Oil Careers: Which Sectors Offer the Best Opportunities?

The oil and gas industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy. From 2007 to 2012, employment in the industry grew 40%, while the rest of the economy grew just 1%. Looking ahead, the industry expects even more growth as it expects to add more than a million new jobs by the end of the decade. That will open up a lot of new opportunities for job seekers. Here are the fastest growing sectors within the oil industry to find those opportunities

Industrial sand mining
From 2010 to 2013, employment in the industrial sand mining sector surged 49%, according to research from EMSI. It's a sector that is directly benefiting from the fracking boom in America as industrial sand is a key ingredient in fracking. The sand, which is called proppant when used in the oil and gas industry, is critical to propping open the fractures in shale formations that are formed by hydraulic fracturing. These proppants allow oil and gas to flow more freely through the shale and out the wellbore.

This surge in employment in the sector isn't a surprise given the surging demand for raw frac sand in the oil and gas industry. As the following slide from a recent investor presentation by frac sand producer Hi-Crush Partners LP shows, the volume of raw frac sand proppants consumed by the industry has skyrocketed from 1.3 million tons in 2002 to 29.6 million tons in 2012.

Source: Hi-Crush Partners LP Investor Presentation 

As that slide also shows, there is no end in sight to the growth in demand for raw frac sand as the industry expects demand to increase to 51.2 million tons by 2017 and 78.5 million tons by 2022. This will only add more jobs to the industrial sand sector as it supports the oil and gas industry.

Oil and gas pipeline and related structures construction
Another fast growing sector within the oil and gas industry relates to the construction of pipelines and other infrastructure to support the energy boom. These pipelines are critical to the industry for transporting oil and gas from production basins in Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania to market centers so the energy can be used to fuel our economy. Overall, employment growth in this sector has been as fast as the growth in the industrial sand mining from 2010 to 2013. However, this growth is actually much larger in aggregate as it is off of a much larger base seeing that the pipeline industry supports nearly 150,000 jobs while industry sand mining supported just over 5,000 jobs last year.

Source: Kinder Morgan

Looking ahead, this sector should continue to create even more jobs, as by 2035 American energy companies will need to invest $614 billion to build new energy infrastructure. In fact, by the end of this decade alone $114 billion will need to be spent on natural gas pipelines in America while $272 billion needs to be invested to build oil pipelines in the U.S. and Canada. These pipeline projects will support thousands of construction jobs apiece, and each one of those jobs will add another 1.68 jobs to the supply chain to support the construction. It all adds up to a lot of future job opportunities. 

Support activities for oil and gas operations
While jobs supporting the growth of the oil industry are growing faster, the biggest jobs creator over the past three years has been in oil and gas drilling operations. Overall, employment over that timeframe grew 43% to more than 300,000. It's growth that again isn't likely to cease given the massive drilling opportunities still left within U.S. shale plays. As the following slide from an Enterprise Products Partners LP investor presentation shows, the industry still has hundreds of thousands of wells left to drill in America's shale plays.

Source: Enterprise Products Partners LP Investor Presentation 

The drilling of these wells will create thousands of new direct jobs at oil and gas producers. In addition to that, each direct job that is created will create 2.15 additional supply chain jobs that are critical to supporting the drilling process. Needless to say, there will be incredible job opportunities directly supporting the oil and gas industry over the next few decades.

Key takeaway
When we think about careers in the oil industry, all too often working directly for an oil company is what comes to mind. While the industry will create a lot of direct jobs, some of the fastest growing opportunities in the industry actually relate to sand and pipelines. Because of this there are plenty of opportunities for a career linked to the oil industry even if it isn't for an oil company.

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The article Oil Careers: Which Sectors Offer the Best Opportunities? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Matt DiLallo owns shares of Enterprise Products Partners. The Motley Fool recommends Enterprise Products Partners. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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