Rig Technician National Occupational Analysis (NOA)

The Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship (CCDA) recognizes this National Occupational Analysis (NOA) as the national standard for the occupation of Rig Technician.

Occupational Analyses Series

Disponible en français sous le titre : Technicien/technicienne en forage (pétrolier et gazier)

NOC: 8232

Designation Year: 2006

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General Information


“Rig technician” is this trade’s official Red Seal occupational title approved by the CCDA. This analysis covers tasks performed by rig technicians whose occupational title has been identified by some provinces and territories of Canada under the following names:














Rig Technician








Drilling is an important phase of oil exploration and extraction in Canada. Drilling is one of the methods used to access hydrocarbon formations. Rig technicians work on drilling rigs and other specialized equipment to drill holes to retrieve these hydrocarbons.

Drilling rigs are owned by companies specializing in drilling, called drilling contractors. Some contractors are larger than others and some specialize in certain types of operations. However, all contractors offer their drilling equipment and the services of their employees to exploration companies on a contract basis.

A rig crew’s operational structure is organized by a clearly defined set of duties and responsibilities. After gaining entry level experience as a leasehand and floorhand, workers in this trade must progress through the ranks of motorhand (level 1) and derrickhand (level 2) in order to become fully qualified rig technicians/drillers (level 3). The division of duties in the levels of skilled workers on a rig crew is:

Motorhands: maintain drilling rig engines, transmissions, heating systems, diesel electric generators and motors, hydraulic systems and other mechanical equipment; maintain equipment logs and records; monitor fluid and supply levels; participate in rig mobilization (rig up) and demobilization (rig out); supervise and are able to do all duties performed by floorhands and leasehands.

Derrickhands: operate drilling fluid systems and pumps during drilling; mix chemicals and additives; handle sections of the drill string assembly from the monkeyboard during tripping operations; monitor and record volume and properties of drilling fluids; supervise motorhands, floorhands and leasehands; and are able to do all duties performed by motorhands.

Rig technicians (drillers): operate the drawworks, rotary equipment and pumps; inspect rig; maintain records of drilling operations; are able to perform all duties performed by any crew member; and are responsible for the safety, training and supervision of the crew members.

Rig technicians report directly to the drilling rig manager. The scope of the rig technician for this analysis covers the duties of motorhands, derrickhands and drillers.

A rig crew works with a variety of hand and power tools, as well as motorized equipment, lifting and hoisting equipment, and personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety equipment. Computers are an important tool in this trade to maintain operational records and interpret data related to drilling activities.

The rig is set up and transported to different sites resulting in the rig crew often travelling to remote locations. The work is performed in all weather conditions and workers should be prepared to work in all types of weather and environmental conditions (example: cold, hot, noisy, dirty, dusty, wet and muddy). Drilling activity peaks during the winter months when the ground is frozen. The work pressures and demands may fluctuate depending on world oil and gas supply and demand.

Important attributes for rig technicians are good hand-eye coordination, mechanical inclination, the ability to work well in a team and with third-party service providers, and strong leadership, communication, and organizational skills. Good physical condition is important because the work often requires considerable lifting, long hours and repetitive movement.

Drilling is a 24-hour operation, requiring rig technicians to work shifts and often long hours. The job requires mental alertness due to the inherent work hazards such as moving equipment, exposure to chemicals, risks of explosions and working at heights. Rig technicians work outdoors in all kinds of weather, often in remote and isolated areas away from home.

Rig technicians are expected to perform supervisory duties and training of apprentices and other less experienced crew members. Experienced rig technicians may move into other positions such as rig managers, instructors, well site supervisors, sales representatives or other technical positions within the industry.

Occupational Observations

Multi-well pads, swamp mats and fibre roads are increasingly used to allow better access to drilling areas that were previously difficult to access. This increases the length of the drilling season, making year-round drilling more common.

New technologies are offering new choices of bits, drilling fluids and downhole tools, which increase the speed at which wells are drilled. Also, new types of drilling rigs are being built, such as automated drilling rigs (ADR) and top drives, which change the nature of the work being done by rig technicians. Much of the hands-on work on a traditional rig is replaced by automated systems on the ADR. Therefore, the rig technician is operating a wider variety of equipment with the purpose of increasing the safety of the operations.

New regulations and company policies are impacting drilling rig management and crews, especially in the areas of due diligence, liability issues and safety training. First aid and hydrogen sulphide (H2S) Alive training are pre-requisites. Also, pre-job hazard assessments (PJHAs), job safety analysis (JSAs) and specific task training are becoming increasingly important. To prove due diligence, there are ever increasing demands regarding the documentation of meetings.

There is an increasing importance being placed on communication and leadership skills. As part of these skills, computer literacy, the ability to train junior crew members, and the ability to work in a team environment are becoming highly valued qualities in this trade.

There is an increased focus on cost savings which means ramifications for innovation and research and development. For example, oil companies are focusing on their core activities and out-sourcing non-core activities more and more. There is also an increased interest in casing technology as this technology can increase production and lower costs simultaneously.

There is a trend to have more specialized drilling operations such as directional, underbalanced drilling (UBD) and managed pressure drilling (MPD). This requires an increased involvement of third-party service providers.

There is a greater focus on environmental responsibilities to handle, store and transport waste material and chemicals. There is also more required documentation, and jurisdictional regulations are more stringent. Rig technicians are expected to stay up-to-date on evolving regulations.

Essential Skills Summary

Essential skills are needed for work, learning and life. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.

Through extensive research, the Government of Canada and other national and international agencies have identified and validated nine essential skills. These skills are used in nearly every occupation and throughout daily life in different ways.

A series of CCDA-endorsed tools have been developed to support apprentices in their training and to be better prepared for a career in the trades. The tools can be used independently or with the assistance of a tradesperson, trainer, employer, teacher or mentor to:

  • understand how essential skills are used in the trades;
  • learn about individual essential skills strengths and areas for improvement; and
  • improve essential skills and increase success in an apprenticeship program.

Tools are available online or for order.

The essential skills for the rig technician trade are included in the profile for the oil and gas well drilling workers and service operators, which indicate that the most important essential skills are numeracy and oral communication. The subject matter experts at the NOA workshop identified that document use, thinking skills and working with others are also important essential skills.

The application of these skills may be described throughout this document within the competency statements which support each subtask of the trade. The following are summaries of the requirements in each of the essential skills.

Rig technicians read a variety of documents such as drilling logs, company memos, engineering handbooks, training and operation manuals, and material safety data sheets (MSDS) and WHMIS symbols.

Rig technicians interpret identification labels on lubricants, salt inhibitors and other fluid additives as well as safety signs and notices posted on the rig. They also reference mud reports and pressure and volume charts to know how much fluid and what density of fluid to pump into a well to keep the oil or gas from coming up. They record mud flows and volumes into tables such as a swab report and a mud sheet on a daily basis. They also complete safety related documentation such as JSA forms and hazard identifications.

Rig technicians write required information and notes on a variety of forms and reports such as tour sheets and trip sheets. They may also keep a personal log of their own activities in which they may write reminder notes.

Rig technicians calculate quantities of chemicals to add to the mud mixture, measure lengths of pipes, determine fluid volume in a tank using coefficients and charts, and calculate the time it will take to pump a volume of fluid into the well. Rig technicians read gauge fluctuations and convert between the imperial and metric measurement systems. They also calculate amount of mud loss.

Rig technicians may give and receive warning of safety hazards, or instructions. They talk with co-workers to co-ordinate their tasks. They also participate in pre-job safety meetings to discuss procedures, hazards, potential problems and tools and materials needed. Listening and questioning are important for clarifying instructions.

Rig technicians work in a noisy and fast paced setting, often in harsh weather conditions and with distances and visual blocks between workers. They often communicate with body language, gestures and by shouting. They wear ear protection and sometimes radio headphones. Communication depends on being vigilant and aware of what is about to happen.

Rig technicians use problem-solving skills when encountering problems such as a need for well control, and equipment break-downs or malfunctions in order to take necessary actions in a safe and efficient manner. They make decisions about rig setup procedures and maintenance.

Rig technicians find information from oil company consultants and supervisors about the well's expected conditions, and about processes and procedures. They may consult charts, training manuals and other handbooks to look up and interpret the relationships between pipe sizes, pressures, volumes and rate of flow.

Rig technicians work as part of a team on a rig crew. They mostly perform their tasks independently; however, they co-ordinate with other workers on a constant basis for activities such as tripping pipe and drilling operations.

Rig technicians may enter data in customized programs, such as electronic drilling recorders (EDR) and tour reports. They may also use other custom-designed programs to monitor well condition readings during operation for example.

Rig technicians learn continuously through on-the-job experience and talking with co-workers. They are required to maintain safety certifications for first aid, first line well control, and H2S. In addition, some companies provide on-going training with the possibility of moving into higher supervisory positions.


The CCDA and HRSDC wish to express sincere appreciation for the contribution of the many tradespersons, industrial establishments, professional associations, labour organizations, provincial and territorial government departments and agencies, and all others who contributed to this publication.

Special acknowledgement is extended by HRSDC and the CCDA to the following representatives from the trade.

  • Trevor Burns - Saskatchewan
  • David Debbink - Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors (CAODC)
  • Sean Kerr - British Columbia
  • Dan Marques - British Columbia
  • Cory Mazuren - Alberta
  • Shaun McNabb - Saskatchewan
  • Darcy Moore - Manitoba
  • John Orvis - Manitoba
  • Cameron Tollin - Alberta

This analysis was prepared by the Labour Market Integration Directorate of HRSDC. The coordinating, facilitating and processing of this analysis were undertaken by employees of the NOA development team of the Trades and Apprenticeship Division. The host jurisdiction of Alberta also participated in the development of this NOA.

Comments or questions about NOAs may be forwarded to:

Trades and Apprenticeship Division
Labour Market Integration Directorate
Employment and Social Development Canada
140 Promenade du Portage, Phase IV, 6th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec  K1A 0J9
Email: redseal-sceaurouge@hrsdc-rhdcc.gc.ca

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