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Quit Complaining About Meager Wages; Make $92,160 a Year Working Here

By Matthew DiLallo – Feb 23, 2014 at 1:50PM

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While the average salary of a North American oil and gas worker fell 3% last year, that person is still making an average of $92,160 per year.

Photo credit: Flickr/

According to a study by Princeton, $75,000 is the annual household income the average family needs to earn to feel happiest. Making more money than that doesn't add to happiness -- remember: More money, more problems -- though it does, of course, add to wealth. The problem is that the average annual household income in America is much less than that number. That's why so many people are unhappy with their paycheck.

Dead-end job? Not here
According to data by Rigzone, the average annual salary of an oil and gas worker in North America was $92,160 last year. While that's off by 3% from 2012, it's still well above what most Americans make. Not only that, but average compensation for those starting at the bottom is much better than what most Americans make as well. Last year the average salary for those with less than a year of experience was up about 2% to $69,822 per year. Meanwhile, those with between two and five years of experience hit the happy number, as those workers earned an average of $78,769 last year.

While the overall trend in industry pay has been coming down over the past few years, much of that is due to low gas prices and a steady price of oil. That said, job seekers would still come out well ahead by pursuing the necessary education and experience needed to land a job in that industry.

Photo credit: Apache Corporation.

Further, the industry has two major trends that play well into the hands of future job seekers. Shale-fueled growth has the potential to add more than a million jobs by the end of the decade to this already fast growing industry. On top of that, a large portion of the industry's work force is nearing retirement, which will only add to its future job openings.

Where's the growth?
A major change has been happening in the oil industry over the past few years. For years, major independent oil companies such as Apache (APA -0.75%) and ConocoPhillips (COP 0.06%) had focused on growth outside the United States. That all changed with the shale boom, as these companies are selling international assets to focus on growing oil and gas production right here in America.


Photo credit: ConocoPhillips.

Apache, for example, saw its North American liquids production jump by 34% last year. That's quite impressive, considering that Apache's overall oil production actually fell last year. It's a similar story at ConocoPhillips. Its shale-focused drilling program grew by 31% last year.

What's important for job seekers to note is that this growth isn't slowing down. Instead, it's expected to accelerate in the future. Apache has already grown its investment by sixfold since 2010 in Texas' Permian Basin. While it drilled about 800 wells last year in that one oil basin, it believes it has another 34,000 known drilling locations left to drill. That's on top of a similar number of future wells in its central area of operations in places such as Oklahoma.  

ConocoPhillips sees similar upside in the U.S. Right now the company is focused on drilling in North Dakota and Texas; however, it sees new opportunities in Colorado as well. That's on top of future growth in Alaska, Canada, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Final thoughts
These are just two of the literally hundreds of oil and gas companies investing to grow in North America. That growth is fueling a big boom in jobs. So, if that paycheck isn't cutting it these days, take a closer look at what it would take to work in the oil and gas industry.  

Matt DiLallo owns shares of ConocoPhillips. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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