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Lineman School Options, Training FAQs and Career Info

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Summary

By attending lineman school, you can gain critical skills for a career that provides many people with a deep sense of pride, steady work, and good pay. Lineworker jobs can also be thrilling, providing a satisfying adrenaline rush as you safely confront danger to build, maintain, or restore essential power or communications lines under challenging conditions.

A lineworker positioned near the top of a utility pole overlooking a mountain range
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Career Snapshot

Career Outlook*
4% growth from 2018 to 2028

Median Salary*
Linemen

Job Openings*
Average Yearly Openings

Length of Training
Most Common Length

Work Settings

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • U.S. Department of Education

CDA Technical Institute ‐ Voltage Lineworker

  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Voltage Lineworker

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Career Information

Learning how to become a lineman can open up steady, well-paying opportunities all across the country. Despite (or even because of) the inherent danger of their work, many lineworkers love what they do and feel immense pride from tackling their jobs safely and effectively.

Earnings

Linemen make good money. The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) breaks down linemen into two different categories: telecommunications and power-line workers.

  • The median salary for electrical power-line installers and repairers is $72,520.
  • The median salary for telecommunications line installers and repairers is $56,750.

To come up with the most accurate approximate salary for all lineworkers, we have calculated the average of the above two numbers to find the average median. So a lineman makes $64,635 per year as an average median wage.

Job Openings & Outlook

The OOH says that between 2018 and 2028, employment of line installers and repairers is expected to increase by four percent. Powerline technicians should see job growth of eight percent while telecommunications linemen are projected to see little to no change.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, an average of 25,200 jobs should open up for line installers and repairers each year over that same decade. Around 1,000 of those jobs are expected to be newly created positions. The rest will come as a result of workers retiring or transferring to other occupations.

Key Benefits

  1. Pride and satisfaction: Lives would be seriously disrupted if the electrical grid or communication network went down. Being a lineworker means getting to provide one of our society's most essential services, which feels great.
  2. Travel possibilities: Many linemen get to visit cool places far from home in order to help with a region's recovery efforts or to help install new power or communications lines in remote areas.
  3. Excellent earning potential: Median salaries for electrical linemen are far above the median wage for all occupations, according to the OOH.

What a Lineman Does

Blue sky, white clouds, and two people in a raised bucket working on power linesLinemen are responsible for building, maintaining, and repairing power transmission and distribution systems. They keep electricity flowing to homes, businesses, and other buildings. Some linemen work on the cables used by telecommunications companies.

Typical tasks include:

  • Erecting wooden poles and transmission towers
  • Climbing poles or operating bucket lifts
  • Inspecting and testing cables and lines
  • Attaching power lines to poles and buildings
  • Digging trenches for underground cables
  • Replacing damaged transformers and switches
  • Responding to outages and emergencies

Work Settings

Linemen work outdoors, often at great heights, but sometimes below ground. They can work in urban centers or in remote locations. For instance, they could:

  • Repair traffic lights that get damaged in a car accident
  • Splice cables in underground vaults
  • Hang from a helicopter to reach a transmission tower in a mountainous area

The OOH says that linemen are typically employed by utility companies, telecommunications firms, and construction contractors. About three percent of telecommunications linemen are self-employed.

Career FAQs

Do linemen make more than electricians?

An electrical lineman's salary is generally higher than an electrician's salary. As noted above, the median wage for linemen is $72,520. The top earners take home over $103,500. Meanwhile, electricians have a median wage of $56,180, and the highest earners make $96,580 or more. The difference is largely due to the fact that linemen work with higher voltages in more hazardous conditions.

How dangerous is this job?

Electrical linemen work with high-voltage systems at great heights and in all kinds of weather conditions. However, advances in equipment and training have greatly reduced the risks. Linemen use a variety of tools, such as hot sticks, which are insulated poles for working on energized lines. They wear hard hats, insulated rubber gloves, safety glasses, and fire-resistant clothing. Sometimes they use special suits called Faraday suits that direct electric current around the body rather than through it. They also undergo extensive safety training.



Education & Training

Lineman training can help you begin to master the concepts and skills required for success in this field.

Length of Training

Lineman programs at trade schools and community colleges typically last for two to 12 months, although two-year associate degree programs are also available. Programs that focus on telecommunications tend to be shorter than those that concentrate on the electrical side.**

Apprenticeships in this field are usually three to four years long.**

Most Common Length of School**
(range in months)

  • Lineman school
    2-12
  • Electrical technology
    6-24
  • Electronics engineering technology
    24

Program Options

Most linemen learn their trade through on-the-job training in the form of an apprenticeship. During each year of an apprenticeship, you complete a few weeks of in-class lessons, but you spend the bulk of your time earning a wage while learning from an experienced mentor on the job. In most cases, apprentices must be at least 18 years old and have a high school education that included at least one year of algebra. They also typically need to pass both an aptitude test and a drug screen.

Completing a relevant program at a technical school or community college can be a good way to develop basic skills and prepare for an apprenticeship. Programs are available under a variety of names, such as communication linework, electrical powerline mechanic, powerline construction, electric power distribution, or electrical utility technology. Most provide both technical training and hands-on practice.

Typical Courses

Lineman training is designed to teach students about:

  • The basics of electrical systems
  • Pole climbing
  • Rigging and knot tying
  • Safety protocols

Programs that focus on the electrical side typically include training in the fundamentals of AC and DC power, transformers, and substations.

Programs that focus on the telecommunications side include training in dealing with fiber optic and coaxial cables.

Skills You Can Learn

You have the chance to develop abilities related to:

  • Reading voltages
  • Splicing cables and tying knots
  • Calculating hook strain and line tension before hoisting equipment
  • Climbing towers and poles
  • Repairing and replacing damaged or defective equipment

Licensing & Certification

Some states, such as Minnesota and Texas, require linemen to be licensed. Be sure to research the requirements in your area.

A wide variety of voluntary industry certifications are available that could boost your employability, including:

Some schools include such certifications as part of their programs.

Education & Training FAQs

What high school classes are helpful?

If you're interested in a career as a lineman, it's a good idea to take math courses, especially algebra. Many apprenticeship programs require applicants to have one year of algebra. Classes in physics, trigonometry, and electronics can also be useful.

Do I need any special driver training?

Linemen are often called upon to drive utility trucks, which means they need to have a commercial driver's license (CDL). Some programs provide the training to allow you to earn your CDL. Others expect you to earn it on your own, either before enrolling or before you graduate. It's best to check with officials for the program you're considering just to be sure.

How do I know if I'm cut out to be a lineworker?

If you like the idea of doing physical, hands-on work that keeps critical infrastructure functioning, this may be the field for you. Ask yourself if you are:

  • Physically and mentally fit
  • Comfortable with the risks that are inherent in this kind of work
  • Unfazed by heights or enclosed spaces
  • Prepared to work all kinds of hours in all types of weather conditions

Linemen often enjoy stable employment, high wages, and strong camaraderie among their crew mates. While the training can be difficult, the rewards of the career are worth it to many people.


* Salary information represents an average of the median wages for electrical power-line installers and repairers and telecommunications installers and repairers, as noted by the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). The career outlook is based on OOH data for line installers and repairers. Job openings data is drawn from Bureau of Labor Statistics projections for line installers and repairers.

** Length of training information is based on a combination of information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Education, and a wide sampling of relevant program lengths from about 30 individual school websites. They are a mix of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.