How to Become an Electrical Lineman

An electrical lineman works with power and telecommunications lines. These are the people who wire up the world.

The work environment

The lineman works wherever there’s a line, wherever needed. This is actually a much more complex process than it appears. Lines are designed to work with very complex modern systems. Linemen work on all aspects of power and telecommunications systems. That means hooking up a variety of systems, and connecting them to the power grid.

It can be hard work, with unpredictable hours. Linemen are often the first people on call during emergencies, to get power and communications through to areas devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes, or other serious natural disasters.

Important note:
 Physical fitness is a basic health requirement for linesmen. The work can involve significant physical effort over long periods of time, and is very unsuitable for people with some medical conditions.

Line work is generally classified into two basic types of work: Line installers and line repairers. The line installers work with installation of new power and communications lines, repairers work in the maintenance field. The installation work may include underground wiring, and setting up utility poles. Repairs may often include replacement of old systems, and significant upgrading and rewiring of them. There’s a lot of ongoing work in both fields, as whole new systems are installed and old systems are replaced.

Power lines

These are a range of lines which can range from the massive multiple hundred thousand voltages of the power grid down to 10,000 volt distribution lines to residential housing. The work includes connections to transformers, substations, traffic light systems and related repair and maintenance. The electrical lineman needs to be familiar with all these systems and their related connection issues.

Safety is a priority, working with power systems. This can be very dangerous work. These big voltages are dangerous by definition. Accessing these lines may also involve working with old, dilapidated, connections in old buildings which are also dangerous, unsafe working areas. Working on power poles requires special safety gear and training.

Telecommunications lines

This is a very wide range of connections, and service issues, repairs, and maintenance are the main areas of work. The work involves everything from the old metal phone lines to modern optic fibre bundles. This work includes physically connecting the systems, testing and identifying problems.

Network connections are another area of specialization. Telecommunications systems may include a variety of types of connection, including setting up wireless facilities, hooking up broadband systems, and in some cases revamping the entire communications hookups for big commercial networks.

Median wage is $60,000 in both power and communications. Communications salaries may vary depending on the type of work conducted.

Can be very variable, and usually includes a requirement to be on call for emergencies.

The career environment

Linemen in both fields are specialists. Career progression tends to remain in the area of specialization, but there are many career and promotional opportunities. In the US, linemen have significant job mobility across power and telecommunications carriers. Their skills are also portable in terms of working with power and communications systems in industries.