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When people need to investigate the ground on a construction site, they send for a land drilling operative.

Average salaries are in the region of £16,000.00 to £30,000.00. Salaries will vary depending on location / employer

Career Profile

When people need to investigate the ground on a construction site, they send for a land drilling operative. He or she sets to work with a drilling rig – a machine (sometime big, sometimes small) that creates holes in the ground.

What they do

Working in construction as a land drilling operative, you'll be called in for a huge number of reasons and use all kinds of techniques, materials and equipment. These range from sampling mineral deposits, soil or groundwater to installing underground tunnels or wells. They are also involved in landfill and geothermal (heat from the earth) projects.

Like many construction jobs, this is a challenging and interesting career and a land drilling operative works both above and below ground. The whole drill team has to be highly skilled to understand and respond appropriately to any technical difficulties that might occur “down-hole”. This is known as the "art of drilling". 

Typical duties include:

  • Preparing data sheets
  • Drawing up drilling programmes
  • Data analysis on site
  • Monitoring safety and sticking to the rules about the environment
  • Grouting
  • Anchoring

Hours & Salary:  

  • Newly trained land drilling operatives can earn in the region of £16,500 - £23,000
  • Trained with experience land drilling operatives can earn in the region of £23,000 - £35,000
  • Senior/master craft land drilling operatives can earn in the region of £35,000+
  • Self-employed land drilling operatives set their own pay rates

Salaries depend on location, employer and any overtime you may do. 


Explore all the different construction industry jobs available with our Roles In Construction Animation.

You can also take our Personality Quiz to find out which construction career is right for you.

Case Study

Lee Allardyce is a land driller with Drift Ground Investigation.

What do you do?

I gather information from the ground to make sure it is safe to build on. I’ll find out if there is any contamination or anything else that needs to be addressed. I also do geothermal work, using thermal (heat) energy found in the ground. Plus I investigate the ground near waterworks and landfill sites.

I organise and prepare the drilling rig, carrying out safety checks on the drilling equipment before starting the operation. I organise the drilling team schedule and drill bore holes to certain depths, installing different insulations such as water wells, gas pipes and geothermal loops.

How did you get started?

I was interested in earning good money, working away from home and meeting new people. I started out as a labourer, worked my way up to second man and then became lead driller supervisor. At that point I set up my own drilling company.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I like the freedom, changing surroundings and meeting new people.

What skills do you need?

Communication is one of the most useful skills that I have developed during my working life with clients and co-workers, the public and new people.

Proudest career moment?

Setting up my own drilling company and passing on my skills and experience to train new people to work in the drilling industry.

What will you be doing in 10 years?

I like to think I’ll still training new people in the drilling industry.

Any advice on how to get into construction?

The rewards and benefits of working in construction are many. It is financially beneficial, you meet new people every week and you can find yourself working all over the country and abroad.

Take our Personality Quiz to find out which of the many construction careers is right for you

Qualifications & Training

There are no set qualifications to be a land drilling operative but it helps to have Standard Grades/National 4 or 5s, GCSEs at A*-C in maths and English, or equivalent such the Welsh Baccalaureate because this helps with the calculations you do in the job.

A good way into the career is to do a construction apprenticeship at a local company. The land drilling apprenticeship combines learning in college with supervised on-the-job training. This leads to SVQ/NVQ assessment to qualify you as a lead driller. To find an apprenticeship in Scotland visit Skills Development Scotland , the Government's website in England or, in Wales, Careers Wales.

Training covers your employment rights and responsibilities, health and safety and the environment, geology, drilling applications and methods, site management, drilling and grouting, ground investigation, anchoring, first aid and working in confined spaces.

Head to the Careers Explorer A-Z for information on the whole range of jobs in the construction industry on offer

Want to find out more?

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Career trends and forecasts

3980 additional staff needed

The UK construction industry will need an additional 3980 civil engineering operatives and related occupations (which includes land drilling operatives) to meet demand every between 2017 - 2021, according to the latest Construction Skills Network research (LMI). The majority of the demand for these construction jobs in the UK will be in North West England and Scotland.

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