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) revealed that around 133,000 people work either directly or indirectly with oil and gas companies and its supply chain.

The Workforce Insight Report 2023 showed that while the majority (93,600) of these workers are based in Scotland, you'll be able to find work across Britain, with both large and small companies taking on graduates. 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.

According to MyEnergyFuture, by the end of 2025 there will be 4,500 new entrants to this UK sector, with most expected to work in roles that don't currently exist.

What oil and gas careers are available?

Oil and gas jobs span a range of sectors, including:

You'll find some of the world's largest and most recognisable multinational companies in the oil and gas industry, with many taking on graduates, including:

  • BP - roles are available to work in drilling, offshore structural, pipelines, petroleum and reservoir engineering. There are also scientific positions in geophysics, petroleum and reservoir engineering and petrophysics.
  • BW Offshore - a three-year programme where you could work both onshore and offshore and get to spend time in different areas of the business.
  • Chevron - positioned in the Aberdeen office of the Global Technology Centre (GTC), you could be involved with research, development and technical support for the company's upstream, downstream, global gas and emerging energy operations.
  • ExxonMobil - opportunities exist in downstream process, drilling and subsurface, reservoir and subsea, and chemical process engineering, among other areas.
  • Shell - technical graduate programmes are available, including those related to civil, offshore and pipelines and petroleum engineering.
  • TotalEnergies - you could choose to work in geoscience and reservoir or drilling and well operations.

From engineers and geologists to office-based roles in accounting and human resources (HR), employers require graduates with varying interests and from 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 consultant 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:

You can also search for vacancies on specialist recruitment websites including:

In addition, OEUK provides a members directory of oil and gas companies, 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 from a number of pathways, including:

  • commercial business
  • corporate function
  • technical.

Similarly, the career areas for graduates at BP include:

  • business
  • digital
  • engineering
  • science
  • 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 graduate programmes.

For instance, British Gas' parent company Centrica runs graduate programmes in a number of areas including:

  • business management
  • Centrica energy
  • commercial analyst
  • digital technology services - software engineering
  • engineering
  • finance
  • marketing
  • offshore (CES+)
  • people.

To be eligible for the scheme, you'll typically need a 2:1 degree in a relevant subject.

Some graduate schemes, such as Shell's technical pathways, also 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.

You can choose to work in one of the following disciplines:

  • electrical maintenance
  • instrumentation and control maintenance
  • mechanical maintenance
  • process operations.

For this, you'll need to currently live in Scotland and be at least 16 years old by the May of the year you're applying for. There's no upper age limit.

In terms of Scottish qualifications, you'll require four National 5 grades at A-C in maths and English language, while it's advantageous to have also studied physics, chemistry or engineering science, plus one other subject.

This equates to four GCSEs at grades 4-6 or above in maths and English language. If you studied in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, it's also desirable for you to hold a GCSE in double science (or one from physics, chemistry or an appropriate technology subject) and one other subject.

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. However, 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.

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 - see Reed - How much can I earn in the oil and gas industry?

Is there a positive outlook for UK oil and gas?

According to government figures (September 2023), the oil and gas industry contributes £17billion a year to the economy, with the £50billion in tax revenue generated over the next five years to be invested in clean energy.

The Robert Gordon University (RGU) Energy Transition Institute's (ETI) Powering up the Workforce: The future of the UK offshore energy workforce report (2023) assessed the potential growth in UK jobs should the government's British Energy Security Strategy reach its energy targets.

They found that the offshore energy workforce would have the capacity to expand by almost 75,000 to 225,000 by 2030 if the projected investment of up to £200billion comes to fruition.

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. Read more about opportunities for women in engineering.

Find out more

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