The Permian Roustabout: A $120k/year ‘Best Bet’?

According to a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal, the trusted ‘Roustabout’ position is a ‘Best Bet’ anticipated to be the 2nd fastest growing position in the state through 2023 and fetch up to an impressive $120,000/yr.

Of course, this ain’t easy money.

Take Jonathan Montes of Carlsbad – he’s been at it for several years now and is fine with the 70 hour weeks (which occasionally turn into 90 hour weeks). In exchange, he earned an impressive $85,000 last year.

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What does he think of all this hard work?

Montes, who works for 50-50 Backhoe Service in Artesia, also enjoys the job. He’s a “pusher,” which is the person in charge of a crew that does everything from construction to repairing well or gas line leaks. He even tackles the more dangerous job of making sure line valves are functioning properly.

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Tough Enough

It’s not the easiest way to make a living. Montes works from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but with transportation from whichever oilfield he’s working at to his home in Carlsbad, he usually has a 12-hour day. On busy days, he doesn’t get home until 2 or 3 a.m.

Plus, it goes without saying that you’re going to need to be physically fit, able to work long hours, and be ‘maintenance’ inclined.

Demand through 2023

According to a study by CareerBuilder, Oil and gas roustabouts are projected to be the second-fastest growing occupation in New Mexico through 2023

“They’re very much in demand,” said Gregg Fulfer, owner of Fulfer Oil and Cattle Co. in Jal. “It’s a basic need in the oilfield – it’s the heart of what gets everything done.”

Among jobs described as ‘middle-wage’,  Roustabouts can earn from the low $50,000s up to $120,000, depending on experience and the amount of overtime earned.

But the cash doesn’t come easy.

“There’s a lot of lifting of heavy pipes and other equipment, so it requires someone who’s in pretty good shape”, said Fulfer, who became a roustabout right out of high school.

Beware the Nature of the Patch

Pay across the Permian also depends on demand, Montes said. Several years ago (before the oil surge) Montes made $55,000, more than a third less than he’s making now.

“Right now, it’s a boom,” he said. “We are busy.”

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