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Rig Technician 3


The Alberta Rig Technician trades are specific to the drilling rig industry; not the rig servicing industry.

Rig technicians operate oil and gas drilling rigs. Rig technician 3 journeyperson certification confirms the journeyperson can also perform the tasks of a rig technician 2 and a rig technician 1 credential. Job titles (i.e. tasks) commonly associated with each of the three levels are motorhand (Level 1), derrickhand (Level 2) and driller (Level 3).

Motorhand (Level 1) is responsible for:

  • regularly maintaining drilling rig engines, transmissions, heating systems, diesel electric generators and motors, hydraulic systems, and other mechanical equipment,
  • maintaining equipment logs and preventative maintenance records as required,
  • monitoring inventories of fuels, oil filters, lube oils, greases and other service items,
  • working under the direction of the derrickhand and driller,
  • supervising, training and working with floorhands and labourers, ensuring they work safely and efficiently, and
  • participating in rig mobilization and de-mobilization (rig-up and tear-out).

Derrickhand (Level 2) is responsible for:

  • operating and maintaining drilling fluid systems and pumps during drilling,
  • mixing fluid chemicals and additives as required by the program,
  • handling sections of drill string assembly from a platform on the rig derrick during tripping operations,
  • monitoring and recording mud flows and volumes and fluid properties (i.e. mud weight),
  • working under the direction of the Driller and assisting the Driller with crew supervision, ensuring the crew works safely and efficiently, and
  • participating in rig mobilization and de-mobilization (rig-up and tear-out).

Driller (Level 3) is responsible for:

  • operating the draw-works, rotary equipment and pumps and supervise the assembly of drill string,
  • ensuring that safety and support equipment is functioning properly,
  • monitoring the progress of the drilling operation and communicate with well-site supervisors,
  • keeping a current record of drilling progress,
  • training crew members,
  • introducing procedures which may help the crew to work more safely and effectively, and
  • participating in the supervision of rig mobilization and de-mobilization (rig-up and tear-out).

Drillers are all responsible for the supervision of rig crews, ensuring they work safely and efficiently, and the operation of drilling equipment. They report directly to drilling rig managers and are responsible for the crew.

Normally an apprentice will spend at least a year in each position.

A drilling rig consists of a derrick, draw-works and other surface equipment that provide the forces needed for drill pipe to bore a hole into the earth. The drilling rig drills the initial hole for the oil or gas well. After the drilling rig reaches the layer of earth that contains oil or gas, the rig is removed from the site.

Other equipment, such as service rigs and pump jack, operated by skilled workers from the oilfield service industry, are used to complete the well construction and to access the oil and gas.

For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.


Working Conditions

Working conditions vary with the tasks performed, rig locations and weather conditions. People in these occupations often work outdoors in remote locations. They are often exposed to extremes in weather as well as to the dirt, dust, noise and fumes that often exist around a rig. They may be required to lift items weighing in excess of 25 kilograms. Employees are often responsible for their own transportation to the work site and may travel widely throughout the province. Employment in these occupations may be seasonal. Winter is the busiest season for drilling activity.

The rig technician trade has minimal entry-level requirements, generous wages, attractive work and time-off schedules and opportunities for rapid advancement.  It can be a stepping stone to variety of other employment opportunities in the oil and gas industry.


Skills and Abilities

To be successful in their trade, rig technicians must have:

  • the ability to get along well with co-workers,
  • leadership and management skills,
  • good communication skills,
  • good organizational skills,
  • physical strength and stamina,
  • emotional stability,
  • mechanical aptitude,
  • manual dexterity, and
  • the ability to judge distances and spatial relationships.

They should enjoy working with equipment and machinery, working in a team environment and compiling information and maintaining records.


Employment and Advancement

Rig technicians are employed by drilling contractors, who own and operate oil and gas well drilling rigs and who contract with oil producers to drill wells. Work schedules for rig technicians vary with industry demand, but an example of a rig technician's work schedule is two weeks of work followed by one week off from work.

Rig technicians may be promoted to rig managers, or to management positions within the drilling industry. Experienced rig technicians may also be hired by specialist companies for occupations such as mud technician, directional driller, or for service occupations. For example, they may go on to drilling-related equipment sales, employment as rig training providers, occupations in rig regulation, occupations in rig supervision, oil and gas well supervision or rig safety, or various other career paths.


Working in Alberta

To work as a rig technician in Alberta, a person must be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, or hold a valid recognized credential.

Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements.


Apprenticeship Training

The term of apprenticeship for a rig technician is 3 years (three 12-month periods), including a minimum of 1500 hours of on-the-job training and 4 weeks (30 hours per week) of technical training each year.

  • There are no specified entrance requirements for this trade.
  • Rig technician apprenticeship technical training and on-the-job training is cumulative for the three levels of certification. Apprentices may opt out of the full three-period rig technician apprenticeship program after completing one or more periods of the program and apply to the Alberta Qualification Certificate Program for an industry-recognized credential confirming the level (i.e. period) of training completed.
  • An applicant who previously completed courses of study or work experience related to the rig technician trade or who holds a related journeyperson certificate and has the employer's recommendation may qualify for credit that could reduce the term of apprenticeship. Inquiries about credit for previously completed courses of study or work experience can be directed to an apprentice representative toll-free at 1-800-248-4823.
  • A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may complete the online Prior Learning Assessment Application.  
  • A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may apply for a Prior Learning Assessment.
  • A high school student can become an apprentice and gain credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).

To learn the skills required of a rig technician 3 in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:

  • find a suitable employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice

Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates and may select apprentices from among their current employees.

For holders of an existing trade certificate, it can serve as your entrance requirement equivalency when registering in an additional trade.

  • complete the online Apprenticeship Application and Contract
  • pay the non-refundable application fee as part of the application process 
  • complete the required on-the-job training
  • complete the required technical training each year
  • enroll in technical training
  • successfully complete all required (See Exam Counselling Sheets)
  • Technical Training Resource List
    • Each period of technical training will require apprentices to purchase specific resources and supplies.
    • Contact the training provider where you will be attending training for a complete list.

Apprentices may attempt the Interprovincial Exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal.

When apprentices attend technical training, they are required to pay the applicable tuition fee and purchase course supplies. 

Student loans, grants, scholarships and other financial assistance may be available. For more information see Financial Assistance, visit an Apprenticeship and Industry Training office or call toll-free to 1-800-248-4823.


Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program

A rig technician 3 who holds a valid trade certificate from Alberta or from another Canadian province or territory may apply to write the Interprovincial Exam and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. The Red Seal is recognized throughout most of Canada.

To prepare for the exam see the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available Resource Materials.


Qualification Certificate Program

For a Qualification Certificate based on a recognized credential or work experience in order to prepare for the exam(s) please refer to the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available Resource Materials.

Time spent on supervisory or foreman duties, counter work, heading the tool crib, or on training course is NOT counted as 'hands-on' work experience.


Equivalency Program

A person who holds a valid recognized credential does not require an Alberta equivalency document to work in the trade in Alberta.

However, some employers may require Alberta documentation as proof that the holder is allowed to work in the trade or that the holder's credential is recognized.

Click for more information on the Equivalency Program.