I wouldnt go to drilling if you paid me OIMs wages! Drill rigs are dirty manky things with a safety attitude that leaves a lot to be desired. My bro who works drill crew (im on a production fpso) has encountered some crazy mental attitudes offshore. There are plenty of other engineering roles offshore to be considered.
They say in our industry that its safety first. My arse it is! Only if it doesn't get in the way of production and a drill rig is worse than any production platform.
What the lads have said above is true about the skills shortage though. The average offshore worker in the UK is 52 years old. Going from a desk job in IT to offshore will be very hard though. Particularly at your age as you have no offshore experience or anything you can relate to the offshore sector at all unless you fancy using that degree to become a chemist offshore? By the time you finish an open learning/part time degree you could be 44-45. I remember trying to get a start when I was 18-19 and was phoning companies and had sent my CV out to god know how many places. For 6 months twice a week I phoned these people and kept on getting told the same, "sorry but you have no offshore experience" I had to join the merchant navy and qualify as a marine engineer that way before I got a start as what they are ideally looking for is people who are used to manual labour, long hours and shitty working conditions.
I feel as if I'm shooting you down in flames here as I write this lying in my bunk waiting for my smelly cabin mate who snores to bounce in the door imminently Working offshore people think that you're loaded and that you get fed brilliantly and that its an exciting job and its cool. You get paid OK for what you have to deal with sometimes. Sometimes it can be proper shitty. You eat sleep work and sh1t. That's it game over. As I'm sure you've seen on the news yet another chopper has gone down. Enough said there. You are working in a very dangerous environment where you have to rely on other people doing there jobs safely so that you don't die. Now when I say that there are people that I wouldn't employ to stack shelves in Asda and Tesco out here, I mean it. Dangerous Cowboys, that is all i need to say. And you could be sharing a cabin with these people. They smell, they snore, their personal hygiene might not be the best, they snore, they're ****ts, they snore! You're cabin is a small box. You might have to share a toilet and shower with 4 other people who could all be smelly and dirty which is more than likely on a drill rig. The food in some places is horrendous. I've been places where its been deep fried everything with chips.
You could be working on bits of kit that are falling to bits. They don't care about preventative maintenance offshore. They run it till destruction! And then worry about fixing it. I've been on this rig for 6 months now and in that time we've had 2 transformers going on fire, operators not setting up compressors right so that they have seized, they've not checked that pumps are lined up right and GRE pipework has exploded which if there was anyone nearby could have caused serious injury, operations technicians swearing blind that they flushed and drained that pump through yet when you break containment and your standing there with your mask on the Benzene meter rockets up to over 50ppm and that clown of a technician still thinks its OK to stand about there without a mask on despite you telling him he's stupid and should move. >5ppm breathing apparatus should be used FYI and Benzene is easily absorbed through the skin and causes cancer.
You have to be away from your family at times where things are going on that need your attention. You will miss birthdays and important social and family events, birthdays, funerals, kids learning to ride bikes, talk etc etc. You could end up being invited to a Xmas and new year party on an oil rig, that's a barrel of laughs that is!
And these are just a few things to consider. Having said all that though I couldn't ever work onshore and a job in an office is my idea of hell and admittedly I get a certain degree of satisfaction from knowing that not everyone could do my job.
Think very carefully though before you make any decisions.
The chemist route might be your easiest option instead of waiting to complete another degree and from what I've seen its a pretty cushy number as well.
Best of luck to you though bud whatever you decide and I hope I've not been to pessimistic for you as I have just tried to be honest