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Interested in a life in the Alberta Oilpatch? Prepare for your career by reading these four simple pieces of advice by Melanie Nathan.

Many Canadians refer to the oil industry as the “oilpatch.” The oilpatch has several basic divisions. These are the divisions located in the province of Alberta in western Canada:

  • Oil sands
  • Oil refineries
  • Oil pipelines
  • Oil upgraders and other oil related activities

Other oilpatch provinces include Newfoundland and Labrador (Atlantic Canada provinces), Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. However, Alberta ranks as the major oil producer evidenced by the locations of major oil corporations in Calgary and the fact that the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin covers most of the geographical land mass of Alberta.

For job seekers in the province, it should be noted that there are a few important things to consider when working in the Alberta oilpatch. These include:

  • Housing
  • Climate
  • Income
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing

1. Oilpatch Housing

Since you will most likely be working in a remote location on a job site, most oilpatch employees have certain housing requirements to consider. The options are to live on-site or in the city of Fort McMurray, a distance of about one hour from the oilpatch location.

Most job seekers find that off-site housing is affordable. A two-bedroom apartment rents for approximately $1500/month, and your cost can be further reduced by sharing with roommates or by renting a room within someone’s house.

2. Alberta’s Climate

Alberta’s climate tends to be relatively mild in summer months but most of the province has longer winters that can reach extremely low temperatures. At the coldest point in winter, the temperature can drop to minus 50 Celsius (minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit).

It’s important to note that the Canadian Rockies can affect climate extremes. For example, Albertans often await a “chinook” at the end of winter. This is a warming, dry wind that blows down from the east side of the Canadian Rockies. A chinook often interrupts a snowstorm and causes snow to melt. If you’re going to be working in the oilpatch, you’ll have to get used to these weather extremes.


3. Income in the Alberta Oilpatch

Luckily, the Canadian oil industry offers above average competitive income. Since Alberta has enjoyed a financially stable economy for many decades, wages for employees in the Alberta oilpatch are surprisingly above average compared to those in other oil producing countries.

Oil industry wages reflect the specific duties of the jobs though. For oil, drilling and other oil services jobs, the average provincial salary is around $74,814.00. Thus, a petroleum engineer earns approximately an hourly wage average of $57.47.

4. Drug and Alcohol Testing

Of course you won’t qualify to earn this income unless you can pass drug and alcohol testing. And the Alberta oilpatch companies have even been given special permission to test you before they hire you as well as directly after a workplace accident. This is because of the high safety aspect of the job.

The Alberta oil industry structures its benefits to include job sharing and a highly advantageous plan to retain experienced, skilled workers even during down times. As such, the additional benefits of flexible work hours, diversification of the workforce and employee retention supports the balance between work and quality of life.

Relocation to Alberta has few negative and many positive features. Whether you choose to live onsite or in Fort McMurray, there is the opportunity to explore a spectacular, scenic province full of colorful traditions and history.

Melanie Nathan was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. She is a technology entrepreneur and freelance writer for many websites including Huffington Post Canada and She has a true passion for helping others. Connect with Melanie on Twitter to learn more.

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