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Rotary Drill Operator

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What is a Rotary Drill Operator?

Job Description: Set up or operate a variety of drills to remove underground oil and gas, or remove core samples for testing during oil and gas exploration.

Life As a Drill Operator

  • Dig holes, set forms, and mix and pour concrete, for foundations of steel or wooden derricks.
  • Observe pressure gauge and move throttles and levers to control the speed of rotary tables, and to regulate pressure of tools at bottoms of boreholes.
  • Count sections of drill rod to determine depths of boreholes.
  • Weigh clay, and mix with water and chemicals to make drilling mud.
  • Cap wells with packers, or turn valves, to regulate outflow of oil from wells.
  • Remove core samples during drilling to determine the nature of the strata being drilled.

Qualities of a Drill Operator

These are the skills Rotary Drill Operators say are the most useful in their careers:

Operation Monitoring: Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Operation and Control: Controlling operations of equipment or systems.

Monitoring: Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Instructing: Teaching others how to do something.

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Types of Drill Operator Jobs

  • Oil Well Cable Tool Driller
  • Rotary Rig Engine Operator
  • Driller
  • Oil and Gas Operations Management Professional
  • Rotary Drill Operator

Job Opportunities for Rotary Drill Operators

In the United States, there were 16,700 jobs for Rotary Drill Operator in 2016. New jobs are being produced at a rate of 24.6% which is above the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 4,100 new jobs for Rotary Drill Operator by 2026. There will be an estimated 2,600 positions for Drill Operator per year.


The states with the most job growth for Drill Operator are Wyoming, North Dakota, and Georgia. Watch out if you plan on working in West Virginia, Nebraska, or Indiana. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

Salary for a Drill Operator

The salary for Rotary Drill Operators ranges between about $32,110 and $87,790 a year.


Rotary Drill Operators who work in Alaska, Indiana, or North Dakota, make the highest salaries.

Below is a list of the median annual salaries for Rotary Drill Operators in different U.S. states.

State Annual Mean Salary
Alabama $42,450
Alaska $74,290
Arizona $48,650
Arkansas $43,870
California $66,630
Colorado $55,870
Florida $47,130
Georgia $34,310
Illinois $45,100
Indiana $67,000
Kansas $44,920
Louisiana $52,520
Maryland $56,540
Michigan $41,080
New Mexico $44,540
New York $53,120
North Dakota $66,440
Ohio $45,210
Oklahoma $57,620
Pennsylvania $54,040
Texas $56,490
Utah $56,700
Virginia $52,530
West Virginia $55,790
Wyoming $61,510

Tools & Technologies Used by Rotary Drill Operators

Although they’re not necessarily needed for all jobs, the following technologies are used by many Rotary Drill Operators:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word

Becoming a Drill Operator

Learn what Rotary Drill Operator education requirements there are.


What work experience do I need to become a Drill Operator?


Who Employs Rotary Drill Operators?


Rotary Drill Operators work in the following industries:


You May Also Be Interested In…

Those thinking about becoming a Rotary Drill Operator might also be interested in the following careers:


Image Credit: Tomwsulcer via Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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