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Seismic Worker

Seismic workers conduct seismic tests in which controlled explosions and vibrations create sound waves in the earth's subsurface while geophysical instruments record the data.

  • Avg. Salary $50,914.00
  • Avg. Wage $26.07
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 4,800
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Blaster (Seismic), Blaster Helper (Seismic), Equipment Operator, Seismic Driller, Seismic Helper, Vibrator Operator (Seismic)

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Oil and Gas Drilling, Servicing and Related Labourers (8615) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Oil and Gas Drilling, Servicing and Related Labourers (I215) 
  • 2011 NOC: Oil and gas drilling, servicing and related labourers (8615) 
  • 2016 NOC: Oil and gas drilling, servicing and related labourers (8615) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Seismic Worker is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Oil and Gas Drilling, Servicing and Related Labourers

Interest in comparing information to handle, sort and move drill tools, pipes, cement and other materials, and to clean up rig areas; may drive trucks to transport materials and well service equipment


Interest in operating equipment to manipulate sections of pipes and drill stems at rig floors during drilling and for removal and replacement of strings of pipes, drill stems and bits


Interest in maintaining drilling equipment on drill floors

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 15, 2017

Before oil companies decide to drill a well in a new location, they usually require information from seismic tests to analyze the underground rock formation and its potential for holding reserves of oil or gas. A great deal of time and money is spent on seismic operations, and major decisions are made on the basis of seismic data.

The size of a seismic crew varies with the nature of the job. Crews usually consist of a large team of specialists.

Seismic drillers:

  • drill shot holes that typically are 6 to 20 metres deep
  • load shot holes with predetermined explosive charges that, when detonated, will create underground shock waves for seismic tests (a blaster's permit is required to handle explosive material; for more information, see the Blaster certification profile)
  • transport the equipment required for seismic drilling operations
  • keep continual logs of drilling activity.

Blasters (also known as shooters) organize the blasting equipment used to detonate the loaded charge and control the blasting zone. For more information, see the Blaster occupational profile. During seismic tests, blasters are in constant contact with seismic observers.

Seismic observers operate, maintain and are responsible for the expensive electronic equipment used to record seismic signals. In general, they:

  • perform daily and monthly instrument tests, and ensure all equipment meets tolerance specifications
  • troubleshoot problems and repair recording equipment
  • document recording operations
  • ensure the quality of recorded data at the field level
  • supervise the work of line truck drivers and as many as 30 helpers as they prepare areas for seismic tests.

During seismic tests, observers work in a recording truck and use 2-way radios to direct the work of crew members involved in the tests. In some cases, observers activate the explosives used in tests from inside the recording truck (also known as dog house) or direct the work of blasters who activate explosives from a different location.

Vibrator operators operate vibrating units that sometimes are used instead of explosives to create energy waves in the ground. The vibrator unit is mounted on a medium-sized truck buggy or tracked vehicle that has a large plate attached underneath. When the plate is dropped or vibrated, it creates energy waves in the ground that reflect back to the surface. Often, up to 4 vibrating units are operated at one time.

In general, vibrator operators:

  • organize the placement of equipment
  • operate and maintain vibrator equipment
  • handle and adjust controls to position the vibrating plate
  • co-ordinate activities with seismic observers
  • sometimes drive fuel trucks.

Senior vibrator operators may supervise the work of the vibrator crew or repair equipment as required.

Helpers are inexperienced workers in entry-level positions on seismic crews. After they gain skills and experience, helpers may move to other positions on a crew.

  • Packers clear debris on seismic lines, carry supplies, drive vehicles and assist with other tasks to ensure seismic lines are accessible for other workers. For more information, see the Seismic Line Cutter occupational profile.
  • Driller's helpers work under the direction of seismic drillers. In general, they:
    • carry and load explosive charges (under the direct supervision of a licensed blaster)
    • tamp shot holes.
  • Blaster helpers work under the direct supervision of a licensed blaster. In general, they:
    • guard the area during blasting activities
    • assist blasters in overall operations.
  • Recording helpers, often called jug hounds, assist seismic observers. In preparation for recording activities, observers may require as many as 20 or more recording helpers to haul cables, geophones and other recording equipment, and place and connect recording equipment.

3-dimensional seismic work and heli-portable operations require more equipment and much larger crews including staging managers, line crew bosses and trouble shooters.

Staging managers (sometimes called staging equipment co-ordinators):

  • keep inventories of the equipment being used
  • set up and organize staging sites
  • organize the deployment of personnel and equipment during heli-portable operations.

Line crew bosses (sometimes called line truck drivers):

  • supervise line crew personnel
  • drive and maintain the trucks used to transport personnel and equipment to and from field operations
  • co-ordinate crew members boarding and exiting helicopters
  • arrange the safe and orderly transport of equipment
  • place signage along roadways when necessary.

Trouble shooters work directly under observers and deal with equipment failures. With 3-D seismic work so much equipment is used that several trouble shooters are required to maintain them.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 15, 2017

Seismic workers may be required to:

  • lift items and carry heavy loads weighing up to 20 kilograms
  • walk long distances through various types of uneven terrain
  • work outdoors in all types of weather conditions
  • travel in small aircraft or helicopters
  • spend extended periods of time away from home, living and working in close contact with a number of people.
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 15, 2017

Seismic workers need the following characteristics:

  • the ability to carry heavy loads and walk long distances
  • stamina and flexibility
  • the ability to adapt to a number of different environments (mountains, plains)
  • the ability to work effectively in a team
  • good organizational skills
  • an interest in working outdoors (sometimes in isolated locations) and use various forms of wilderness transportation.

They should enjoy having clear rules and guidelines for their work, and operating and maintaining equipment.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Oil and gas drilling, servicing and related labourers
NOC code: 8615

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 14 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Dec 26, 2020 and Apr 21, 2021.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Personal Suitability: Team player
Handle, sort and move drill pipes, tools, cement and other materials
Drive trucks to transport materials and well service equipment
Clean up rig areas
Assist in setting up, taking down and transporting drilling and service rigs and service equipment
Write daily basic progress reports
Manipulate sections of pipes or drill stems at rig floor during drilling and during removal and replacement of pipes, drill stems and drill bits
Assist other workers to maintain drilling equipment on drill floor
Area of Specialization: Forklift
Clean machines and immediate work areas
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 15, 2017

Seismic workers usually are required to have a valid Class 5 driver's licence, with a clean driver's abstract. There are no formal, minimum education requirements for entry-level positions on a seismic crew. However, a high school education and an interest in mathematics, physics and geology are definite assets. Employers generally prefer to hire job applicants who have experience with:

  • manual labour
  • farm equipment
  • mechanical devices
  • heavy equipment
  • electronic equipment.

Seismic workers are trained on the job. Employers also may sponsor safety training related to job duties:

  • Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
  • First aid and CPR training
  • Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) Awareness
  • All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)
  • Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG)
  • General Oilfield Driver Improvement (GODI)
  • Basic Safety Awareness
  • Seasonal Training such as Wildlife Awareness and Cold Weather and Wilderness Awareness.

To advance to more senior positions on a seismic crew, work experience or post-secondary training in an engineering technology, electronics or mechanics is a definite asset.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 15, 2017

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 15, 2017

Seismic workers are employed by geophysical companies.

Employment typically is seasonal.

Seismic crew members usually start as helpers. After gaining experience, they may advance to line supervisor or trouble shooter positions, then to blaster or vibrator operator positions, before moving up to staging co-ordinator and junior observer positions. Experienced seismic crew members who prefer indoor positions may move into positions in centres that process seismic data.

Seismic workers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 8615: Oil and gas drilling, servicing and related labourers. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

In Alberta, the 8615: Oil and gas drilling, servicing and related labourers occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.2% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 59 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

In 2014, the Petroleum Labour Market Information (PetroLMI) Division of Enform (formerly the Petroleum Human Resources Council) indicated that more than 20% of the workforce in the oil and gas industry is eligible for retirement, contributing to the labour demand required to support the industry.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 15, 2017

Most employers cover all accommodation costs while the employee is working, and a daily living allowance (or hotshot) of $40-$50 per day is paid to each employee to cover food expenses.

Oil and gas drilling, servicing and related labourers

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $15.00 $34.62 $22.56 $20.00
Overall $17.00 $40.38 $26.07 $25.00
Top $21.00 $47.12 $30.69 $27.74

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Oil & Gas Extraction
Transportation and Warehousing
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Driver Training
  • Engineering and Science Technologies
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 15, 2017

Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors (CAGC) website:

Careers in Oil + Gas website:

Explorers and Producers Association of Canada (EPAC) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 24, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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