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How to get Hired on the Pipeline

The Essential Insiders Guide to Getting Your Foot in the Door with Oil & Gas Pipeline Jobs

Ever thought about getting into the oil and gas pipeline industry? Have you ever wondered how to get hired on the pipeline? I’ve often asked myself why there isn’t a comprehensive insiders guide to getting your foot in the door with some of the pipeline companies hiring these days. I’ve googled it and trust me, it’s like a black hole. There’s literally nothing, no info on this anywhere that even resembles reality from what I can tell after a decade of pipeline project experience. So here goes…

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For better or worse, here’s my best shot at the insiders guide for getting your foot in the door with an entry level pipeline job.

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How to get hired on the pipeline essential guide – Pipe Welder welding joints of main-line steel natural gas pipe for pipeline project.

1. Know Somebody

Ever hear the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Never has it been more true than in the oil and gas pipeline industry. Whether we like to admit it or not, the pipeline industry is huge on hiring friends and family. There are a number of reasons for this but a big one is trust. Pipeliners, as we like to call ourselves, consider each other our “brothers keeper”. This is a common theme brought up at most morning safety meetings and it’s obvious we take it seriously. We like to hire people that we know and can rely on in a pinch, not just some Joe off the street.

If you have any friends or family in the oil and gas pipeline industry, the best thing you can do to get your foot in the door is just ask them questions about what they do first. Before you ask them to try and help you get hired, learn a little bit about what you are getting yourself into. Pipeline life can be lucrative and rewarding, but it’s not for everybody. It has its pros and cons just like any industry.

For an extensive list of oil and gas pipeline industry jobs visit pipeline-jobs.com/job-listings today! Just select location, job type then search our database. Sign up for email notifications to keep up to date with any new pipeline jobs.

2. Join a “Pipeline Jobs” Facebook Group.

There are a number of Pipeline Jobs themed groups on Facebook. The name of the game is networking, and pipeliners can network with the best of them. These groups are know for regular postings of available vacancies. They are posted multiple times a day in most cases and have an extremely high engagement rate with their members. You can use this as a sounding board or as an advice panel. Just ask questions, these guys and gals are friendly. Most of the time they are happy to offer up some advice.

Another thing you can search for on Facebook, or any other social media channel for that matter are trade specific groups. You’ll need to become familiar with the industry lingo and get to know the different crafts involved on a pipeline project so you have a good idea what you might be interested in trying out. Often times “green hands”, that’s you the newbie, don’t have much selection when it comes to entry level positions. You’ll very likely have to do some tough manual labor at first and work your way into a more specific trade. Some pipeline trade groups to search for would be:

  • Pipe Welders, Welder helpers
  • Labor Hands (Laborers)
  • Coating Crew
  • Pipeline Inspectors; Includes Welding Inspector, Utility Inspector, Chief Inspector, Coating Inspector, Environmental Inspector, Assistant Chief Inspector.
  • Heavy Equipment Operators
  • Union Hands (Local 798)
  • CDL Truck Drivers
  • Pipeline Survey (Survey is always last on every list)

3. Search for Job Listings Online

We have put together an aggregated pipeline jobs search engine that combines results from multiple  job boards such as Ziprecruiter, Indeed, Rigzone, Nexxt and many more. We’ve compiled this list to make the pipeline jobs search easier for entry level pipeline laborers. This would be a great place to start. You can also sign up for job alerts anytime entry level jobs are posted.

4. Join a Labor Union (Local 798)

If you plan to work in the future as a Steward, Pipe Welder, Welders helper, Operator, Construction Foreman, or General Laborer you are most likely going to want to join your Pipeliners Local Chapter 798 labor union. The 798 union is prominent in the industry. You can get involved with non-union pipeline jobs as well but most people who are in the union say they are glad they joined. The benefits are good and they keep people pretty busy. You might not always get local jobs, but you’ll be working. You will be learning from the ground up with valuable trade skills.

There are two trains of thought when it comes to union work.

1. Pro Union – It certainly has its benefits to work in the local 798 Pipeline Union. You’ll get great benefits, a pension and health care. You’ll know your base rate of pay based on your region and your task. and there are always ways to make more money as you work your way up the ladder. There is potential to make rig pay, mileage, per diem and more depending on your trade craft.

Some of the cons are that you really can’t negotiate your pay, pay is based on pre-negotiated rates for each task and location. Then there is also the layoff situation. When they give you a lay off, you go the bottom of the layoff list, or get sent back to “The Hall”. They put people back to work in the order they were laid off. There’s a job board that calls for labor work for particular crafts. You’ll call in for the job but whoever has been out of work the longest will go to work first.

Another con to pipeline labor union work is that it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, it’s strictly a numbers game. If you are in the union, you signed up to play that game. A lot of people don’t like that aspect of it.

2. Non Union. With non union pipeline work there are some things you need to keep in mind. You can do very well in this sector if you play your cards right, but it’s more risky.

One of the biggest benefits to non union is mobility. You aren’t relying on the hall to keep you busy, you rely on yourself, your work ethic, your connections and your ability to perform. The top performers in the non union sector can stay busy. You can negotiate your wage and choose your location for the most part. You don’t have to accept every opportunity that comes along if you would rather take some time off the spend with family, you just do it. But you have to be careful here not to burn bridges. Don’t quit jobs early because you miss home. Don’t let politics distract you, just stay focussed on your work.

You’ll be able to learn trades, gain experience and maybe even get a few certifications that will help you move up in the pipeline ranks. You’ll need to be good at networking, keeping in touch with all the people you meet on the pipeline. You never know when that contact may be a benefit to you in your career.

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5. Persistence of Contact

While searching for your first pipeline job, you are likely to get frustrated. You’ll do the online search, ask friends and family, cold call, send resume’s but it might take a while to get a response. I highly recommend doing a google search and find a few companies in your region that are hiring for labor. You can usually find the company websites, then search the careers or jobs tab on those sites. If they don’t have one, just give them a call. Or better yet, show up and ask to talk to someone about hiring on as an entry level laborer. If you can find the job locations themselves, show up on site and ask to speak with the Superintendent, or “Super”. I’ve seen guys get hired this way, it really works.

Do not give up. Persistence is key. Keep applying, keep calling and keep learning. You never know when they might need a hand. Search for the following types of companies to get started:

  • Pipeline Construction Contractors
  • Pipeline Surveying Companies
  • NDT (Non Destructive Testing) and X-Ray Companies
  • Pipeline Inspection Companies
  • Delivery Services & Trucking Companies
  • Equipment Rental Services
  • Oil Field Services
  • Oilfield Roustabout Services
  • Rigging and Drilling Companies
  • Oil Field Hot Shot Services (Equipment Delivery)

6. Have a Resume Ready to Go. Even if it sucks…

The importance of having a resume on hand is paramount and cannot be stressed enough. I can’t even count on both hands the amount of times I’ve been asked for my resume on the spot. Update it, and have someone experienced review it for feedback. Then save it to every one of your mobile devices so you can upload it remotely from your smartphone if needed. Become familiar with applying to the positions online as most companies, even when they know they want to hire a particular candidate, will request the formal application to be filled out online. Make sure your resume is complete. Have a list of references available as well. When you are first starting out, this can seem daunting but there are a number of very cheap, some even free resources online that can help you get started on your resume.

In the event you are asked to provide a resume on the spot and you can’t provide one, it makes you look un professional and un-prepared. You don’t want to be the guy who says “I need to update mine and get back to you”. Don’t be that guy. Once you have your resume updated, you can upload it to our database here to put it directly in front of thousands of oil and gas industry hiring managers, HR and pipeline companies hiring today!

7. Be Willing to Travel

If you’ve never worked on the pipeline, and you see your pipeliner friends or family come home after months on the road with wads of cash, brand new jacked up trucks and sporting fancy Ariats you may think to yourself, “I’ve got to get on that pipeline”. Let me tell you, when they say travel they don’t mean they’ll send you out for the week and be home on the weekend. You’re gone, sometimes for months on end. So it’s best to get your financial, family and relationship affairs in order BEFORE you leave for work. Make sure you’re significant other is on board and understands what this means. It means sacrifice. You’re going to be giving up your time. You’ll be away from home for a paycheck but be careful not to squander it. It’s tempting when you get that first paycheck to drop it down on that shiny new F-150 the dealer put out front, up on a rack, in your favorite color. It’s already got the lift, the rims and the works just how you envisioned it. This is your first warning. Don’t do it. Save your money for a rain out. There will be plenty, trust me.

The toughest thing about being on the pipeline isn’t the work. You’ll work hard and long there’s no doubt. However, the hardest part about the #pipelinelife is being away from home and the people you care about for extended periods of time. It’s going to be hard. If you’re not used to it, it can get downright depressing at times. Especially when your wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend back home sends you pictures of the life you are missing out on. This is what we sacrifice in order to put meat on the table. You have to make a personal decision if this is worth it or not. I have personally seen many greenhorns give up before they even got their first paycheck. They just couldn’t hack it.

There it is. You’ve been warned.

8. Be Ready to Pass a DOT Drug Test

This one’s pretty simple. I’m not going to go into too much detail here but there are some things to keep in mind. All pipeline companies are required to do federal Department of Transportation (DOT) drug screening pre-employment. These drug tests are sanctioned, managed and catalogued by the Pipeline Testing Consortium (PTC). They don’t fuck around. Get clean or stay home. If you fail a drug test under the PTC it might be tough to get your foot in the door. This stays on your record and makes hiring difficult moving forward as well. I’ve had to personally escort people to drug re-screenings who I knew for certain would not pass. if you get an inconclusive result you will have to test again with a witness. It’s embarrassing for everyone involved. Don’t be that guy.

9. Network, Network, Network

Once you are in, you’re in. Now if you want to stay in you’re going to want to make friends, listen, learn and be open to as much as possible. There’s going to be a lot to take in and a lot to learn. There will be guys that try to offer advice and it’s wise to at least listen. Get to know the people involved including the inspectors, surveyors, X-Ray, the welders and anyone else. Some of these guys and gals can seem tough on the outside and hard to approach but I can assure you most pipeliners are giant teddy bears at heart. We are a proud bunch of redneck good ol’ boys just working for a paycheck. We’ve all got hobbies, friends and family.

So don’t be shy. Make connections and try your best to keep them. Don’t piss anyone off or burn any bridges. Always where your vest, hard hat, safety glasses, steel toed cowboy boots and stay on the right of way (ROW) at all times. Hopefully this is a good start for beginners trying to learn how to get hired on the pipeline. Any suggestions, comments and additions are more than welcome in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Until next time. Here are some resources to look into:

If you have any questions or would like your organization added to the list of resources here please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us anytime using the form below

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About the Author

Adventure Travel Blogger, Land Surveyor & Website Developer based in Denver, Colorado.