Although the US and the Eurozone economies might have already gone into a recession, the oil exploration and production industry seems to be still booming worldwide – from North America, to Africa, to Southeast Asia, and now even also in the Arctic.
The steadily high demand for petroleum from the Chinese and Indian industrial and transportation sectors has motivated oil companies to scramble their resources to either look for additional sources of oil and gas or develop new technologies that will allow them to extract more oil from existing fields. Meanwhile, the Chinese and Indian governments have been working hard to hedge against possible supply shortfalls by pro-actively and even aggressively securing positions in petroleum-energy-related development projects all around the world.
On the part of the US, it has not yet started to export its natural gas, and may instead decide later on to take advantage of the current and near-future excess capacity to provide cheap gas for its own manufacturing base in order to shore up American exports. Canada, on the other hand, already exports most of its oil (to the US) and seems to be also on its way to exporting most of its natural gas instead of investing in the infrastructure that will enable Canadian industries (located mostly in the eastern region of Canada) to benefit from the currently cheap and plentiful oil and gas from western Canada.
Oil-and-gas industry safety and environmental concerns have also been put under close scrutiny recently because of the Deepwater Horizon incident. As stricter worker-safety and environmental-protection regulations go online, the emergence of new systems and technologies that enhance personnel safety and minimize negative environmental impacts will also affect the pace of exploration and production, either positively or negatively.
What all these developments mean for the majority of workers involved with (or interested in) the oil industry is that: (1) work opportunities will remain on the upside, at least for now and in the near-term future; (2) salaries will remain high or even go higher as older workers retire and thus further decrease the pool of qualified workers; (3) schedules are and will remain tight because of the pressure to deliver results asap and then to quickly move on to the next job/project on the list; and (4) workers may need to become familiar with and make use of newer and more advanced drilling equipment and techniques.
In the near term, shortage of qualified labor and tight schedules, in turn, could lead to longer work hours and higher fatigue-related accident rates, or to the hiring of poorly motivated personnel who care much less for safety and getting the job done the right way than for the hefty paycheck. On the other hand, the high salaries and the new technologies (particularly technologies that reduce exposure to physically demanding work conditions) might attract technically skilled workers who would otherwise be only interested in regular office-type jobs. Relatively new, highly skill-intensive, and relatively low-risk job positions such as that of a remote-vehicle operator will also become more common on offshore (and maybe even on onshore) oil exploration and production platforms.
To sum it all up, the looming petroleum supply crunch, the demand for safer working conditions and better environmental safeguards, and the continuous improvements in technology will all contribute to rapidly evolving careers in the oil and gas industry.