How to Break into the Energy Industry

The best way to find get your foot in the door of an exciting and growing industry.

At first glance, finding information or listings for entry-level jobs in the energy industry is a daunting task. Most of the job posting you find will require at least five years of experience and there just isn’t information on how to break into the industry.

The main reason for this is that the big energy companies, especially in oil and gas, don’t directly hire the workforce they use. They employ an often complicated network of vendors and consulting firms to provide the services, equipment, and personnel they need to develop, run, and finalize their projects.

Some additional things to know:

It’s tough work.

Work in the energy industry can be tough. Many jobs require long hours of intense physical labor, often with cumbersome gear requirements. For instance, most oil and gas jobs are set up as two week hitches – meaning you work a 12 hour shift every day for two weeks. On the flip side, you do get two weeks off when your hitch is over, but it can be a big change if you’re coming from a normal nine-to-fiver.

You gotta go where the work is.

Working in energy also means going to where the work is. Solar, wind, and oil and gas are all geographically constrained work – meaning those jobs are only in certain locations. And while Abu Dhabi and Perth sound exciting, many times – especially starting out – you’ll find yourself outside of Midland, TX or Bismark, ND.

Strict background requirements.

At a minimum companies will require you to have a clean driver’s license. They’ll also likely require you to pass a drug screening and a physical. Additionally there will be health, safety, and environment (HSE) requirements around training and certification that you’ll have to meet before you can start on the job.

Finding entry level jobs in energy.

The good news is, there’s plenty of places to start. Entry level work in the industry often doesn’t need special skills and includes on-the-job training and advancement. Jobs can range from loading, delivering, or unloading parts and supplies to working on an oil rig as a “green hand” or roustabout – with options to specialize as you gain experience.

Of course the downside to plentiful jobs that don’t require experience is that there’s no shortage of interested candidates. This means most companies don’t need to advertise or post jobs as aggressively as other industries and often only post them locally. Additionally, many of these entry level jobs are filled on recommendations from experienced workers. So you’ll need to be comfortable cold calling service providers or consulting firms with your resume and you need to be intentional about networking with energy workers and hiring managers.

Our practical advice:

  1. Determine which area you want to work in. You may not need to move there, but you’ll need to be comfortable with the commute to the job sites you get hired on to.
  2. Check classifieds or job websites that can narrow by geography, as well as local media. Make a list of relevant companies that are posting or advertising in the area and start making calls and scheduling meetings. Getting your name and resume in front of them will be crucial next time they have an open role that you’re a good fit for.

Get certified.

Having a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) may be a great way to start a little higher on the chain – and we’ll get to that in a minute, but nearly every job in the energy sector has stringent compliance and certification requirements.

One way to make yourself a more attractive candidate to hiring managers is to find the necessary safety training and certifications for your desired energy work type and attend a reputable institute to receive your certifications. This shows that you’re ready to hit the ground running when a hiring manager gives you the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

In fact many reputable training schools have recruitment partnerships in place with energy companies giving you a clear path to starting your career in energy.

If you need help finding the right certification or institution, RigUp has partnered with some of the top instructors and schools in the country to provide the training you need. Find out more at RigUp.org.

Head back to school.

Certain jobs in the energy industry require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, often in engineering. Getting a degree in a relevant field can open up opportunities that you would not otherwise be able to consider. Many schools offer online degrees or programs that you can attend at night so you can work around your current job/schedule.

Before you jump into an expensive or lengthy commitment getting a degree, make sure you research the types of work you’re interested in and learn what degrees they require or prefer.

Look for sponsored work tracks.

Many of the large energy companies and several non profit organizations offer work-study courses or sponsor certification and educational programs. These can be a great way to not only build out your skill set but to also network with industry professionals and gain additional insight on your job search.

Become your biggest cheerleader.

Breaking into any industry is tough. You’ve got to be willing to put in the time and energy to build your skill set, develop the right knowledge, and meet the right people. Simply waiting for the right opportunity won’t be enough – you’ll need to go out and find it. Just keep at it – with a liberal application of elbow grease and a sprinkling of good luck or fortunate timing, you’ll find the right opportunity and find yourself well on the way to a rewarding career in the energy industry.