Directional drilling is used for several purposes, including laying underground utilities and oil and gas pipes. Directional drilling, which is done at an angle, allows drillers to reach areas vertical drilling cannot. It also allows underground utilities to be laid where drillers cannot excavate, such as under a river. Directional drilling is generally more cost-efficient and has a lower environmental impact than other methods. Directional drill locators are key members of the on-site drilling team.
Many job descriptions for directional drilling locators also include operator in the job title. The positions' tasks sometimes merge. Those who hold either position must know the other's tasks and responsibilities. A locator interprets the signals sent from underground transmitters about location, angle, temperature and other factors for the drill operator, who operates the drill.
The median salary in 2009 for an earth driller, an occupational category which includes drill operators and locators in industries such as utilities, was $39,140 per year or $18.82 per hour, according to ONetOnline, a website affiliated with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The earth driller occupational category did not include drillers in the oil and gas industry, however. Oil and gas drillers, including directional drill operators and locators, earned a median salary of $53,020 per year or $25.49 per hour in 2009, according to ONetOnline.
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The National Fiber Construction Co. in Michigan posted an operator/driller position on the Michigan Talent Bank website in July 2011 with an annual salary of between $35,000 and $50,000 per year. The job required working 50 hours per week. A directional driller/locator position in Portland, Oregon, posted on the Lovett directional boring company website in July 2011 paid between $12 and $20 per hour. A consultant directional drilling position with Spencer Ogden Oil and Gas posted on OilCareers.com in July 2011 and located in Alaska paid between $1,000 and $1,200 per day. Driller/Operator positions often come with benefits, such as health insurance. Other benefits include 401(k) packages, paid vacations and holidays and dental insurance.
Directional drill locators typically receive moderate on-the-job training. They are typically not required to have any college degrees. They may, however, be required to have experience operating drilling machinery. Some technical colleges offer short courses in directional drilling and locating, as well. Locators should have good manual dexterity and machine-controlling skills and generally be mechanically inclined.