The oil and gas industries rely heavily on contractors, with as many as 70 per cent of companies recruiting at times, across a number of different disciplines. At any given point, the workforce amongst some of the biggest companies in the oil and gas industries consists of up to 20 per cent short-term staff, meaning that there are often opportunities for contractors who have the necessary skills and experience.

For anyone who is considering a career in contracting, there are a number of options for career progression, whether that’s the chance to gain more experience in a particular area, a desire to travel or the potential for a permanent employment if the right role comes your way.

Advantages of Working as an Oil and Gas Engineering Contractor

With many companies finding that their need for contractors is on the increase, the sector is one which continues to grow as expansion is planned by the companies involved and supported by the government. With the ongoing need for the essential resources produced, there are plenty of benefits to choosing to work for yourself in the oil and gas industries.

Beneficial pay rates – Because they forgo income security, contractors are usually paid significantly more than their permanent counterparts. Contractors do not get sick pay, an annual leave entitlement or employer pension contributions, meaning that they are in a position to negotiate rates which will adequately compensate them for their services.

Flexible working opportunities – Many people choose contracting because it allows them the freedom to take time off when they want to rather than being limited by an annual leave allowance. Some prefer to have long breaks between contracts, some enjoy being able to arrange their lives around their other commitments, and some just prefer being able to take time off whenever they want to.

Expand your skills – Because contractors work on a number of different projects, they are able to develop their skills much quicker than those who work permanent roles. If you want to broaden the scope of your experience, meet more colleagues and widen your network of contacts then contracting will give you the chance to work in an array of different positions.

Achieve your goals – Oil and gas companies take on contractors because they need the specialist skills that independent professionals have to offer. This means that, as a contractor, you will have the authority and the power to effect change where it is needed.

How to become an oil and gas engineer

With many firms in the oil and gas industries expanding and innovating, there are always opportunities for experienced contractors. Technical expertise is in demand in almost every area of the business, so if you have the skills and experience that are required to make a success of the projects in progress, there are usually plenty of vacancies available.

Contractors in this sector will need a degree in a relevant subject such as engineering, mathematics or applied science, and many contractors have further qualifications including post-graduate degrees with oil and gas engineering as a specialism. Many of these courses include a year in industry where you will gain practical experience in a workplace, and many people use this as an opportunity to make useful contacts which could help them find work when it comes to establishing themselves in the contracting market.

Some companies offer graduate training programmes and internships, including Shell, BP and a number of other international businesses. These are detailed on their own websites, with information about the criteria for entry and acceptance varying between the companies.

Overseas opportunities

There are oil and gas projects being undertaken all over the world, including Canada, the US, Australia and the Middle East, so if you have a desire to broaden your horizons then you could be in demand in your choice of different regions. A number of these countries are experiencing skills shortages when it comes to recruiting for positions in the oil and gas industries, so if you want to pursue a career elsewhere in the world, then you could find the process of getting a work visa relatively simple so long as you have the right qualifications.

Rates of pay for oil and gas engineering contractors

With such a wide range of roles available to oil and gas contractors, the rates of pay can vary from entry level positions to highly specialised roles which command higher fees. A recent survey of some of the largest companies in the industry has found that the average project values have increased over recent years, with some roles being better paid than ever before.

For example, a project engineer could expect to earn an average of £350 per day and a Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ) advisor will average a daily rate of £400.

More specialised positions attract higher rates, so for instance a reservoir engineer could command £900, a geophysicist can expect to earn an average of £1000 and a developments manager could make as much as £1250 per day.

If you choose to work as a contractor, then you will be responsible for paying your own tax and national insurance, but this take home pay calculator could help you to ascertain what your earnings could be.

Finding work as an oil and gas contractor

Anyone who wants to give themselves a good chance of finding work as an oil and gas contractor will need to get their CV into shape and ensure that they include everything a potential employer will be looking for on their application. Qualifications, experience, an understanding of the current issues facing those working in the oil and gas industries and details of any additional training can all help you to land the most lucrative roles in the sector.

If you want to secure work with one of the larger oil or gas businesses, then approaching them directly can yield results. Many of them have their own recruitment sections on their websites where you can view and apply for roles.

There are also a number of specialist recruitment agencies including Swift Worldwide Resources, Fircroft, Earthstaff and a host of other sites which specialise by disciplines, areas or other criteria that you might use to search for your perfect role. More general recruitment sites also include a number of oil and gas roles, including Reed and Hays who have a range of opportunities in a variety of different countries.

For many contractors, social media provides the ability to keep in touch with colleagues, co-workers and other industry contacts which can allow them to capitalise on their professional relationships in order to find work. Many companies use word of mouth to find specialist staff and ensuring that those people who have worked with you in the past are able to find you can be lucrative, so using sites such as LinkedIn could help you to progress in your career.

Contracting as an oil and gas engineer

When you start out as a contractor, you will need to decide how you are going to organise your finances. For some, working through an umbrella company provides the admin support that they want, whereas others prefer the tax savings that are available to them as directors of their own limited company. An umbrella company will take care of your tax and National Insurance, as you will effectively be an employee of that company, so although you will take home less of your contract value, you won’t have to worry about admin, tax deadlines or even invoicing your clients. This can be ideal for anyone who is expecting to work as a contractor for a limited amount of time, but if you decide that contracting is a good long-term option for you, then it is not the most cost-effective way to operate as you will usually only take home around 60-65 per cent of your contract value.

If you choose to start your own limited company, then you can benefit from a range of tax efficiencies, meaning that you could expect to take home around 75-80 per cent of your contract value. You will be able to claim a wider range of expenses and should only need to spend a short time on admin each month. Our guide to the advantages and disadvantages of working through a limited company should help you to decide whether it’s the best option for you.

Using an accountant

If you are considering making the move to contracting, but feel you could use some expert support and advice, then using a specialist accountant will help you to keep track of your finances, take advantage of the savings available to you and ensure that your business is a success. Using an accountant who has an in-depth knowledge of the contractor market will mean that you can benefit from their experience across a range of subjects, such as the intricacies of IR35 and the potential savings to be made using the Flat Rate VAT Scheme.

How can Nixon Williams help you?

Because we have been working with contractors for decades, we have a full appreciation of the challenges that independent professionals face when it comes to managing their money. Our accountants are all well-versed in the legislation that is most relevant to you, and we keep up with the latest news to ensure that you are always getting the most for your money. You will never have to worry about missing a deadline and you will always have someone on hand to answer any questions that you might have.

We can help you with everything from deciding whether to form a limited company to preparing for your retirement and everything in between. We can keep your operating costs to a minimum, liaise with HMRC on your behalf, and because you have unlimited access to your own dedicated accountant you will always be able to get a swift answer to any questions you might have.

For more information about the services we offer, give us a call today on 01253 362062 or email:jacqui.fairbrother@nixonwilliams.comto find out what we can do for you.