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Electrical linemen, commonly referred to as outside linemen, are skilled electricians who construct, service and maintain the high-power lines and equipment that carry and distribute electrical power from the generating source to the end user. Linemen typically gain their skills through a formal apprenticeship program, which requires approximately four years to complete. Requirements for entry into a lineman apprenticeship program vary by employer, but usually include provisions for age, education and physical fitness.
Age and Education
Outside lineman apprenticeship programs typically require candidates to be at least 18 years of age before applying and to have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Programs require candidates to have taken high school level algebra, make a minimum score on an aptitude test and test negative for drug usage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lineman program involves approximately 7,000 hours of training over a four-year period and includes both classroom instruction and field training.
Outside linemen can be called on to work long hours in all kinds of inclement weather. They work on both high-line wires at heights of 500 feet or more, as well as cables buried in vaults or trenches. Some employers require linemen to operate heavy equipment, such as backhoes, cranes or bucket trucks. Since power lines run throughout a company's region, outside linemen must travel to wherever the problem exists, which can include long distances. Some apprenticeship programs require candidates to hold a valid drivers license. Linemen apprentice candidates must be physically qualified to perform such tasks.
Testing and Candidate Interviews
Communication is an integral part of an outside lineman's job, as is mathematical computation. Some apprenticeship programs, such as the TVA Lineman Apprentice Program, require candidates to make a qualifying score on a standardized aptitude test, such as the American Institute of Research test for algebra, mathematical usage and reading comprehension. Other programs, such as the Northwest Line Outside Lineman Program, use an interview process that scores such factors as attitude, interest and background. Admission into this apprenticeship is determined by how well the candidate scores on the interview.
Earn as You Learn
Lineman apprentices are paid as they learn. Pay rates vary by apprenticeship program and increase as benchmarks are achieved. For example, wages for apprentices in the Northwest Line program in the Pacific northwest, pays apprentices by percentage of a journeyworker's wages. Lineman apprentice wages start at 60 percent and increase to 90 percent of a full hourly wage, which in 2021 was $51.71 per hour.
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.