Mining, Energy & Utilities

Roughneck/Driller's Assistant

Roughnecks operate drilling equipment and machines on offshore facilities such as oil and gas rigs and drilling platforms.

  • Entry-level education

    VET qualification

  • Job outlook

    1 2 3 4 5

What does a Roughneck/Driller's Assistant do?

Roughnecks operate drilling equipment and machines on the instructions of drillers on offshore facilities such as oil and gas rigs and drilling platforms. Roughnecks may also be known as driller's assistants or roustabouts.


Work activities

As a roughneck, you would:

  • help move offshore drilling rigs and equipment from site to site
  • set up drilling rigs and connect power cables or hoses for water and air supply
  • help obtain drilling core samples by inserting and extracting drills
  • add fresh lengths of pipe as the drill moves deeper into rock
  • dig and clean mud pits and drains
  • mix and test drilling fluids, chemicals and grout
  • assist with well development and pumping tests
  • operate lifting gear, ropes, winches and pumps
  • use equipment and tools to correct problems in drilled holes
  • clean, maintain and repair drilling equipment

Roughneck may be a promotion from roustabout. As a roustabout, you would:

  • maintain the drilling area in good working order
  • offload supplies from boats and move them to storage areas
  • move supplies and equipment to the work site
  • use lifting gear and winches to load and stack equipment
  • help to repair pumping equipment
  • mix 'drilling mud' to lubricate drill bits.

Key skills and interests

To become a roughneck or driller's assistant, you would need:

  • good practical skills
  • aptitude for mechanics and the ability to handle machinery
  • willingness to live and work away from home
  • good teamwork skills
  • willingness to learn and follow instructions
  • strong awareness of health and safety
  • a clean police record
  • a drug and alcohol clearance
  • be able to pass a medical examination
  • be at least 18 years old.

Working hours and conditions

Working Hours

Roughnecks typically live and work on a drilling rig or platform for several weeks, followed by the same amount of time as a rest period onshore. On a drilling rig you would work up to 12 hours a day, on a roster system.


You could work on a fixed production platform, or on a smaller mobile rig. Facilities can include living accommodation, canteens and recreation areas. Alcohol and smoking are banned on these structures.

The job can be physically demanding, working in all types of weather conditions and at heights. You would need to wear protective clothing, including a harness, ear muffs and a thermal boiler suit.


How to become an Roughneck/Driller's Assistant?

Entry Level Education

You do not need formal qualifications to work as a roughneck. You may have experience as a roustabout or in areas such as shipbuilding, construction or engineering.

Most roughnecks would, however, be required to have a VET qualification such as a Certificate in Drilling (Mining & Engineering). To get into these courses, you usually need to have gained your junior secondary school certificate or equivalent.


Job outlook

  • 1 2 3 4 5

Little growth in employment opportunities for oil & gas drilling workers is expected over the next five to ten years.

Future employment prospects for this occupation are largely dependent on oil prices. Oil prices stimulate the drilling of new oil and gas fields and the re-drilling of existing fields. Lower oil prices limit or suspend this activity.

Global economic growth and oil and gas supply projections currently suggest that supplies will satisfy demand for the near to medium term. Employment prospects will vary by region.


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