The oil and gas industry offers far more than just working a rig - with over 200,000 UK jobs supported by oil and gas production, a range of opportunities are available, including the potential for travel
How many jobs are available in oil and gas production?
When it comes to career prospects in the UK, industry trade association Offshore Energies UK (OEUK) has revealed that the sector supported 213,600 oil and gas jobs in 2022, an increase of over 6% from the previous year (200,800 in 2021). They reported that 30,300 of these people worked directly in the industry, with 99,700 indirect employees and 83,600 induced workers.
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.
What oil and gas careers are available?
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 OEUK, 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 roles 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
- NES Fircroft
- Oil and Gas Job Search
- Orion Group - Oil and Gas Jobs
In addition, OEUK provides a members directory of oil and gas company careers websites, meaning you can easily search for opportunities on employers' sites.
What about oil and gas graduate schemes?
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, energy marketing and trading (EM&T), engineering and human resources (HR). 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.
Search for postgraduate courses in oil and gas.
Where can I find an oil or gas apprenticeship?
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.
This technical programme is offered by BP in the form of a North Sea apprenticeship.
Oil and gas apprenticeships are also available with:
Learn more about apprenticeships in general.
What skills and qualifications are needed?
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.
What's life like 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 OEUK 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.
Is there a positive outlook for UK oil and gas?
According to the OEUK Business Outlook 2022 report, the oil and gas industry was expected to spend up to £4billion in 2022/23, a slight increase on 2020 and 2021 figures (£3.6billion and £3.4billion respectively), but the investment is well below pre-pandemic levels (£5.5billion in 2019).
While the industry is still in a fragile state, it's hoped that these 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.