The aim of this study was to characterize and compare the bacterial community structure of two distinct oil samples from a petroleum field in Brazil by using both molecular, based on the construction of 16S rRNA gene libraries, and cultivation methods. Statistical comparisons of libraries based on Amplified Ribosomal DNA Restriction Analysis (ARDRA) data revealed no significant differences between the communities recovered in the non-biodegraded (NBD) and highly biodegraded oils (HBD). BlastN analysis of the 16S rRNA gene sequences representative of distinct ribotypes from both oils showed the presence of nine different bacterial genera in these samples, encompassing members of the genera Arcobacter,Halanaerobium,Marinobacter,Propionibacterium, Streptomyces,Leuconostoc, Acinetobacter,Bacillus and Streptococcus. Enrichments obtained using oil as inoculum and sole carbon source yielded bacterial isolates showing high 16S rRNA gene sequence similarity with Achromobacter xylosoxidans, Bacillus subtilis, Brevibacillus sp., Dietzia sp. and Methylobacterium sp. Comparison between the data obtained using cultivation-independent and enrichment cultures suggests that different selection of community members may occur when using distinct approaches. All the organisms found, except for Leuconostoc sp. and Streptococus sp., have been previously reported in the literature as hydrocarbon degraders and/or associated to oil field environments.