What It Takes To Strike Job Gold In North Dakota's Oil Boom

Oil Boom Shifts The Landscape Of Rural North Dakota
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Williston, North Dakota has a population of about 18,500. In the winter months, temperatures can drop to a scarf-shredding -50°. Shopping options are limited, with Walmart serving as the general hub of retail activity. But Williston also has the highest rent in the entire country.

The recent oil boom in North Dakota has turned Williston into the epicenter of a modern day gold rush, making it a more expensive place to live than hubs of wealth like Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. The Fiscal Times reports that the state's oil production is up around 27 million barrels per month, rivaled only by Texas, generating over 75,000 new jobs and tripling wages.

But wages aren't the only thing that's up. With thousands flocking to Williston, crime is also on the rise. Housing shortage is a serious problem. So before you go chasing the American Dream, take a look at this beginner's guide to surviving the oil boom. And make sure you buy some leg warmers.

1. Do your research

Job Service North Dakota has published a comprehensive handbook full of tips about life in the oilfields. From now on, this handbook is your best friend. It's filled with helpful information, from drilling jargon to how to build a resume in Microsoft Word, and covers everything you'll want to know before making a major life change.

One key piece of advice: don't leave home without a plan. Sure, there's a certain romance to romping off into the wild blue (sub-zero) yonder in search of wealth and opportunity, but you'd do well to check the listings on North Dakota's job site before leaving home.

2. Manage your expectations

Make no mistake: Williston may have the lowest rate of unemployment in the country (one percent), but anyone hoping to try their luck is in store for some harsh realities. Days are long and physically intense; schedules are built around the company's needs, not yours.

That's to say nothing of the housing situation in Williston, where you could be making six figures while living in the parking lot of the very same Walmart mentioned above.

"[You] don't shower for a week. No food. It's rough," Tyler Pavlacky, who moved away from his girlfriend and two-year-old daughter to try his luck in Williston, told USA Today. "Trying to find a place to go to the bathroom you wouldn't think is so hard."

Oil Boom Shifts The Landscape Of Rural North Dakota
Getty ImagesA gas flare is seen at an oil site outside Williston, North Dakota.
> Find a job in the oil business

3. Get certified

Truck drivers are particularly in demand in the oilfields, but many of these jobs require proper certifications and endorsements. These vary depending on whether you're hauling oil or just equipment, but take a look at the list here and make sure you've got your bases covered. You'll also need to obtain a motor vehicle report from your state before you leave for North Dakota, and secure a temporary motor vehicle registration once you're there.

4. Nail down your housing situation

In case the part about living in a parking lot (or the term "man camps") wasn't warning enough, let us repeat: the housing situation in North Dakota is not for the faint of heart. Workers like Sean Campbell, who lived outside of Walmart before returning home to Michigan, told CNN Money that he strongly advised finding a job that offers housing. But even with some employers renting out entire floors of hotels around Williston (at "affordable" rates like $700 per night), this is more easily said than done. Get your housing figured out before you hit the road, or else you may face a strong risk of living in it.

5. Focus on finding the right job

You hear stories about people traveling to North Dakota and having a job (and untold fortunes) fall into their laps. And while there's some truth to calling Williston the town the recession forgot, finding a job there isn't as simple as just showing up with a pair of gloves and a hard hat. Oil rig jobs are particularly difficult to come by, typically requiring a solid connection and at least two years' experience.

With that in mind, you might consider looking at jobs that fall outside the purview of the oil business. The boom has had a broader impact on the local economy in Williston, and the sharp rise in population has meant that McDonald's, for example, is starting new hires at $14 an hour to meet the increased demand. That old saw about the only winners of the California Gold Rush being the guys selling the shovels? It still has some validity here.

> Find a job in Williston, North Dakota
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