This guide on how to become a lineman will help you assess if this profession might be right for you. A career as a lineman is a great opportunity for some people and in this article we dive into the steps needed to become a lineman, salary you can expect, the type of individual well-suited to this career, how long it takes to become a lineman, how to become a journeyman lineman and a master lineman and also how to become a lineman apprentice.
What Does a Lineman Do?
A lineman, or line worker, is responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repair of high-power outdoor electrical lines, and outdoor lines used in telecommunication systems as well. They construct and monitor the performance of both transmission lines and distribution lines, which link buildings wired for electricity to the power grid.
Linemen may be tasked to dig underground trenches to lay electric cables or fiber optic cables, which will bring electricity or Internet and phone service to homes or places of business. They are frequently required to climb utility poles to inspect and repair power lines and transformers, and may be deployed for such purposes whenever there is a power outage, regardless of the time of day or the prevalent weather conditions. A lineman is classified and licensed as a special-category electrician, and with the requisite training and experience they can find jobs with private or public employers.
We also highly recommend that you read our guide on how to become an electrician because, if you are interested in a career as a lineman, you’ll most likely also consider being an electrician.
How Much Does a Lineman Make?
Benefiting from their specialized skills, a licensed professional or journeyman lineman can make more than a conventional electrician. The annual median wage for outdoor line workers in 2019 was $65,700, which was approximately 15 percent higher than the median salaries of residential and commercial electricians. Before a lineman is qualified to advance to full-time employee (journeyman) status, they must complete a four-year paid apprenticeship in most states. Though the salaries of apprentice linemen are lower than the salaries for journeymen, even apprentice lineman can expect to earn $30 or more per hour for their labor.
Wages for linemen are generally higher on the East and West coasts. Employment opportunities for trained lineman are expected to remain stable between the years 2019 and 2029, with no projected growth in demand for their services.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Lineman?
Becoming a lineman will take about 4 to 5 years, depending on a few different factors. If you haven’t received your high school diploma or G.E.D. yet, then you’ll need to add the time to complete that to the total, as well. You can actually be practicing and learning on the job Lineman skills within a few months, but will need at least four years of training and apprenticeship to be a fully certified professional lineman, or what is called a journeyman lineman.
To become a master lineman, which is the next stage of advancement, will require another 2 to 6 years (see step five below). Because the profession is such an important one and deals with electricity, it is crucial that you get plenty of experience before setting off on your own, or being recognized as an experienced professional lineman.
How to Become a Lineman: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’ve reached this point, you are probably still asking the most important question, which is “how do I become a lineman?” Below are the steps needed to pursue this path.
Step 1: Obtain a High School Diploma
Anyone interested in pursuing a career as a lineman or outdoor electrical worker should finish high school, since that is a basic requirement for entering the field.
High school classwork in math, physics, industrial arts, and mechanical arts could boost your prospects of being accepted as an electrical apprentice, or as a student in a post-secondary school that trains electricians. You could also benefit from any experience you might have gained working in part-time or summer jobs alongside electricians or others employers who worked with electrical systems in some capacity (HVACR installation and repair experts, electronic system designers or installers, lighting system installers, etc.).
Step 2: Enroll in a Community College or Technical School Training Program
Many technical schools and community colleges offer programs for prospective electricians, and some also have specialty programs for people interested in utility line work.
Diploma and certificate programs are more common than associate degree programs in this specialty. To earn a diploma or certificate in line work, you’ll be required to complete between three and six months of coursework in most cases, although some programs may keep you on-campus (or enrolled online) for up to a year. If you choose a school that offers an associate degree for aspiring linemen, this could take you up to two years to finish.
Diploma, certificate, and associate degree curriculums for prospective lineman will include a mixture of classroom hours and hands-on training. The latter will likely include several hundred hours of fieldwork, surpassing the amount of time you’ll actually spend being instructed in the classroom.
When you graduate from the program, you won’t yet be qualified for a job as a professional (journeyman) lineman. In order to attain that status, you will first have to complete an extensive, years-long apprenticeship as an electrician, in your chosen specialty.
Technically, you only need a high school diploma to qualify for a position in an outdoor lineman apprenticeship program. But if you possess academic credentials from an accredited college or technical school, this will give you an advantage over apprenticeship applicants who don’t share your educational background.
Step 3: Land a Specialized Apprenticeship in Outdoor Line Work (How to Become a Lineman Apprentice)
Anyone interested in pursuing a career as an electrician must first serve a four-to-five year apprenticeship, under the supervision of a licensed journeyman or master electrician. To graduate to journeyman status yourself, you’ll have to take and pass a licensing exam once your apprenticeship is completed.
Most states have well-established apprenticeship programs for aspiring electricians of all types. The most well-known multistate entity to offer apprenticeships for linemen is the Electrical Training Alliance, which is a shared project of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). This apprenticeship program, which is run by the NECA/IBEW Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC), has been approved by the U.S. Department of Labor and is an excellent first option for anyone seeking apprenticeship opportunities in their local area.
Local utility companies, utility company contractors, electrical coops, municipal governments, and the U.S. Department of Energy are just some of the employers who provide opportunities for apprentice linemen. Regardless of where you work, you will be placed on salary, and you can expect to earn approximately 75-90 percent of the wages of an experienced journeyman lineman.
The practice hours you accumulate as part of a diploma/certificate/associate degree program cannot be used to offset your apprenticeship work requirements. However, you’ll normally be allowed to waive apprenticeship classroom training requirements if you’ve completed an academic program in electrical studies.
Step 4: Seek Licensing as a Journeyman Lineman (How to Become a Journeyman Lineman)
Once you’ve completed your four-to-five year apprenticeship program, you’ll become eligible to graduate to journeyman status. As a journeyman lineman you’ll be qualified to perform the full range of duties associated with your profession, either independently or under the supervision of a master lineman (the next level above journeyman).
To be licensed or certified as a journeyman, in most instances you’ll have to take and pass an exam that is administered by your state of residence. However, there are a few states that leave it to municipalities and/or counties to license electricians of all types. If you live in one of these states, you’ll have to take and pass the exam used by the community where you’d like to live and work. Once you’ve passed your journeyman’s exam, you’ll be issued a certification by the U.S. Department of Labor and a journeyman’s card by the business or agency that managed your apprenticeship.
A journeyman lineman can find employment with utility companies, electrical coops, government agencies, or private contractors.
Step 5: Become a Master Lineman or Contractor
As a journeyman lineman, you’ll be eligible for a wide range of employment opportunities. If you hope to graduate to a supervisory or management position, however, you should plan on becoming a master lineman, which will automatically qualify you for that type of job.
Depending on your state of residence, you’ll need anywhere from two to six years of experience working full-time as a journeyman lineman before you’re eligible to advance to master lineman status. Once you’ve gained this experience, you will need to take and pass another state- or municipality-sanctioned licensing exam to attain your license.
Private electrical contractors are more commonly found in other specialties. But there are some independent contractors that supply trained linemen to local governments or utility companies to help them handle large-scale outdoor electrical or telecommunications installation projects.
To be licensed as an electrical contractor, you must be a master electrician or have at least one under their employee. You must also pass a contractor’s exam administered by a government regulatory agency.
Pros and Cons of a Career as a Lineman
Pros of Becoming a Lineman
Becoming a lineman is a sensible career choice for individuals who like to work outside and enjoy working with their hands. While it can take a while to obtain the proper training, licensed journeyman linemen can expect to earn higher wages than other types of journeyman electricians. Many linemen enjoy the unique and interesting challenges associated with their jobs, which may include working from elevated locations. Lineman don’t require a bachelor’s or even an associate’s degree to find a position as an apprentice, giving them an opportunity to launch their careers quickly after high school.
Cons of Becoming a Lineman
Some installations and repair work will put linemen in precarious positions, where the possibility of accident or injury is heightened. Lineman working on utility poles could be at risk of falling, and wind, rain, and snow can make a lineman’s work even more hazardous. High-power electrical lines are inherently dangerous in any conditions, and even the most cautious lineman may never be 100-percent free from jeopardy. Lineman are often required to perform their work in extreme cold or heat, and since power failures or other electrical problems can occur at any hour a lineman may be dispatched to perform emergency repairs in the middle of the night or at other odd times.
Important Characteristics of a Successful Lineman
A lineman cannot be afraid of heights or electricity. They shouldn’t be completely fearless, since that type of attitude could lead to reckless behavior. But working well off the ground, and with high-voltage electricity lines, shouldn’t make them feel intimidated or nervous.
Because of the risks associated with the profession, lineman must be careful and attentive at all times. When on duty they can’t afford to be lax, casual, or distracted, even for a moment. If they are less than diligent, they could put their lives and the lives of their companions in danger.
The work of a lineman requires advanced technical knowledge of electrical connections and systems. A successful lineman is a highly-skilled professional, and when they are in training or serving their apprenticeship they must be able to focus and concentrate and remember a lot of detailed information. Even if they don’t enroll in an educational program before landing their apprenticeship, they must still be good students who truly enjoy learning and are determined to master all the technical aspects of their craft.
Unlike conventional electricians, linemen work exclusively outdoors. The most successful linemen relish the opportunity to be outside in the sunshine and fresh air, and they feel so comfortable working outdoors that they aren’t really bothered by the necessity of occasionally working in inclement weather. A good lineman will be most comfortable exactly where they are, and they may have a hard time imagining working anywhere else.
In this guide we took a deep dive into answering the question of “how do you become a lineman?” and we hope we have give you enough food for thought to make a decision, or at least move a few steps forward on your path. There are different subcategories of lineman and here we have focused on the general category of how to become an electrical lineman or power lineman. Once you’ve achieved this step you may be interested in becoming a specialist, such as a helicopter lineman or an aerial lineman. The field is full of opportunities for those who have the required experience and skills. We wish you the best of luck of your journey (to be a journeyman lineman – pun intended!).
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