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Life As a Rotary Drill Operator

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.

Daily Life Of a Drill Operator

  • Position and prepare truck-mounted derricks at drilling areas specified on field maps.
  • Monitor progress of drilling operations, and select and change drill bits according to the nature of strata, using hand tools.
  • Direct rig crews in drilling and other activities, such as setting up rigs and completing or servicing wells.
  • Count sections of drill rod to determine depths of boreholes.
  • Locate and recover lost or broken bits, casings, and drill pipes from wells, using special tools.
  • 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.

What Every Drill Operator Should Know

When polled, Rotary Drill Operators say the following skills are most frequently used in their jobs:

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 Rotary Drill Operator

  • Rotary Driller
  • Tool Pusher
  • Drill Foreman
  • Oil Well Driller
  • Oil Well Cable Tool Driller

Drill Operator Employment Estimates

There were about 16,700 jobs for Rotary Drill Operator in 2016 (in the United States). 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. Due to new job openings and attrition, there will be an average of 2,600 job openings in this field each 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.

Drill Operator Average Salary

The average yearly salary of a Drill Operator ranges between $32,110 and $87,790.


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

How much do Rotary Drill Operators make in each U.S. state?

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

What Tools do Rotary Drill Operators Use?

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

What education is needed to be a Rotary Drill Operator?


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


Where Rotary Drill Operators Work


The table below shows the approximate number of Rotary Drill Operators employed by various industries.


You May Also Be Interested In…

Those interested in being a Rotary Drill Operator may also be interested in:


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

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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