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How to Become an Electrical Lineman

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You've probably seen electrical linemen working to restore power after a bad storm. Line installers do a lot more than fix downed power lines. They are skilled technicians who construct and maintain the complex networks that bring electricity to homes and buildings. In addition, they work on the telecommunications systems that keep people in touch with the world around them. Becoming a lineman requires considerable training, but it is a job that makes an essential contribution to your community. It's a career that can earn you a good living once you've completed lineman school or an apprenticeship.

Lineman Job Description

The tasks a line installer or repairer performs vary, depending on the type of system he works with. Those who work with power transmission lines install and maintain the lines and equipment. They also inspect existing lines and components and repair or replace those that are damaged or defective. To do the job, a lineman must climb poles, string lines and observe strict safety regulations. Driving is normally required to reach work sites. Some line installers and repairers work with telecommunications systems. Many of their duties are similar to those performed by power systems linemen. However, telecommunications cables and equipment are often placed below ground. Those who work with telecommunications equipment must know how to handle underground work safely and maneuver around existing gas and water pipes.

How to Become a Lineman

Becoming a lineman does not require a college degree, but employers look for knowledge of electrical systems or electronics. Training programs are available at vocational schools, community colleges and through the military. Some community colleges offer a one-year certification program. Two-year programs provide more advanced training in electronics, electrical transmission, microwave transmission and fiber optics.

Prospective line installers and repairers frequently learn via employer-provided training or apprenticeships. A lineman apprenticeship takes up to three years. Applicants must be at least 18 and have a high school diploma or GED. It's also necessary to pass an aptitude test and a drug screening test. You may need a commercial driver's license, because linemen must drive utility trucks to reach work sites. Licensing is not mandatory, but certifications from organizations like the Electrical Training Alliance in specialty areas can be helpful.

The Lineman Work Environment

Companies in the electricity generation, transmission and distribution industry are the largest employers of power line installers and repairers, followed by construction firms, government agencies and electrical contractors. Telecommunications firms are, of course, the largest employers of telecommunications linemen. Many also work for building equipment contractors and utility companies.

The work can be physically demanding and challenging. Linemen work outdoors in all kinds of weather. They must climb poles and may need to work underground. Because they might have to deal with downed power lines and other hazards, attention to safety rules is a top priority. Most work regular business hours. However, working on weekends or putting in long hours after a storm or emergency may be necessary.

Lineman Salary

If you are thinking of becoming a lineman, you can expect to make a good living. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median salary for power linemen in 2017 was $69,380. "Median" means half made more and half made less. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $37,600 while the 10 percent making top dollar pulled in more than $99,860. For telecommunications linemen, the median was $55,060 and the lowest 10 percent made less than $29,060. The top 10 percent earned over $85,500. The average entry-level salary in 2018 was $48,559. Journeyman line installers and repairers averaged $76,479.

Job Growth

The BLS predicted job growth for line installers and repairers to be about 8 percent from 2016 through 2026, which is average compared to all occupations. However, growth prospects are uneven. For power line workers, the number of jobs is projected to grow by 14 percent, while jobs for telecommunications linemen is expected to be about 1 percent. Population growth will drive growth in the need for power transmission equipment. Shifts to wireless and mobile communication systems are reducing demand for land-based communications, although slight growth is still expected due to expanding technology and population increases.

  • The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee has been creating training and apprenticeship programs since the late 1940s. It operates a joint training and apprenticeship program in partnership with the National Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and is a good place to start your research into the best way to obtain quality education and on-the-job experience so you can qualify for excellent jobs.
  • Apprenticeship lasts approximately three to five years, according to the BLS, and those who qualify reach journeyman level. A journeyman line worker is given responsibility on the job and can work most jobs without supervision. They are also skilled enough to look for work at other companies. Once you have many years of experience, you can manage or train employees under you.
  • Physical fitness is an important part of your job as an electrical line worker. A careful, detail-oriented personality is also a good quality to have since you will be working with high voltage, often in dangerous situations and bad weather conditions. Safety is a major element of line worker training.

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, William Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about career, employment and job preparation issues. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology with a focus on employment and labor from Georgia State University. He has conducted research sponsored by the National Science Foundation to develop career opportunities for people with disabilities.

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