Hydrographic surveyor
- Mining engineer
- Petroleum engineer
- Wellsite geologist
You can also search for vacancies on specialist recruitment websites including:
In addition, MyOilandGasCareer.com provides a directory of oil and gas company careers websites, meaning you can easily search for opportunities on employers' sites.
Skills and qualifications for oil and gas jobs
Once you've decided on a role, you can apply for a structured graduate scheme offered by one of the larger employers.
For example, Shell's graduate programme allows you to choose technical, commercial business or corporate functions pathways. Similarly, the career areas for graduates at BP are business, engineering, science, and supply and trading.
You'll need to have, or be expecting, a good degree from a recognised university to gain entry to a scheme. Depending on which specialism you choose, there may be specific requirements in terms of your degree subject - particularly for engineering and science programmes.
For instance, British Gas' parent company Centrica runs graduate programmes in a number of areas including the energy marketing and trading (EM&T) analyst role. To be eligible, you'll need a numerical 2:1 degree in a relevant subject such as maths, statistics, applied economics, engineering, physics or chemistry.
Some graduate schemes, such as Shell's technical pathways, demand a postgraduate qualification. Search for postgraduate courses in oil and gas.
Alternatively, if it's an apprenticeship you're looking for, consider the Oil and Gas Technical Apprentice Programme (OGTAP), during which you'll split your time between college and a sponsoring company while earning a salary.
For this, you'll need four GCSEs at Grade 6 or above in maths, English, double science (or one from physics, chemistry or an appropriate technology subject) and one other subject. You also need to be 16 years old by May of the year you're applying for. Learn more about apprenticeships.
The global nature of the industry means that language skills are highly valued by employers, especially for business-oriented jobs.
For offshore roles, you'll need to go on an industry-standard health and safety course such as Minimum Industry Safety Training (MIST).
Life in the oil industry
Although the popular image of oil and gas jobs is of engineers working on an oil rig, around 90% of roles are based onshore, according to MyOilandGasCareer.com.
Most onshore jobs are based in so-called 'hubs' in which many industry employers gather, such as Aberdeen and London, where you're most likely to be office-based and work regular hours.
Figures published by OGUK shows that nearly 60% of jobs are in England and about 40% in Scotland - but it's a global industry and so you'll likely get to travel or even work abroad at some stage.
If you choose to work in an offshore job, you'll typically work 12-hour shifts for two or three weeks at a time, spending significant periods away from home. You'll then have the same amount of time off work to compensate.
Discover more about what it's like to live and work offshore at MyOilandGasCareer.com.
Salaries in the oil and gas industry vary depending on the type of job you are doing, but it can be a rewarding career choice.
According to the NES Oil & Gas Employment Outlook Guide 2019, over 95% of employers expected staffing levels to increase or remain the same in 2019, as the industry recovers from the oil price crash in 2014 - meaning that now is a good time to launch your career in oil and gas.
Indeed, within the fluid job market, new industry roles are being created all the time. And if your skillset matches up to the latest technological advancements, you may be able to help address some of the industry's skills shortages in areas such as engineering and design.
Find out more
- Search for jobs in the energy and utilities sector.
- Discover careers in engineering and manufacturing.