What Does an Electrical Lineman Do?
Do you get a thrill out of living on the edge? If you do, and don’t mind heights, this is a job worth exploring. Electrical linemen install, maintain and repair electric power lines and other equipment used in electrical distribution and transmission systems.
Electrical linemen go by many names. They are also called linemen, electric linemen, line installers and repairers, lineworkers and power line technicians. They regularly work high off the ground and around high-voltage electricity, so the job is considered dangerous.
Transmission lineman bring power to the pole, and they are the ones who climb 100 feet off the ground. Distribution lineman, who bring the power from the pole to the customer, usually only climb around 50 feet off the ground. Either may work on buried power lines.
Much of the work is done outdoors — good news for anyone who doesn’t want a desk job — and regardless of weather conditions.
- Install equipment ranging from utility poles to power lines to crossarms, insulators, switches and switchgear
- Test equipment, including conductors, switches, voltage regulators and transformers
- Climb poles and transmission towers and use truck-mounted buckets to reach power lines and other equipment
- Dig holes and set (erect) poles using construction equipment
- Drive work vehicles to job sites
How To Become An Electrical Lineman: FAQs
What education and training do you need to become an electrical lineman?
Becoming an electrical lineman requires technical instruction plus on-the-job training. A high school diploma or equivalent is the starting point. Most employers require a basic knowledge of algebra and trigonometry.
Community colleges, trade schools and technical schools provide technical instruction. Most programs cover the knowledge needed to get an apprenticeship, such as climbing, electricity, familiarity with the tools of the trade, cable splicing and equipment repair. These are typically one-year certificate programs and may be in partnership with a company.
Some community colleges offer more in-depth, two-year associate degree programs.
Trade unions and companies provide apprenticeships, which include classroom instruction and extensive on-the-job training, including training offered by equipment manufacturers. Apprenticeships and in-depth training programs can take from two to four years.
Are there any other qualifications?
To get an apprenticeship, you must be 18 years old. A driver’s license and drug testing are also required.
Lineman certification isn’t mandatory but many employers prefer candidates who are certified. In addition, certain work may require a safety certification.
How long does it take to become a journeyman lineman?
It typically takes four years to reach journeyman status, which means you can get a license and work without supervision. Previous knowledge and training from military service may reduce that timeframe. Not all states require electric linemen to be licensed.
How many hours do lineman work?
Most work full-time, but evening, weekend and holiday work may be necessary during emergencies.
Is there a demand for electrical linemen?
Growth for this job is expected to remain constant, with about 23,000 openings a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the population grows, so does the need for electricity.
A related job is cable or fiber optics technician, which involves installing and repairing telecommunications cables, such as fiber optic cables for internet and cable TV. These workers typically earn less than electrical linemen but they spend less time in training.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Most students who go on to become successful linemen share these traits:
- Physically fit and agile
- Good balance
- No fear of heights
- Good attention to detail
- Like to work outdoors
- Not color blind and can distinguish between color-coded wires
For those who don’t want a desk job and aren’t afraid of working hard, becoming an electrical lineman has many perks. The work is outdoors, is critically important and requires a level of independence that you can’t find in many other jobs. If you take safety seriously and learn all that you can during training, you’ll be on course for a bright future.