But does big pay equal a fulfilling career?

thumb oilrigThe oil and gas industry has gained a reputation for high-paying jobs. We see the big trucks, the fancy toys and hear about the lucrative pay.

But is it worth it?

In Alberta, the oil and gas industry employs approximately 140,000 people, according to numbers from Energy Alberta. In addition, the Petroleum Human Resource Council of Canada predicts that 9,500 more positions will need to be filled in the industry by 2015.

 When asking young Albertans why they chose to work in the oil and gas industry, many have the same response, “the money.”

Across Alberta, young people seem to have the exact same motivation for pursuing their careers in oil and gas: not because they particularly like it, but for the financial promise that the black gold holds.

“A lot of people may go into oil and gas for the money or prestige, but if it’s oilrigYoung Albertans are flocking to the oil and gas industry because of the promised money, but some feel like they are stuck working on the rigs for life.

Photo by Alexandra Rabbittenot a part of who they are in other ways, they can end up unhappy and unfulfilled,” said Laura Hambley, founder of Calgary Career Counselling. 

In 2011, the average wage for a career in oil and gas extraction in Alberta was $43.40 an hour. By comparison, the average wage in education services was $31.57 an hour, and in health care, was $29.58.

These numbers, according to Employment Alberta, show that there is more than $10 per hour difference. It might seem obvious why young graduates are choosing to work for oil companies as their career path.

Josh Prins, 20, has worked for Savannah Energy Corp. for just over a year at a service rig just north of Brooks, Alberta.

“I see a lot of guys go out there, and lose their lives. They get their paycheques and they’re on the rigs forever.”
-Simon Docherty

“I got a job on the rigs and the first day I was making $22 an hour,” Prins said. “Now after eight months I’m making $29.50. I don’t think anywhere else you could do that, without an education of some sort.”


Negative effect on relationships

But while the promise of wealth from working on rigs in Alberta is common, it also comes with repercussions.

Cara Stapleton, a registered therapist in Fort McMurray, explains some of the adverse affects of the industry’s money-driven mentality.

“Forty to 50 per cent of my work is dealing with relationships, and it’s mostly about a lack of communication,” Stapleton said. “They’re out here working long hours, and don’t get to talk to their families a lot, and it can cause depression and infidelity.”

Rig workers addicted to the money

As a result of the quick money as well as the easy access, drug and alcohol abuse is a problem in Fort McMurray, Stapleton said.

Simon Docherty, 23, started working for Horizon Drilling when he was 18, as a rough neck. Originally, he had intended to make enough money to go travelling, but the money is hard to walk away from.

“The fact (is) that I can make money in a very short period of time,” he said. “I can go up there for three months and be set for a long time.

“I’m getting 11-day cheques for $5,000. But when you get used to making the money it gets easier to spend. That’s my motivator, the fact I can make a lot of money very fast.”

Docherty adds that many young people get attached to the easy money, while forgetting about other values in life, such as family and education.

“I see a lot of guys go out there, and lose their lives. They get their paycheques and they’re on the rigs forever,” Docherty said.

“They sort of get sucked into the trap, because in the city they will just never make us much money as they can out here.”


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