Report: Salaries surging in oil and gas industry

06 01, 2012 by Fuel Fix

The U.S. oil boom is driving a surge in salaries in the energy industry, with average pay packages growing 5 percent over the past year, according to a report released by CSI Recruiting.

Drilling engineers, who design and manage well drilling plans, saw their average salaries grow more than 9 percent to $159,127, the biggest jump in annual salary, according to the report. Production and operations engineers, who oversee field operations when wells start producing oil and gas, also saw a 9 percent salary jump, earning $163,748.

The average annual salary for reservoir engineers, who are often the highest paid in the industry, jumped a meager 1 percent to $168,722 in 2012, following a 20 percent jump the year before.

CSI Recruiting, a Denver-based staffing agency, analyzed the salaries and bonuses of more than 2,400 workers in the U.S. oil and gas exploration and production industry, including engineers, geologists and technicians. Skilled workers have been in short supply during the drilling boom, causing salaries to grow higher in many fields.

How other fields fared in the survey:

Position 2012 Salary Change
Engineering Technicians $90,630 up 3.3%
Geologists $161,008 up 8.5%
Geophysicists $183,633 up 6%
Geological/geophysical technicians $89,185 up 2.2%
Petrophysicists $175,842 up 9%
Landmen $130,978 up 6%
Land technicians $72,060 down 0.1%

Houston-area workers generally draw higher salaries than their counterparts in other regions of the country, the report found.

However, the salary boost didn’t occur evenly across the industry.

The sinking price of natural gas is hitting the payrolls of some firms, the report noted. Natural gas companies saw higher turnover, and employees fared worse than similar employees working for oil-focused companies.

“Working for a company heavily focused on natural gas production can mean weak bonuses, stock options in the red and concerns about the financial position of the company,” the report reads. “Companies with portfolios rife with dry gas assets have experienced sinking stock prices, little interest from acquisition minded firms and difficulty attracting and retaining talent.”

About 90 percent of technical workers received cash bonuses, at about 25 percent of their base salaries, according to the report. Stock options, profit sharing programs and other incentive payouts have added even more to compensation packages. But for employees at natural gas companies, the value of those perks has dipped with the dropping stock prices and bonuses have also declined, the report noted.