Working as an Outside Lineman
There are many careers available, many with good demand for qualified workers, for individuals interested in learning a skilled electrical trade. Electrical technology goes well beyond working as an electrician doing wiring and repairs in the electrical systems of buildings. An exciting, although physically demanding related career is as an outside lineman. This professional may also be called a line repairer or installer, and he or she works outdoors on the lines that run between buildings and power plants.
What Does an Outside Lineman Do?
Line installers and repairers install, repair and maintain power lines. They check on lines and related equipment, making sure it is working correctly and safely. They replace parts and diagnose and make repairs. They install new lines, stringing them between poles and buildings as well as large towers. Linemen may also have leadership roles, guiding teams and developing and implementing work plans and projects. They are responsible for doing all this work in compliance with safety regulations.
Work Environment for Outside Linemen
As compared to electricians who work indoors on wiring, outside linemen have a much more physically demanding job. Linemen have to work outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions, including snow, rain, extreme hot or cold temperatures and even in the dark sometimes. They are also expected to work at great heights, either climbing poles and towers or using elevated buckets on trucks. Linemen also spend a lot of time driving from one job to another.
Safety is a very important component of this work. In addition to making sure power lines are installed and maintained with the safety of residents in mind, they also have to work within safety regulations to avoid injuries. Line workers are at risk every day on the job of suffering from falls, electrocution and weather-related injuries.
Training to Become a Lineman
Linemen must be licensed or certified according to the regulations where they work, often set by the state, although there are also often local requirements as well. Most people who become licensed line workers got their start with an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship provides both classroom learning and required hours and hands-on training with pay.
Each apprenticeship program has its own requirements for enrollment, and it can be competitive. In general, minimum qualifications include having a high school diploma or GED, being at least 18 years old, having passed high school algebra and having a driver’s license. Some programs require participants to pass a basic skills test as well.
Salary and Job Outlook
The growth in many skilled trades, especially those related to electrical work, is strong. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that
The BLS also reports that the median pay for a qualified lineman in 2017 was $64,190 per year and $30.86 per hour. Top earners in the industry can make nearly $100,000 per year. The salaries for these qualified workers who take risks everyday on the job are higher than those of most other electrical workers, including indoor electricians.
If you have been looking into a skilled trade career and are drawn to electrical work, consider training to become an outside lineman. There are risks of this job, and it requires being comfortable with heights, but the payoff is a stable career and a great salary without the need to earn a college degree first.