The industry offers far more than just working a rig - with just under 200,000 UK jobs supported by oil and gas production, a range of opportunities are available, including the potential 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. Oil and gas remain essential for the manufacture of countless everyday products as well as for fuelling vehicles, heating buildings and producing electricity.
Despite this, they are considered among the most controversial due to their environmental impact. The industry is therefore aiming to reach its target of net zero emissions by 2050, while continuing to help meet the UK's energy needs.
When it comes to jobs in oil and gas, there are many different career paths to choose from. According to MYEnergyFuture, by 2025 there will be 10,000 new entrants to this UK sector, with just less than half (4,500) expected to work in roles that don't currently exist.
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.
For example, you could 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 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:
- Brunel - Oil and gas careers
- Energy Jobline
- Oil and Gas Job Search
- Orion Group - Oil and Gas Jobs
In addition, OGUK provides a members 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, the Shell graduate programme allows you to choose technical, commercial business or corporate function pathways. Similarly, the career areas for graduates at BP include business, digital, engineering, science, and trading and shipping.
You'll need to have, or be expecting, a good degree 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 business management, commercial analyst, commercial and marketing, digital technology services - software engineering, and engineering. To be eligible, you'll typically need a 2:1 degree in a relevant subject.
Some graduate schemes, such as Shell's technical pathways, demand a postgraduate qualification.
Alternatively, if it's an apprenticeship you're looking for, consider the Oil and Gas Technical Apprentice Programme (OGTAP), which involves splitting your time between college and a sponsoring company while earning a salary.
For this, you'll need four GCSEs at Grade 4 or above in maths, English language, 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 the May of the year you're applying for. There's no upper age limit.
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 the Minimum Industry Safety Training (MIST).
You can also find out about oil and gas qualifications at the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO), the global skills body for the energy industry.
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.
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 (mostly around Aberdeen) - 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.
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.
The outlook for UK oil and gas
According to the OGUK Business Outlook 2021 report, the oil and gas industry spent 23% less during 2020, a drop of £3.4billion, as the global pandemic affected its activities.
While the industry is still in a fragile state, it's hoped that the £2billion in investments will help to build a sustainable recovery.
The government's Industrial Strategy for UK Oil and Gas aims to ensure production is secure for many years to come, with supply chain developing both domestically and internationally through its highly skilled workforce.
In an attempt to diversify this traditionally male-dominated industry, the sector is encouraging more women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.
Find out more
- Search for jobs in energy and utilities.
- Consider renewable energy careers.
- Explore the engineering and manufacturing sector.