The oil and gas industry is truly global, which means there are opportunities to work nearly anywhere in the world. What is surprising is how some countries stack up.

According to the Hays Oil & Gas Salary Guide, produced in conjunction with the global jobsite Oil & Gas Job Search, Papua New Guinea, Trinidad & Tobago, and Colombia top the list of locations where workers in the industry are seeking their fortunes. According to the survey, over 40% of the world’s oil and gas workforce is currently working outside their country of origin. The attraction, it seems, is the salaries on offer abroad.

Duncan Freer, managing director of Oil and Gas Job Search, explained that many of the countries on the list represent developing markets, “proof that the frontiers of the oil and gas industry continue to be pushed into remote and exotic locations in the pursuit of new resources.” Workers apparently understand that reward does not come without risk. “Despite the risks associated with working in a number of these countries, generous salaries continue to attract skilled workers willing to pursue accelerated earnings.”

So for those of you who are interested in knowing where the highest average salaries can be made for imported oil and gas talent across all disciplines, I’m sharing with you the “Top Ten” based on the 2011 Hays Oil & Gas Survey:

1. Papua New Guinea – US $197k

“The Esso Highland consortium is pumping an estimated $15 billion into the local economy on the PNG LNG project,” said Hays Oil & Gas Managing Director Matthew Underhill. “Despite Port Moresby’s prominent crime rate, an average cash salary approaching $200k per annum is attracting industry talent.”

2. Trinidad and Tobago - $184k

LNG is the money maker here. “While enjoying a laid back Caribbean atmosphere and climate to match,” Underhill said, “imported oil and gas professionals are also attracted by an average salary of $184k.”

3. Colombia - $177k

Known for drug-related violence, Colombia – for most people – is at the top of the list of places to avoid, but according to Underhill, “The country has caught the economic wave flowing through the whole South American region. With significant oil reserves, imported salaries have been driven up to in excess of $177k.”

4. Australia - $144k

Apparently size matters. “The sheer volume of work flowing through the Australian economy, valued at over $200 billion,” is one of Australia’s draws, Underhill said. This coupled with the local skills shortage has driven salaries for imported oil and gas workers up to an average of $144k.

5. Azerbaijan - $141k

Though Azerbaijan doesn’t leap out in the imagination as the most desirable spot for a “destination job,” oil production is forecast to rise in 2011 to 51.5 million tons. As in Australia, there is a skill shortage, Underhill said. “Consequently, over 90% of the oil and gas talent is imported. A $141k salary is more than enough to compensate for hot summers and cold winters.”

6. Vietnam - $140k

Many parts of Southeast Asia are booming. With the relaxing of communist government controls in Vietnam, the country is seeking to take full advantage of its natural resources and investment, Underhill said, with the petroleum sector expected to reach $30 billion by 2025. “The country is very much the rising star in South East Asia with salaries averaging $140k.”

7. Philippines - $135k

The Philippines is probably best known as an exporter of labor, Underhill said, noting that the country lacks senior domestic oil and gas talent. “Whilst oil production is expected to peak around 2013, the gas industry is expected to double production before 2020, surely driving demand up for expats who currently earn around $135k per annum.”

8. South Korea - $130k

“South Korea’s engineering companies are winning more than their fair share of work in the global industry, which is driving employment demand at home,” Underhill said, pointing out that an average of $130k will continue to draw imported labor to the Korean market.

9. Kazakhstan - $129k

Underhill defined Kazakhstan as a country with a vast skill shortage that is a “well-worn path for adventurous foreign workers seeking to maximize their earnings.” Earlier this year, Kazakhstan’s oil and gas production showed a strong year-on-year increase, and experts predict that by 2020, it will increase by up to 36.5%. “This will place pressure on the average salary for imports,” he said, “which currently stands at $129k.”

10. Russia - $127k

The frigid climate is not a deterrent to foreign workers moving to Russia. According to Underhill, the country’s vast gas reserves and huge infrastructure projects are driving expat salaries to $127k. “The country is beginning to develop its gas exports with various pipelines linking Russia’s huge gas reserves to eager markets in Asia and Europe,” he said.

Hays cautions that the salaries quoted are cash components only and do not include pension, bonuses, or other allowances and that they are averages across from operatives to senior executives.

If you want to know where to make big bucks in the oil and gas industry, you can read more at or