Top Oil and Gas Occupations for 2012

Published on Oct 27, 2011

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

image of Lightcast gradiant

In this post we want to give some background on the mining, oil, and gas sector and discuss some of the top employment opportunities for 2012.


The “mining sector” (a.k.a. Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction, NAICS 21) is one of the fastest-growing/highest-paying broad industry categories in the country. Since 2008, it has grown by 8% and added 100,000 new jobs. Average industry earnings are nearly $80,000 per year, and while other sectors have much bigger employment numbers (e.g., health care added 960,000 new jobs and finance added 470,000 new jobs in the same time period), few can rival the sector’s large multiplier (5.96 multiplier at the 2-digit level). Essentially, each job here will create nearly five more across other sectors. NOTE: We calculated that number by hand, so it is not included in the screen shot below.

About 1.3 million people are currently employed by mining, oil and gas activities. The most common demographic is men between the ages of 25 and 64.

For the purposes of this piece, “mining sector” refers specifically to oil and gas extraction, because these two sub-industries are the ones driving the growth. When we break the sector down into its component parts (see the table below), we see that oil and gas extraction (NAICS 2111) grew by 17% and 96,000 jobs, support activities for mining (NAICS 2131) increased by 3% and 10,000 jobs, and coal mining (NAICS 2121) increased by 6% and 5,000 jobs. Metal ore mining (NAICS 2122) and quarrying (NAICS 2123) actually declined by 2% and 7% respectively.

NAICS CodeDescription2008 Jobs2011 JobsChange% Change2011 Earnings2011 Establishments2111Oil and Gas Extraction574,901670,84995,94817%$74,3409,3352121Coal Mining88,07993,3045,2256%$94,4101,2872122Metal Ore Mining47,12546,408(717)(2%)$91,5454202123Nonmetallic Mineral Mining and Quarrying126,677117,330(9,347)(7%)$63,9955,9122131Support Activities for Mining374,503384,52410,0213%$83,04815,316Total1,211,2841,312,415101,1318%$78,00232,270Source: EMSI Complete Employment - 2011.4 BETA


Here are the big Es on the eye chart:

  1. Biggest EmployersTexas and Oklahoma employ the most (431,000 and 105,000 respectively). After these, Louisiana (74K), California (58K), Colorado (52K), Pennsylvania (50K), West Virginia (43K), Kansas (34K) and Wyoming (33K) are the next largest in terms of employment.

  2. Highest-PayingAlaska’s 19,000 workers have the highest average earnings, $122K per year. This is followed by Massachusetts and Texas, which are both at about $100K per year. (Most notable here is the fact that Texas is, as we’ve just seen, the largest employer to boot.) Other states with relatively high average earnings (above 80K per year) are Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, California, Louisiana and Nevada.

  3. Most Concentrated – Employment in the mining/oil/gas sector is 11 times greater in Wyoming than the typical state. Other states with higher concentrations are Oklahoma, West Virginia Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Kansas.

  4. Fastest-Growing – Since 2007, employment growth in North Dakota’s mining sector was 200%. The state also has a relatively high concentration of mining/oil/gas jobs. NOTE: Other states are also experiencing a lot of growth, but don’t really have much concentration (e.g., RI and D.C.), which means that mining is not really a significant employer in the region. States like Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Texas and California all have higher concentrations of mining and experienced employment growth over 40% since 2007. One final note: Texas added 133,000 mining jobs since 2007, and the next closest state is Oklahoma with about 30,000 jobs.

The table below ranks the states according to their 5-year growth:

State2007 Jobs2012 Jobs5 Year Growth% Growth2011 Average Earnings2011 LQTexas (TX)313,502446,402132,90042%$99,6183.96Oklahoma (OK)80,725109,58728,86236%$69,1906.47Pennsylvania (PA)32,63650,69718,06155%$68,4190.92California (CA)43,66761,07817,41140%$80,8600.39Colorado (CO)38,74052,55613,81636%$86,8372.18Louisiana (LA)62,25375,73513,48222%$80,1793.85North Dakota (ND)6,35219,21012,858202%$85,4224.67Kansas (KS)23,46235,99612,53453%$40,0962.54West Virginia (WV)35,01243,4618,44924%$73,2336.24Florida (FL)14,72323,0628,33957%$29,0440.29Ohio (OH)22,75630,4717,71534%$49,3780.60Illinois (IL)19,09725,6346,53734%$49,8840.45Arkansas (AR)11,08417,2176,13355%$57,0541.39Michigan (MI)14,45019,9725,52238%$45,9620.50New Mexico (NM)24,92829,3014,37318%$72,3483.57Mississippi (MS)10,19214,0403,84838%$55,2051.21Kentucky (KY)27,43231,0703,63813%$73,0551.71Alaska (AK)16,04019,5113,47122%$121,7435.56Nevada (NV)15,52918,0892,56016%$80,0761.57Virginia (VA)12,77615,2422,46619%$63,2250.41Minnesota (MN)8,01610,2152,19927%$58,9400.39Wyoming (WY)31,77733,9202,1437%$87,03611.33New York (NY)12,06514,2012,13618%$45,1070.17Alabama (AL)10,63412,6041,97019%$75,7690.67Indiana (IN)10,06311,8971,83418%$55,9840.44Utah (UT)13,85615,6541,79813%$70,9921.21Tennessee (TN)7,1078,7981,69124%$47,6590.33Arizona (AZ)16,16317,7241,56110%$65,6810.72Montana (MT)10,15611,5341,37814%$72,4402.41Maryland (MD)3,4064,6311,22536%$34,1780.17North Carolina (NC)6,8357,8681,03315%$31,8210.19Wisconsin (WI)4,5925,56897621%$40,3730.21Washington (WA)6,4427,35691414%$40,4710.25South Carolina (SC)2,5973,50690935%$28,7790.18Iowa (IA)3,2444,11687227%$37,0570.26Nebraska (NE)2,0952,88779238%$53,5780.30Connecticut (CT)2,2743,05778334%$76,8250.18New Jersey (NJ)3,5164,24272621%$47,5310.11South Dakota (SD)1,5762,11854234%$40,0070.49Missouri (MO)8,0178,5255086%$47,8740.32Oregon (OR)4,4204,90048011%$34,8680.29Hawaii (HI)7331,16843559%$35,7310.17Georgia (GA)9,3629,7764144%$53,4360.30Delaware (DE)203588385190%$52,2450.13Idaho (ID)4,2754,6123378%$57,6850.69Massachusetts (MA)2,8543,0572037%$101,6640.09District of Columbia (DC)22239817679%$14,2250.05Maine (ME)64474710316%$34,9000.14New Hampshire (NH)1,3221,359373%$44,1720.21Vermont (VT)1,1661,16820%$46,3010.37Rhode Island (RI)481428(53)(11%)$48,0080.10Source: EMSI Complete Employment - 2011.4 BETA


Now we want to turn our attention to the top occupations employed by the mining/oil/gas sector and the percentage of the industry that the occupation represents. If you want the full staffing pattern, please contact us. (NOTE: This is just showing the number of workers who staff this industry as opposed to the total employed in ALL industries).

  • 34% of the positions are related to construction and extraction (extraction workers, roustabouts, rotary drill operators).

  • 23% of the positions are related to management (CEOs, operations managers, property managers, supervisors, etc).

  • 20% of the positions are related to production, maintenance and transportation (truck drivers, industrial machinery mechanics, wellhead pumpers).

  • 12% of the positions are related to administration, accounting and legal (accountants, bookkeepers, title examiners).

  • 8% of the positions are related to science and engineering (petroleum engineers, mining engineers, geoscientists).

SOC CodeOccupationEmployeed in Industry (2011)% of the Total Jobs in Industry (2011)11-9199Managers, all other157,50712.00%47-5071Roustabouts, oil and gas80,4876.10%47-1011First-line supervisors/managers of construction trades and extraction workers78,7156.00%11-9141Property, real estate, and community association managers56,1684.30%47-5013Service unit operators, oil, gas, and mining48,0823.70%11-1021General and operations managers39,9203.00%47-5081Helpers, extraction workers39,1813.00%47-2073Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators35,9042.70%53-3032Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer34,1432.60%47-5012Rotary drill operators, oil and gas31,7892.40%47-5011Derrick operators, oil and gas27,2182.10%19-4041Geological and petroleum technicians26,8002.00%43-3031Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks26,6602.00%11-1011Chief executives23,7531.80%17-2171Petroleum engineers23,6041.80%53-7073Wellhead pumpers23,5691.80%51-8093Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers22,7321.70%23-2093Title examiners, abstractors, and searchers21,0401.60%47-5099Extraction workers, all other20,6781.60%13-2011Accountants and auditors19,1961.50%19-2042Geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers19,0191.40%49-9041Industrial machinery mechanics16,1911.20%47-5041Continuous mining machine operators14,5411.10%53-7032Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators14,3431.10%


To round out the analysis, we have pulled data on how mining/oil/gas jobs might look in 2012. The data is based on new jobs, annual openings, earnings, total employment and education levels for ALL jobs – not just the ones in the mining/oil/gas sector — so we can see the bigger picture for each career.

SOC CodeDescription2011 Jobs2012 JobsChange% ChangeOpenings% OpeningsAnnual Openings2011 Median Hourly WageEducation Level43-3031Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks2,223,3562,251,53428,1781%56,1393%56,139$15.57Moderate-term on-the-job training11-9199Managers, all other2,157,3132,231,35174,0383%129,7426%129,742$18.24Work experience in a related field53-3032Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer2,033,8122,054,33320,5211%64,5903%64,590$17.87Moderate-term on-the-job training11-1021General and operations managers1,751,6781,755,5413,8630%61,5974%61,597$42.97Degree plus work experience11-9141Property, real estate, and community association managers1,659,0301,735,54576,5155%105,1896%105,189$8.98Bachelor's degree13-2011Accountants and auditors1,537,8861,572,33934,4532%60,7444%60,744$24.12Bachelor's degree47-1011First-line supervisors/managers of construction trades and extraction workers772,639782,2089,5691%25,8073%25,807$24.22Work experience in a related field11-1011Chief executives624,632638,37513,7432%31,4325%31,432$42.89Degree plus work experience51-4121Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers393,402389,733(3,669)(1%)14,4784%14,478$17.01Long-term on-the-job training47-2073Operating engineers and other construction equipment operators385,565387,8212,2561%11,0293%11,029$20.07Moderate-term on-the-job training49-9041Industrial machinery mechanics295,743295,9442010%7,2252%7,225$21.28Long-term on-the-job training49-3042Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines136,273137,2871,0141%4,1523%4,152$21.39Postsecondary vocational award23-2093Title examiners, abstractors, and searchers111,048114,1253,0773%4,8164%4,816$17.71Moderate-term on-the-job training47-5071Roustabouts, oil and gas84,95687,0862,1303%3,9645%3,964$15.57Moderate-term on-the-job training53-7032Excavating and loading machine and dragline operators76,50776,8613540%3,0574%3,057$17.28Moderate-term on-the-job training51-8093Petroleum pump system operators, refinery operators, and gaugers55,29356,0667731%2,5175%2,517$25.89Long-term on-the-job training47-5013Service unit operators, oil, gas, and mining49,69550,9321,2372%2,3205%2,320$18.50Moderate-term on-the-job training47-5081Helpers, extraction workers44,00745,0581,0512%1,9855%1,985$16.29Short-term on-the-job training19-2042Geoscientists, except hydrologists and geographers42,82844,3121,4843%2,7196%2,719$35.45Master's degree19-4041Geological and petroleum technicians32,46733,9391,4725%2,6428%2,642$19.27Associate's degree47-5012Rotary drill operators, oil and gas32,88233,3724901%1,2964%1,296$24.74Moderate-term on-the-job training17-2171Petroleum engineers30,88832,1941,3064%2,0097%2,009$50.02Bachelor's degree47-5011Derrick operators, oil and gas27,52727,9794522%1,1174%1,117$20.57Moderate-term on-the-job training53-7073Wellhead pumpers24,26824,7955272%1,3796%1,379$17.69Moderate-term on-the-job training47-5099Extraction workers, all other21,04922,0279785%1,3606%1,360$17.10Moderate-term on-the-job training47-5049Mining machine operators, all other14,53515,1295944%9046%904$17.61Moderate-term on-the-job training47-5041Continuous mining machine operators14,54114,507(34)0%4963%496$21.37Moderate-term on-the-job trainingTotal14,633,82114,910,391276,5702%604,7064%604,706$21.92Source: EMSI Complete Employment - 2011.4 BETA

1. High Demand: Managers

When considering a sector like this, most job-seekers likely have images of coveralled workers on the frozen tundra or an oil derrick (like our illustration at the top of the article!). However, property managers and “managers, all other” are two of the top-demand occupations. Furthermore, general and operations managers, CEOs, and first line supervisors make up a major part of the employment and also have a lot of projected demand. The big thing to note about these various management positions is the difference in wages. Property managers make only $9 an hour, “managers, all other” makes just over $18 per hour, and operations managers make about $43 per hour. Wages can differ region to region, so we would encourage local analysis as well. For a general sense of what these jobs actually entail, we have included a standard description of three of them below. NOTE: The occupation definitions come straight from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Standard Occupational Classification System.

  • Property managers – Plan, direct or coordinate the selling, buying, leasing or governance activities of commercial, industrial or residential real estate properties. They include managers of homeowner and condominium associations, rented or leased housing units, buildings or land (including rights-of-way).

  • Managers, all other“ – This category is a general catch-all referring to folks who manage different attributes of business.

  • Operations managers – Plan, direct, or coordinate the operations of companies or public and private sector organizations. Duties and responsibilities include formulating policies, managing daily operations and planning the use of materials and human resources.

2. Highest Paid: Engineers, Scientists, and Managers

At $50 per hour, petroleum engineers are the highest paid. Based on the data for new and replacement jobs, we are estimating that there will be at least 3,000 positions for petroleum engineers. Other high-paying jobs are general operations managers ($43 per hour), CEOs ($43 per hour), geoscientists ($35 per hour) and petroleum pump operators ($26 per hour). Below is a description of non-management jobs that job-seekers might want to consider.

  • Petroleum engineers – Devise methods to improve the production of oil and gas wells, besides determining the need for new or modified tool designs. They oversee drilling and offer technical advice to achieve economical and satisfactory progress.

  • Geoscientists – Study the composition, structure and other physical aspects of the earth. They may use geological, physics and mathematics knowledge in exploration for oil, gas, minerals or underground water; or in waste disposal, land reclamation or other environmental problems.

  • Petroleum pump operators – Control the operation of petroleum refining or processing units. May specialize in controlling manifold and pumping systems, gauging or testing oil in storage tanks, or regulating the flow of oil into pipelines.

3. Most Abundant Need: Technicians, Operators, and Skilled Trades

Most of the jobs (we identified 17 out of the top 27  in our staffing pattern) are technical occupations. These generally require moderate or long-term on-the-job training, and pay from $15 an hour for jobs such as roustabouts and extraction workers, up to $25 per hour for pump operators, drill operators and heavy equipment mechanics. Across the entire sector, the construction, extraction and maintenance jobs make up more than 50% of the total employment. These tend to be the types of jobs people think about when you mention this sector–the jobs where you get your hands dirty. Below is a quick description of three of the more common jobs we found.

  • Rotary drill operators – Set up or operate a variety of drills to remove petroleum products from the earth, as well as find and remove core samples for testing during oil and gas exploration.

  •  Heavy equipment mechanics – Diagnose, adjust, repair or overhaul mobile mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic equipment (such as cranes, bulldozers, graders and conveyors) used in construction, logging and surface mining.

  • Petroleum pump system operators – Control the operation of petroleum refining or processing units. May specialize in controlling manifold and pumping systems, gauging or testing oil in storage tanks, or regulating the flow of oil into pipelines.

4. Don’t Forget to Mention: Administrators

As with any industry, there are lot of folks who keep the books, contracts, and numbers all in order. And as operations increase, so will the need for people like bookkeepers ($16 per hour) and accountants ($24 per hour).

So generally, the domestic prospects for the mining, oil and gas extraction are good. We are also seeing that this relatively small sector is having big impacts on different state economies. See here, here and here for how the industry is changing the face of North Dakota.

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lllustration by Mark Beauchamp