Your Career as an Electrical Lineman

An electrical lineman job is a long distance travel job, the lineman works with the power supplies of large grids, in many different areas. There are two basic streams in the electrical lineman profession, the electrical power line installers and repair men. These roles are very different, and involve a large range of specialty related technology. As a result, electrical lineman have to work within various roles. In both streams, electrical lineman work is typically classified as "installer" or "repair".

The Work Environment

The electrical power line work involves working with very high voltages, from hundreds of thousands of volts to relatively low voltages under 10,000 volts for distribution lines. At local levels, the electrical lineman works with transformers, traffic lights and other infrastructure. The telecommunications electrical lineman ironically may not work with "lines" at all, but complex telecommunications including phone towers, optic fiber networks and wireless systems.

Both types of work naturally include a lot of maintenance, repair, and testing of systems and connections. This can be difficult work because of the complex nature of older systems. Safety is a primary consideration in the electrical lineman's work environment at all times. Working with high voltages and live systems involves strict attention to health and safety requirements. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrical linemen suffered 1 in 4 fatalities on the job. Today fatalities are extremely rare, but the OHS requirements underline the nature of the electrical lineman's work and skills.

Wages and Hours

The median rate in both streams of electrical lineman jobs is $60,000, depending on experience and qualifications. Some forms of lineman job, like natural gas men can earn $84,000 per year. The hours can be extremely variable, due to travel and the requirement for electrical linemen to be on call for emergencies. 

The Career Outlook

In many ways this is a typical tradesman's career, but with some additional options. The electrical lineman's career starts with an apprenticeship and formal training. The electrical lineman's  basic job progresses in an organizational context, but there are opportunities for job mobility.

Experienced electrical linemen tend to progress through the various promotional stages in a logical series. However, additional qualifications, certifications and specializations add a lot of other options to the career track. At supervisory levels, management qualifications are a natural development. Other options include technology related specializations, particularly in the telecommunications field. The range of employment options is also a natural factor in career progression for electrical linemen. Employers include:

  • Utilities
  • Natural gas distribution
  • Contractors
  • Telecommunications
  • Power companies
  • Construction companies
  • Systems manufacturers (mainly in telecommunications)
  • Phone companies
  • Cable TV companies

In some cases, particularly for remote operations, there are also business opportunities for electrical linemen as contractors. The demand for this type of work is slowly developing as population pressure and development increases demand for services. In the telecommunications industry, specialists can also advance along both organizational and technical lines of career progression.