Back in 2009, when the U.S. economy was deep in the doldrums and many workers refused to leave their jobs, Andrea Conaway was working as an X-ray technician and wondering where her career could go from there. With hospitals shedding jobs around her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she went back to school to get a degree in computer electronics, and shortly after, found a job with a regional gas drilling company.
"I figured this industry was the future," says Conaway, whose salary grew from $38,000 to $50,000 with the job switch. "It's growing like crazy around here. My friends were getting raises and great benefits, and I knew I wouldn't be.''
Such is the case for many people around the country who have left their jobs to pursue a career in energy. According to USA Today, energy staffing is set for tremendous growth, and the emerging pockets of energy boomtowns hold great potential for workers unsure of their future.
The media outlet stated that natural gas exploration projects, which entail surveying gas deposits embedded in shale, as well as the drilling projects that later commence, have created more than 1 million jobs since 2002. Moody's Analytics economist Chris Lafakis put that number in perspective, noting it was out of the 2.7 million jobs that have been created in that period.
"It's really huge,'' Lafakis says. "And the jobs pay very well.''
Jobs that pay well indeed, considering positions directly related to oil and gas extraction pay workers an average of $150,000 a year - nearly three times the national average.
According to the news provider, positions that are directly created by the energy industry, the boom in shale natural gas has created 33,000 new jobs in 2012. And while 3,500 of these jobs were created in the sprawling metropolitan areas of Houston, the boom is trickling down into a cities varying widely in size. In 2012, Oklahoma City has added 400 jobs directly related shale gas drilling, while Denver, Pittsburgh and Williston, North Dakota have seen a surge in energy staffing since the discovery of oil and gas deposits.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of petroleum engineers is expected to grow 17 percent between 2010 and 2020, about as fast as the national average.