How to Become an Electrical Lineman
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- People rely on electrical linemen for power and electricity.
- Electrical line technicians often work as apprentices before landing jobs.
- Many power companies require their electrical line technicians to have CDLs.
All appliances, including computers, televisions, and refrigerators, run on electricity. It powers private residences and public buildings like schools and workplaces. People rely on utility companies — and electrical linemen — to keep the electricity flowing so that all of the devices they need continue to operate.
Electrical linemen install and repair electrical power lines and telecommunications cables. These professionals are also called electrical lineworkers, electrical line installers, and repairers and electrical power line technicians. Due to our shift toward conscious language, the rest of this article will refer to these professionals using these terms.
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Electrical line installers and repairers climb poles, inspect and test power lines, and string the lines between the poles. They install underground cables as well as aerial cables, operating equipment during servicing. They even install the fiber optic cables that allow for internet speeds of about 70% of the speed of light.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), line installers and repairers earned a median salary of $68,030 per year in May 2020. The BLS projects little or no job growth between 2020 and 2030. However, the BLS projects about 23,300 openings for line installers and repairers each year for the next decade.
What Are the Requirements to Become an Electrical Lineman?
Apprenticeships or other employer training programs are often required for those hoping to become electrical power line technicians. However, people interested in joining this career can enroll in community college programs ranging from a few weeks to a few years. Many community colleges offer a two-year associate degree in electricity or a similar field.
High School Diploma or GED Certificate
If you want to become an electrical line installer and repairer, you will probably need a high school diploma or GED diploma. Most employers require at least one year of high school algebra, and some require trigonometry. There is a good chance that you will also be required to pass an aptitude test in order to get a job.
Electrical power line technicians frequently drive company trucks to and from job sites, so a driver's license is usually required. In addition to your regular driver's license, you may also need a commercial driver's license (CDL). Many of the vehicles that utility companies use while repairing power lines require a CDL to operate.
While completing an electrical program at a trade school or community college is not necessarily required, it can certainly increase your chances of landing a job as an electrical line installer and repairer.
You can find programs like a 12-week electrical lineworker program or an associate degree program in electrical trades technology. Some schools offer accelerated associate degree programs that can be completed in as few as 18 months.
Most companies require an apprenticeship or other employee training program in order to become an electrical power line technician. These programs typically last about three years and combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Unions and certain employers offer apprenticeship programs.
The Electrical Training ALLIANCE is endorsed by two labor unions — the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association. The organization offers apprenticeship training for outside lineworkers, inside wireworkers, installer technicians, and residential wireworkers.
Some employers may require electrical line installers and repairers to obtain additional certifications. These can include first aid and CPR training, OSHA 10 completion, pole top and bucket rescue training, and digger truck operations certification. First aid and CPR can come in handy because being an electrical power line technician is a dangerous job. If an electrical line technician is injured on the job, they should receive first aid right away.
The OSHA 10 is a 10-hour construction course that teaches students how to avoid health and safety hazards in the workplace. Certifications in pole top and bucket truck rescue and digger truck operations can also be helpful. All of these trainings ensure that electrical line installers and repairers have the technical knowledge and accident prepartion necessary to do their jobs safely.
What Does Electrical Lineman Training Look Like?
Many community colleges and trade schools offer electrical power line technician training. Some schools offer intensive programs that can be completed in just a few months. Other schools offer associate degrees that can take 18-24 months to complete. Below are some examples of the types of classes and programs that you may find when training to be an electrical lineworker.
Stanly Community College offers a 12-week program that requires at least 380 hours of coursework and hands-on training. Students learn electricity basics, safety rules, electrical line and overhead pole construction, and meter and transformer installations. They also receive an overview of the requirements for a CDL, first aid training, and OSHA 10-hour construction training.
Southern Technical College offers an accelerated associate degree in electrical trades technology that takes 18 months to complete. In addition to training students for line installer and repairer positions, this program provides the knowledge and skills students need to begin their careers as electrical technicians or electrical contractors.
In addition to training programs through community colleges and other schools, many employers offer their own training in the form of apprenticeships. These apprenticeships typically combine classroom learning with on-the-job training and can last up to three years.
Midwest Energy and Communications offers an apprenticeship program that includes at least 7,000 hours of on-the-job training. The company partners with the Joint Michigan Apprentice Program and Northwest Lineman College to provide classroom learning and hands-on training for its apprentices.
How Long Does It Take to Become an Electrical Lineman?
Community college programs can last anywhere from 12 weeks to two years. However, graduates of these programs may still be required to complete apprenticeships. A typical apprenticeship through a power company or union can take up to three years. At the end of the apprenticeship, the trainee usually receives a journeyman card.
Frequently Asked Questions About Electrical Lineman Training
Do electrical lineworkers have a good salary?
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for line installers and repairers was $68,030 in May 2020. PayScale reports that the average base salary for someone with a general bachelor's degree is $65,000 per year. An electrical lineman can make more than that with just an associate degree, or no degree at all.
Electrical line installers and repairers who work in the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industry earned the most in May 2020, with a median annual income of $81,930. Those who work for electrical contractors, the local government, or in power line construction earn less.
What are the certification levels for electrical lineworkers?
Electrical power line technicians often earn first aid and OSHA 10 certifications due to the inherent dangers of the job. OSHA 10 teaches participants how to recognize and avoid health and safety hazards in the workplace. First aid certification provides electrical lineworkers with the knowledge of what to do if, in spite of all precautions, someone gets hurt.
For electrical line installers and repairers to be able to operate heavy equipment such as the bucket truck, they must have a CDL. Many power companies require their electrical lineworkers to have this license.
After completing the required apprenticeship, the student advances to the position of journeyman lineworker. Although certification is not required, many organizations offer certification programs for journeyman lineworkers.
Is being an electrical lineworker hard?
Yes. It is also dangerous. Electrical lineworkers must be able to move heavy machinery and tolerate extreme weather conditions. They are often expected to remain in uncomfortable positions for extended lengths of time. Because they deal with electricity, they must abide by safety regulations to ensure not only their own safety, but also the safety of everyone they work with.
Electrical power line technicians do a lot of climbing, which can be hard on the back and knees. They also do underground work, which requires them to climb down ladders through manholes and work in small, cramped spaces.