You may notice electrical linemen working to deal with emergencies like power lines brought down by an ice storm, but this is not all they do. Electrical line workers must complete an intensive power line apprenticeship program to learn their technical skills. Some electrical linemen deal with telecommunications lines, which requires similar training. Becoming a lineman means pursuing a career that offers good pay along with the chance to make a real contribution to the comfort and safety of your friends and neighbors.
A journeyman lineman's specific duties depend on whether he works with power distribution or telecommunications systems. A power lineman installs and repairs power lines and related equipment like transformers. Linemen must inspect installations to identify and replace or repair damaged or worn-out components. Safety is a top priority, because linemen must climb poles and often work with live power lines. Journeyman linemen who work with telecommunications equipment have some of the same duties. However, they often lay cables underground and must work around existing water and gas lines.
How to Become a Journeyman Lineman
It's helpful to gain a background in electronics or electrical systems if you want to become a journeyman lineman. You can learn the necessary skills through military service and vocational or community college programs. A one-year certification program is one option, but some programs last two years and include advanced training in specialties like electrical and microwave transmission.
Typically, linemen become apprentices for up to three years. Apprenticeship programs are sponsored by trade unions and contractor associations. You must be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or the equivalent. You will need to pass an aptitude test and a drug screening test. A commercial driver's license may be required, because you will have to drive to job locations. States do not require linemen to have a license, but you can get certification in specialty areas through the Electrical Training Association or similar organizations. You are considered a journeyman lineman when you complete the apprenticeship.
Journeyman linemen who specialize in telecommunications systems most often are employed by telecommunications companies. Some work for utility companies or building equipment firms. Utilities that generate and distribute electricity are the largest employers of power line installers and repairers. Construction firms, government agencies and electrical contractors also hire power linemen.
The work can be challenging. A journeyman lineman must climb poles or work underground even in harsh weather conditions. Because they work with power lines, safety is always a primary concern. Typically, linemen work regular hours. However, emergencies can require travel on short notice and long hours at any time of the day or night.
An apprentice lineman can look forward to a good income. In 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that telecommunications linemen had a median salary of $55,060. A median is the figure at which 50 percent make more money and 50 percent make less. The best-paid 10 percent of telecommunications linemen made more than $85,500. The lowest earning 10 percent made less than $29,060. For power-line workers, median income was $69,380. The highest-paid tenth made more than $99,860. The 10 percent paid least earned $37,600 or less. Experienced journeyman linemen averaged $77,338 as of 2018. The average earnings for entry level linemen was $48,864.
Your job outlook as a journeyman lineman is good, especially if you choose to go into power-line installation and repair. Overall, jobs for linemen are projected to grow by 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is average. Positions for telecommunications linemen are only expected to grow by 1 percent, but the number of power lineman jobs should increase by 14 percent. Expansion in the use of mobile phones and other wireless systems is limiting the need for telecommunications lines. Ongoing population growth will mean a greater need for power-line systems.