What Does Rig Welder Do: A Complete Guide


In the oil drilling and mineral drilling industries, whether it is on land or water, the most essential component of these industries is the process of welding. The welder must be available at all times of the day for any sort of maintenance in the rig or else to perform repairs or other services.

The locations that welders work are generally highly hazardous and not favorable to human health and lifestyle. It requires a lot of certifications, experience, and working ability with various kinds of materials available out there.

What does a ‘Rig Welder’ do?

Rig Welding Explored:

Rig welding
An oil ‘Rig Welder’ is one who generally works off-shore in the oil exploration and drilling companies. Hence, this job is also known as an ‘Off-Shore Welding’ job.

This job not only means the operation of the drilling facility in the company but also means that there is a need for such workers in the maintenance and support crew. The environment that a rig welder works in is generally highly unfavorable to a human being’s health and hazardous.

Welding is done under certain ‘permitted conditions’ and maintaining some pressurized techniques that are using in welding. A constant presence of quantitative and qualitative atmospheric pressure in the working area is highly ideal.

Basically, the pressurizing habit is to fabricate a plasticized material that is pressurized internally. This prevents any kind of explosion that can occur in the welding facility.

Rig Welding Skills:

Maximum ‘Rig Welding’ jobs that people get are maintenance jobs that involve the construction of pipe supports and brackets. Welding here generally deals with the options and techniques to weld different types of ‘Corrosion Resistant Alloys (CRA)’. This job is definitely not for someone who does not have proper hands-on experience.
The major techniques that oil ‘Rig Welders’ use is:

  • Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW): Pipe welding which requires only a single side to be welded and to weld ‘Corrosion Resistant Alloys (CRA)’, this technique is used.
  • Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW): If the facility needs welding and refining work to be done on stainless steel materials and to deposit fill and pass in pipelines, then this method is highly essential. The theE7016 electrode is the most widely used electrode in this welding technique.
  • Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW): Whenever you need a large amount of welding material to be deposited, this technique of welding is used. This job is not essential for any kind of off-shore job. Hence, it does not require your qualification in the least generic cases. But learning and having experience in this technique are very useful in large structural constructions and projects.

Materials Used:

  • Carbon: Almost all the structures that we see around us and piping jobs require a large number of carbon steels.
  • Austenitic Stainless Steels (ASS): Resistant compounds link 316 and Molybdenum containing stainless steels (304) are ideal and preferable as they are resistant to pitting and this is what is required in off-shore welding where the moisture content in the air is marginally higher than in the land.
  • Duplex and Super Duplex Stainless Steels (DSS and SDSS): These stainless-steel metals have higher stress and corrosion resistance than basic ‘Austenitic Stainless Steels’. When it comes to welding, this material is tedious to weld under these pressure conditions.
  • Super Austenitic Stainless Steels (SASS): They also have better corrosion resistance than a normal ‘Austenitic Stainless Steel’ material.
  • Nickel-based Alloys (NBA): Welding under very high temperatures and also when dissimilar and inert metals are welded. The only thing to keep in mind is whether the welder has the pre-requisite knowledge and experience to execute all of these processes effectively.
  • Copper Nickel (CuNi): For piping and fire-water systems, this technique is used mostly in off-shore facilities.
  • Titanium: The use of titanium is minimal in these facilities. Having a lot of knowledge in and the use of equipment accurately with the perfect conditions in the welder facility.

Basic Requirements:

  • Off-shore medical tests must be passed by the welder before-hand.
  • Completed ‘Helicopter Underwater Escape Training’ (HUET). In this training, you will be put underwater because of a helicopter crash on the seawater and they will see your skills to escape out of it. It is first simulated and then the final test is physically done.
  • The welder must have completed all the off-shore survival skills tests. The HUET and this course are done together. The welder will be put in very harsh and freezing cold climatic conditions.
  • The jurisdiction will also conduct all the essential tests to prove no cases especially related to maritime are filed against the welder.
  • The company will conduct specialized training with hands-on experience to get the workflow in the upcoming future to work in the company.


This kind of job is not for everyone and it is not the typical 9 to 5 jobs that everyone generally has. It has longer working hours and the need to stay at the facility during a particular period of time, be it weeks, months, or even years.

  • Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO): As told earlier, this kind of oil ‘Rig Welder’ will spend most f his/her time working off-shore at the facility and will get not much time of the year to be at home with the family. It will be in the form of contracts that are signed for certain months of the year altogether.
  • Long Hours: You will need to work for a minimum of 12 hours a day or even more if you have certain maintenance and service work to do. All the days of the week will be functional without any delay or leave.
  • Shared-Rooms: All the off-shore drilling and oil exploration facilities do not have the highest quality accommodation areas and beds. Moreover, you will need to accommodate in the rooms along with your co-workers and even share bunker beds most of the time. The food and other commodities will be included in the package and will be free-of-cost.

Oil Rig Welding:

An oil rig welding setup is generally large and isolated in the off-shore areas, far away from residential and human-populated areas. It is made in such a way that it is self-sufficient, housing its own power plants and water-filtering machinery.

On average an oil rig welder makes around $80,000 a year on an average. These facilities take around millions to build and accommodate. The role of a welder on this rig-welding machine may be tedious but keeps changing on a daily basis.

They also need to work 2 weeks straight for around 12-hours a day and the next two weeks will be off. ‘Hyperbaric’ welding is a special type of welding that is done underwater and requires a lot of underwater skills for the welder. The depth will be anywhere between 80 to 12,000 feet.

Hyperbaric welding is further divided into two types namely, ‘Dry’ and ‘Wet’. When the welding is done in a chamber having specialized pressure conditions, it is called ‘Dry Welding’. If the welder needs to wear scuba gear to go underwater to do welding, it is known as ‘Wet Welding’.

It is highly risky and hard to weld at a depth above 1,300 feet as the pressure is very high in such conditions. They use special electrode holders that are water-resistant to perform under-water welding processes.

Top 6 Reasons to become a Rig Welder

Welders having a very high experience are in high demand nowadays as a skill is much more meaningful and reasonable these days. All that bookish knowledge known nowadays is of no use in the real-time world and no one has the time to teach a technical skill to a person with knowledge in today’s fast-paced world.

Such workers make about $100,000-$150,000 a year that no college-degree holder can afford to make even if they work for 10 hours a day. Working at various exotic spots of various countries like Brazil, Argentina, Malta, and much more.

Let us see why you might opt-in for this job more than anything else!

  • Job Security:
    Off-shore drilling is definitely the only manufacturing industry that is growing large-scale and gets it earning in billions supporting various needs of the human population and the government. Being exclusively funded by the government, they can never go out in a loss in the entire year and hence the workers and welder will get their pay no matter what and if they are well-experienced and required by the company, then your job is secured!
  • Wages:
    An average welder gets about $50,000 while an off-shore welder around $60,000 annually and those welders having very good on-hand experience counting in years get around $100k annually and with more experience and trust in the company, these values skyrocket instantly.
  • Travel:
    Off-shore welding is the best way to travel to exotic locations of the world free of cost and experiences their culture. You will gain more experience and learn various new welding techniques and strategies when you visit such countries. You would be exposed to certain projects that you might have never seen in your life.
  • Business:
    Working in many welding firms and institutions will gather you a surplus amount of experience and certification that can help you start up your own business here of a full-time welding business. It will also give you and other welders a good opportunity to work.
  • Valuable Skills:
    The work that you do in the facility or workshop is satisfying and helps you gain a lot of knowledge and work experience in a short span of time. You will learn to be honest, dedicated, and learn other skills like working on cars, doing your house’s repair works and also help you do some part-time jobs for some good supply of income.
  • Diversity:
    The welding industry is by far the most diverse industry ever-known. There are surplus varieties of metals and structural projects to weld and various radical techniques to learn on the go. Working for a few companies itself will get you a diversity of all the welding techniques and skills.

Job Vacancies:

There are several rig welding jobs available in the United States and they are contract-based only. You will be paid very high and in-turn will have to abide by their rules and regulations. Your skills, experience, and certification are considered the highest degree of qualification.

  • Atlas Professionals located in North America can provide immense knowledge and experience to beginners as well as experienced welders offering them good pay from around $50,000 a year and more for experienced welders. They require workers who can mobilize often and have a good off-shore experience.
  • Puglisevich located in Houston, Texas provides a huge amount of technical knowledge and hands-on experience for all those welders beginning their career. Basic welding techniques, flame-cutting, and fabrication are some tasks done here regularly. 2+ years of experience can get him/her an instant job with high pay. It can offer them all the freebies and flexible working schedules.
  • Marmen Energy company offers welders who have 3+ experience in structural and off-shore welding firms. They also specialize in heavy fabrication providing the welders hands-on training for around a month before beginning work. It is located in Brandon, South Dakota.
  • Eagle Automation located in Birmingham, Alabama recruits any kind of welder who is consistent and dedicated to work. He/she needs to obey the orders and do work on a regular schedule given. Here, the experience is under a second-category while ‘dedication’ is considered first. Rig welders here perform repairs, maintenance and help build new metalwork in the oil rigs.

Reasons to Choose a Welding Service

  • Quality Work:
    The welders have highly-qualified experience in skills training and offshore survival training that increases the consistency and reliability of the welders in the facility. The right experience and equipment-experience can help make some good-looking and perfectly weld structures.
  • Safety:
    Safety is considered one of the most essential commodities of oil rig welding. Oil, natural gas, and several other minerals are inflammable and are extremely hazardous to the environment in large quantities. Large intake of hydrogen sulfide, tripping, structural collapses, and damages, and toxic leakage are some of the causes of risk and injuries to all the welder and workers in an oil rig facility.
  • Dependability:
    Every company has its own schedule and working hours for the welder respectively. The timings generally change and some certain welders also have shift-hours to work on while some get maintenance jobs which include fewer working hours but are needed for part of the day. Such welders need to be alert and present at the facility for the entire contract or project until it completed, be it months or years. Depending on the welding service that you opt to work in, the work and timing are flexible or sometimes not.
  • Knowledge:
    If the welder chooses and tends to works in an experienced and big group of rig welding services, they will definitely train the welder to get higher qualifications and get adapted to the worst possible weather and environmental conditions with minimal available resources. The common materials that welders need to have a command on are Aluminum, Titanium, and Stainless Steel.
  • Efficiency:
    Workers and other maintenance welder are always paid based on their contract and no working hours. So, the service/ company will expect the welder’s efforts to be 100% and no time when they employ them to be wasted to produce some profitable outputs on time.
  • Liability:
    Companies and firms that hire you as a welder when signing the contract will take all the responsibility for your health and your family under theirs. Your insurance, medical leave and facilities, pension, and other essential facilities will be provided on point. If the service provided has well-maintained certification and insurance, these kinds of responsibilities can be reduced by about half of it. Since the rig welding company or service has your experience and certification once they recruit you, the cost of all the equipment used, training, and other possible internal expenses can be obtained free of cost.

Cons of being a Rig Welder

  • Dangerous:
    People who are willing to take risks and can afford danger to earn a living for their family work as an ‘off-shore welder’. Whatever may be the case, welding is hazardous to human health and hence it gives you all the luxuries of life including your enormous pay and medical facilities, and other security features for their families.
  • Dirty:
    Welding involves a lot of dust and black soot on your hands, face, and even hair making the working hours a tedious task to overcome and can make you get irritated about it over time. This is one of the most underrated and unfavorable things of welding that people should consider before entering this industry.
  • Physical:
    It takes an immense amount of practical knowledge and coordination that plays with your experience to make a proper weld. It is not like an office job where you get air-conditioned for all the working hours and you can never imagine sitting simply at any part of the day.
  • Persistence:
    Like every other business or job, welding at the starting phase has its own drawbacks and difficulties. Unless and until you overcome them at a slow pace, you cannot succeed in this job making it your career. You will need to stay persistent and diligent to work under all the pressure and poor environmental conditions to prove your worth.

Pipeline Welding

Pipeline welding is one of the most regularly called upon and used industries under welding. Because of its importance, this industry has shown vigorous growth in the past decade. Several types and techniques of pipeline welding are done.

Pipes can be welded together either by keeping them rigid at a static position and location or by rolling them together. Pipes generally have their joints filled by a V-Joint using the ‘Butt weld’ operation.

The degree and angle of penetration of the welding arc is the most essential pre-requisite of pipeline welding. Pipes need root edges and root gaps to process further fabrication and welding processes. Hence, the edges of these pipes are beveled before continuing the process. Moreover, it supports better penetration.

Rig Welding
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What’s so special about this job?
Becoming a pipeline welder, you will get the opportunity to visit various countries and also their countryside if that is your preference. Moreover, the most ideal aspect of being a pipeline welder is that you can make the same money in a week, that an average American makes in a month.

Astonishing, isn’t it? You will need to pay your own fuel expenses for your vehicle through. Moreover, some services and firms might not cover your medical expenses, stay, and other facilitation that requires funds.

You will get your vehicle, welding rods, arcs, electrodes, shielding gas, and other welding equipment to be repaired and replaced by the company itself. You might earn between $700 to $1000 a week if you can get a job in an oilfield area.

The average taxes that one can expect is around $36-$52/hour for an arm pay, $15-$25/hour for a truck pay, and $100-$150 for the per diem. Now if you can work for 60 hours a week straight, then you can expect up to $5000 that particular week.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Preparation: Before beginning any welding process, knowing about the materials used and the techniques to be followed, is one of the most essential aspects that one must know. The smooth and uniform finish is important to satisfy a welding company’s output.
  • Misalignment: A welder must always be accurate enough to be sure that the welding process is done with the utmost care using the perfect alignment angle and electrode properties. This prevents any misalignment in the final product.
  • WPS: The ‘Welding Procedure Specifications’ is a document that contains all the welding requirements and procedural guidelines helping the welder starting with a welding process and also guides them through it efficiently.
  • Shielding Gas: In order to make sure that the weld does not react with any atmospheric gases like Hydrogen or Nitrogen, shielding gas is used. We use this shielding gas in ‘Laser Welding’ to improve welds. And the concept of using more shielding gas gets us good and improved welds is a false myth.
  • Slag Inclusion: Slag is formed mostly in ‘arc welding’ processes. The flux coating formed over the weld/joints causes slag inclusion adversely. Using the correct speed and angle of the welding arc and electrode is necessary to prevent/reduce slag inclusions. Regular cleaning of the welded joints and welding equipment can help prevent slag inclusions.



  • How much does a rig welder make?




    1. A beginner earns around $40-$45 an hour. An experienced and knowledgeable welder can make from $75-$90 an hour.


  • How much do Pipeline welders make an hour?




    1. A pipeline welder who is new to the job/company will earn around $16-$20 an hour. Whereas, one who has certification, experience off-shore, and has good communication skills can earn around $38-$42 an hour.


  • Can you smoke on an oil rig?




    1. Based on the company/firm you are working under and based on the country where you are currently, smoking can be either banned or not banned in the oil rig. Generally, Asian companies do not pose a ban on smokers in the rig. It is highly offendable though to smoking areas around inflammable gases or liquids in the facility.


  • Can you use mobile phones on an oil rig?




    1. Most of the oil rig firms and companies have rules and regulations where they prohibit the use of phones in and around the oil rig facility. Smartphones can generate sparks due to the presence of static electricity.


  • What kind of jobs does welder do in the oil rigs?




    1. As an oil rig is heavily funded by the government and it takes several years to get one set up, it involves a large variety of welders required for discrete processes and to facilitate faster growth of the facility.

The jobs offered are:


      • A-B Pressure Welder
      • Drilling Platform Welder
      • Pipeline Arc Welder
      • Rig Welder
      • Production Welder
      • Fabrication Welder
      • TIG Welder
      • Welding Engineer and a Manager