The Highest-Paying Jobs in the Oil & Gas Industry

Photo credit: Mark Agnor / Shutterstock

The oil and gas industry has experienced great volatility during the COVID-19 pandemic. A collapse in demand at the start of the pandemic in 2020 pushed oil and gas prices to historic lows. More recently, supply has struggled to catch up with demand, leading to price hikes in the energy sector leading to significant inflation.

Amidst these rapid changes, the industry faces challenges with the workforce. The pandemic has underscored the often cyclical nature of employment in the industry. Recent circumstances have only accelerated the rapid changes and volatility seen in the industry over the past two decades, conditions that may make it more difficult to attract and retain employees.

One of the major trends in the industry in recent years has been a divergence between increasing productivity and declining employment. New techniques like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling emerged around the turn of the century, which made it easier to extract oil and gas from shale fields. This led to a boom in oil and gas production starting in the mid-2000s, but a glut of supply eventually triggered a price collapse that caused many companies to lay off workers. Employment in the industry fell sharply from 2014 to 2016, and total employment has remained at lower levels since.

The reduction in employment in the oil and gas industry may also continue for other reasons. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are poised to experience continued growth over the coming decades due to technological improvements that have made them more affordable and viable as an alternative to fossil fuels. Improving the renewable energy economy, along with continued efforts to limit carbon emissions from policymakers, could lead to continued decline in employment in the oil and gas industry.

Although employment opportunities in the industry are on the decline, those working in the oil and gas industry continue to enjoy solid compensation. The field offers some of the highest median wages of any industry, with a typical worker earning $ 80,710 per year. That total is nearly double the overall median wage for non-farm workers in the United States, which was $ 41,950 per year in 2020.

Several factors contribute to the industry’s high compensation levels. First and foremost, the industry is large and profitable, which allows companies to pay their employees more. This means that oil and gas companies can be competitive against other industries when they attract professionals with valuable skills such as management, finance or law. Even manual field labor pays remarkably well compared to other industries, in part to attract potential workers despite difficult working conditions and potential safety risks. In addition, many positions in the oil and gas industry require specialized expertise in fields such as engineering, geology and mineralogy and are well paid to attract workers with this knowledge.

The data used in this analysis comes from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. To identify the highest paying jobs in the oil and gas industry, researchers at Commodity.com looked at occupational statistics for jobs in the “Oil and Gas Extraction” subsector. The occupations were sorted according to their median annual salary. The researchers also compared the median annual salary for each occupation in the oil and gas industry with its median annual salary across all industries. Only occupations with data on employment and wages for 2020 were included in the analysis.

Here are the highest paying jobs in the oil and gas industry.

The 15 highest paying oil and gas jobs

Photo credit: Mark Agnor / Shutterstock

15. Mining engineers and geologists

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 138,380
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 93,800
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 47.5%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 260
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 6,270

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14. General managers and operations managers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 138,790
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 103,650
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 33.9%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 3 930
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 2 347 420

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13. Industrial production managers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 139,080
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 108,790
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 27.8%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 740
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 179,570

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12. Chemical engineers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 139,260
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 108,540
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 28.3%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 490
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 25,770

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11. Responsible for training and development

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 143,020
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 115,640
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 23.7%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 40
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 38,710

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10. Natural science managers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 148,780
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 137,940
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 7.9%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 230
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 75 870

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9. Public relations and fundraising officers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 150,370
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 118,430
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 27.0%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 80
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 81 110

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8. Sales managers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 151,420
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 132,290
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 14.5%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 150
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 390 170

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7. Geoscientists

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 153,740
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 93,580
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 64.3%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 2,780
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 27 890

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6. IT and Information Systems Managers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 153,790
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 151,150
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 1.7%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 800
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 457,290

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5. Financial managers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 155,040
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 134,180
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 15.5%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 1,590
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 653,080

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4. Marketing managers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 166,860
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 142,170
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 17.4%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 420
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 270,200

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3. Lawyers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 176,650
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 126,930
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 39.2%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 500
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 658 120

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2. Responsible for architecture and engineering

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: $ 191,120
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 149,530
  • Difference between oil and gas: + 27.8%
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 1,590
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 195,900

Photo Credit: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock

1. Company managers

  • Median annual salary in the oil and gas sector: > $ 208,000
  • Median annual salary, all sectors combined: $ 185,950
  • Difference between oil and gas: N / A
  • Total employment in the oil and gas sector: 270
  • Total employment all sectors combined: 202 360

Methodology and detailed results

The data used in this analysis comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 statistics on employment and wages by occupation (OEWS) database. To identify the highest paying jobs in the oil and gas industry, the researchers looked at occupational statistics for jobs in the “Oil and Gas Extraction” subsector. The occupations were sorted according to their median annual salary. The researchers also compared the median annual salary for each occupation in the oil and gas industry with its median annual salary across all industries. Only occupations with data on employment and wages for 2020 were included in the analysis.

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