Engineering Career Resources

Drilling Engineer Job Description

Drilling Engineer Job Description

Drilling engineers work in a branch of petroleum engineering. They are responsible for designing and implementing drilling procedures and for ensuring that wells are drilled as safely as possible. Drilling engineers’ jobs also include reducing the costs of drilling oil and gas wells to a minimum, considering the impact on the environment, and addressing any health and safety concerns that may arise on a project.


Drilling engineers must have an excellent knowledge of physics, geology, chemistry, and math, as well as strong IT skills.

Drilling engineers typically work closely with geologists, as well as with drilling and service contractors and compliance personnel, so teamwork and communication skills are a must, especially when the work takes place in an international setting. Knowledge of a foreign language is always an advantage in the oil and gas field.

Good negotiation skills are necessary for the job, as drilling engineers are responsible for liaising with vendors and for developing contracts. Leadership skills are essential as drilling engineers usually supervise the drilling crew. They must also be very familiar with all the regulations related to the environment because it is their job to make sure the environment is protected during a drilling project.

All drilling engineers who work on offshore rigs must pass fitness tests, so candidates with a physical disability tend to be at a disadvantage.


Drilling engineers usually have the same academic qualifications as petroleum engineers, but their background can be in other technical disciplines, such as geology or mechanical engineering. A drilling engineer will typically get job training at an oil and gas company and obtain some work experience as a mud engineer or a rig hand.

Common degrees among drilling engineers are in mechanical engineering, petroleum engineering, chemical engineering, civil or structural engineering, and minerals engineering. They can also enter the field with a degree in natural sciences or geology.

Big oil companies favour candidates with a good first degree (at least 2:1) and it is difficult to get accepted to their graduate training programs without one. Candidates with only an HND cannot enter the profession at all.

A postgraduate degree can be advantageous, but does not guarantee a job, as competition for graduate roles is very high.


Drilling engineers are involved in projects from the planning phase and well design to testing, completion of the project, and restoring the site to its natural setting. They can work on land or on offshore platforms, and be employed either as specialist drilling contractors, full-time employees of an oil company, or a service company.

Before drilling an oil or gas well, a drilling engineer will do the necessary research to assess the value of sought reserves and estimate the costs of drilling to access the reserves.

Drilling engineers are responsible for designing well programs and ensuring that there is no uncontrolled fluid release, and they assist in the design of casing strings and cementing plans as well as directional drilling plans. They select appropriate equipment and provide support and supervision once the drilling begins, and collect information and evaluate the formations penetrated to make sure that drilling is efficient and in line with regulations. In addition, drilling engineers analyse information and estimate costs over the course of the whole project.