Roustabout: Long Hours, Hard Manual Work, But Good Pay + Benefits

Roustabouts are the "do it all" manual laborers that work in drilling operations—typically on and around a drilling rig. They pick up the garbage, repair things, carry things…anything that needs doing of a manual natural. It’s hard, long, dirty work—typically 12-hour (or more) shifts for two weeks straight. However, if you’re young, in good health and in good shape, getting work as a roustabout can pay well—very well. Just ask Brian Rose who works as a roustabout on a rig in Lisbon, OH:

“I get here at 10, and I go home at 10. Sometimes I stay a little extra,” he said, raising his voice above the roar of generators. “It might be 13 or 14 hours, an average day is 13 and a half.”

Rose is a roustabout, the low guy on the natural-gas drilling totem pole responsible for general operations on a rig.

His responsibilities range from picking up trash to repairing containment — liners that prevent the release of dangerous chemicals into the environment.

“It’s hard work. It drains you,” he said. “You go so long and so long, you’re just drained. Then I’m back doing it again.”

“It’s like I live here.”

This doesn’t surprise Tracee Joltes, assistant director for workforce outreach at Eastern Gateway Community College in Youngstown.

“These guys work in all weather. They’re the ones who climb around under the rigs, hook up hoses, clean tanks and do whatever it is that needs to be done when it needs to be done.”

A native of Hamilton, a small city about 30 miles north of Cincinnati, Rose previously built limousines.

But the money wasn’t there. With a family to support – his girlfriend Jessica Campbell and two sons, ages 8 months and 2 years – bills began to pile up.

“Work got scarce, and I followed the work,” he said.

A friend told Rose about a job opportunity in the natural-gas drilling industry.

“I knew a guy who was working for a company, and they needed people,” he said. “I heard the money was good. Down where I’m from, working this hard you’re only going to make 10 bucks an hour.”

Following the work meant moving his family to a mobile home in Salineville.

“The move was better,” said Campbell, 24. “It actually benefitted the family, because we were closer to his work, and he was able to spend time with the family.”

Rose works two weeks straight with a week off. He earns enough to let Jessica stay home with the kids.

“I didn’t want her to work because back home I was working full time and she was working full time, and neither one of us were around,” he said. “One of us has to be there to take care of [the kids] and make sure they’re raised the way we want them to be raised.”

“It’s great going from full-time work and full-time mommy to stay- at-home mommy,” said Campbell. “I don’t miss anything.”

Roustabout salaries range from $21,860 to $51,550 yearly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“You hear about high salaries, and they range from $10 … to $18 an hour to start,” said Joltes. “I know of a couple folks making $20, $26, $28 dollars an hour.”

Those paychecks do not come without risks, however.*

    Click the link below to read the rest of this insightful look into the profession (and life) of a roustabout.

    * (OH) Vindicator (Apr 8, 2013) – Valley roustabout endures 13-hour shifts of gritty labor to properly provide for his family