Transitioning from Oil Field Work? Consider the Skilled Trades

old broken oil field work

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The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout have had a disastrous effect on the oil industry.1 If you were an oil field worker when things started to go south, you know just how quickly it all happened. Even though the oil industry is used to some fluctuations, nobody was prepared for this.

Over a dozen major oil companies have already declared bankruptcy.2 Oil field work is reportedly becoming scarcer, and many of those laid off are looking for alternatives.2,3

If you’re not comfortable waiting around for things to get better and don’t want to start over in a completely new field, the skilled trades just might be the answer.

Opportunities in the Skilled Trades

There are two major factors that make the skilled trades a promising opportunity for an oil field worker who’s recently been laid off: familiarity and growth.


Oil field work might feel worlds apart from HVAC repair, welding and other skilled trades, but these industries share some significant similarities.2

Both industries tend to attract people who are technically savvy and problem-solving oriented. The strong work ethic required of an oil field worker and a skilled trades worker can also be remarkably similar since both are hands-on fields.4

Whether you want to learn the basics of welding or get into commercial HVAC work, your past experience working in the oil fields in Texas could certainly pay off.


According to the Bureaus Labor of Statistics, the need for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers will likely continue to grow over the next decade at a steady and reliable pace.4

With more businesses and consumers focused on energy efficiency and green solutions, the HVAC industry could hold some promising opportunities.5

A younger oil field worker can make the transition into an HVAC position as many are becoming vacant due to the aging HVAC technician population.5  A similar trend is projected for the next ten years for welders and other skilled tradespeople.6

Pros of Transitioning into the Skilled Trades

electrical engineer skilled trade

Here are a few of the advantages an oil field worker could possibly gain when transitioning to the skilled trades.

Potential for Competitive Pay

One of the benefits of transitioning from a position as an oil field worker to one in the skilled trades could be competitive pay.4,6,7

The Bureau Labor of Statistics reports that oil field work paid a median annual salary of $39,420 as of May 2020.7 While this is above the real median personal income of around $36,000 reported by FRED economic data research, as of September 2020, it’s not quite as high as what some skilled trades workers earned during the same time period.8

In May 2020, the median income for heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers was $50,590.4*

Salaries, of course, can vary with each individual worker in any industry. But, just looking at this representative labor department data suggests there could be a financial benefit to transitioning to the skilled trades.4,6,7

Greater Stability

If we’ve learned anything from this recent economic downturn, it’s that any industry has the ability to do a full 180 unexpectedly. As an oil field worker, you likely know firsthand just how poorly the oil industry performed during this uncertainty.3

While no field can guarantee 100% stability, the skilled trades have proven to be more pandemic-proof than the oil industry.2 As a skilled trades worker, you could be spared from the characteristic volatility for which the oil industry is famous.3

Lower Barrier to Entry

A significant obstacle to entering a new field can be the amount of time and money required to obtain new skills to earn a qualification.

But the skilled trades and oil industry share some important similarities that could make it easier for an oil field worker to transition. If you’ve already found success in oil field work, you could probably transfer the technical abilities that helped you in that job to the skilled trades.

You already have the raw talent. HVAC technician training or another type of trade school  program could help refine those skills.5

Have You Considered a Career in the Skilled Trades?

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Consider Skilled Trades Training

While there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the current economic situation, one trend seems pretty clear: oil field workers are facing a collapsing industry while skilled trades workers are seeing growth.4,9

Working in the oil fields in Texas might not be what it used to be.10 Instead of having to enter an entirely foreign field, you could likely apply what you already know to a skilled trades career. With the help of an HVAC training program in Houston, you could be prepared to enter the HVAC industry in less than a year.

Feel free to reach out to a representative of Tulsa Welding School today to learn more about its skilled trades training programs. Call 855-806-4921 to get started.

More welding opportunities that have nothing to do with oil exist than you might think. Check out how welding is used in vehicle manufacturing.

Additional Sources

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