Outside Lineman

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According to the US Department of Energy, more than 450,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines deliver electricity throughout the US.

That amount is enough to circle the entire planet over 15 times.

It’s not even including the local connections within communities, cities, and neighborhoods.

The power grid is the mechanism that distributes electricity from power stations to industry, businesses, and homes.

So the Department of Homeland Security considers it to be a critical infrastructure since without it the US would fall back into the dark ages.

America is big and heavily relies on hundreds of thousands of power-line miles to preserve the modern standards of living and keep the industry going.

A lot of linemen are engaged in the maintenance, repair, and upgrading of the power infrastructure of the nation.

According to the Department of Labor, 236,600 line workers were employed in the US in 2014.

Another 13,600 are to join the workforce within the next decade by 2024.

Electrical power-line workers are known by many titles:

  • Lineman/Lineperson.
  • Overhead lineman/lineperson.
  • Overhead distribution lineman/lineperson.
  • Utility line electrician.
  • Outside lineman/lineperson.
  • Electric line technician.
  • High voltage electrician.
  • Aerial lineman/lineperson.

Despite the various names they are called in different jurisdictions, the steps to become a lineman, as well as essential duties they perform, are virtually the same nationwide.

Duties of Electrical Power Line Workers

It takes a team of skillful, adaptable, and flexible tradesmen to install, repair, and maintain electrical power lines.

Not many professionals out there have to change the job site daily, or even a few times a day.

Linemen have to travel a lot, which can be within the city, county, state, or even a multi-sate region.

Linemen have to work under various weather conditions, such as rain, extreme heat, snow, and freezing temps.

Typically, with the worst weather, they have more work.

In the middle of a winter after an ice storm, everyone might be waiting at home for the power to be restored while linemen are in the air repairing the power lines to ensure it.

In this position, you don’t have typical days, but you will have some standard duties:

  • De-energize electrical power lines.
  • String overhead wire, including telecommunications cables.
  • Install cutouts and cross-arms.
  • Fuzz power lines, use voltmeters and multimeters and perform other evaluations to determine a power line has been de-energized.
  • Ground wires and transformers.
  • Work with live high voltage systems wearing a faraday suit and with other special instruments/precautions.
  • Install (set) utility poles and anchors.
  • Install insulators, switches, and switchgear.
  • Assist in hooking up and installing single-phase transformers.
  • Clear faulted circuits and systems.

Getting Started in Your Career

Linemen usually start their career by enrolling in a community college or trade school program.

They can also take the apprenticeship program at a local company partnered with a union.

An apprenticeship can take about four years, where you will gain real-world on-the-job experience and technical training.

It will prepare you for earning a journeyman license and a master’s license eventually.

In some jurisdictions, linemen aren’t regulated in the same way as electricians, so they may not be required to obtain a license.

In this case, employers take apprentices and set the training requirements they must meet.

You can find apprenticeship programs through the Electrical Training Alliance.

It is a partnership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and is the largest provider of apprenticeship programs across the US.

They work with local employers and chapters throughout the country.

Employers usually seek workers who completed an apprenticeship approved by the Department of Labor.

For instance, those that the Electrical Training Alliance offers.

After these programs, it can also be easier to work in various jurisdictions or across state lines.

The common features of the approved programs include:

  • They result in the Completion of Registered Apprenticeship Certificate.
  • They are designed to move apprentices from having no skills to having full entry-level proficiency.
  • They are sponsored by individual employer associations or businesses and may also have an IBEW partnership.
  • They ensure a standardized level of minimum qualifications.

Upon the completion of the apprenticeship, you get a journeyman card issued by the IBEW trade union.

You can apply for the card as a lineman at the local chapter of IBEW with 3.5 years of experience in the field.

To earn it, you will also have to pass the IBEW examination.


Many experts in the field chose this career partly based on the high salary lineman makes.

According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national average salary of electrical power-line installers and repairers was $65,650 in 2015, with the top 10% earning $95,990.

Based on the data from the past, these numbers are expected to increase.

The salary for the linemen has increased by almost 10% since 2011.

According to the Department of Labor, the highest-paying states for linemen, based on the average salary in 2015, include:


  • Average – $85,040.
  • Top ten percent – $98,970.


  • Average – $87,240.
  • Top ten percent – $109,990.


  • Average – $83,340.
  • Top ten percent – $99,020.


  • Average – $86,960.
  • Top ten percent – $105,700.


  • Average – $96,070.
  • Top ten percent – $123,800.

Eight out of the top-10 cities with the highest average salaries were in California.

Sacramento has the highest average salary in the nation, $103,380.

The following salaries are provided as an example of what you can find in the job market.

These data dates back to July 2016, and is provided for illustrative purposes of what properly credentialed linemen can make:

  • Electric distribution mechanic with the City of Los Angeles: $73,205 – $120,707.
  • Apprentice lineman with Entergy in Dayton, Texas: $52,062.
  • Experienced lineman with North Houston Pole and Line in Texas: $68,640 – $81,120.
  • High voltage electrician with the Department of the Army in Fort Campbell, Kentucky: $47,674 – $55,640.
  • Lineman in training with Southern Company in Atlanta, Georgia: $57,828.
  • Electric line technician with the Town of Apex in North Carolina: $36,421 – $57,054.

Careers Opportunities

The number of electrical power-line repairers and installers increased by almost 10%.

The major employment industries for them include:

  • Building equipment contractors.
  • Utility system construction.
  • Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution.
  • Local government agencies.
  • Natural gas distribution.

The largest job markets including well-known employers for linemen in the nation:

Houston, Texas

  • Novinium.
  • TradeStar Inc.
  • North Houston Pole Line.
  • Saber Power Services.
  • Great Southwestern Construction Inc.

Miami, Florida

  • NextEra Energy, Inc.
  • Cenergy Partners.
  • Pike Electric, Inc.
  • Decisive Communications, Inc.
  • Florida Power and Light.

Denver, Colorado

  • Denver Transit Operators.
  • CableCom.
  • Xcel Energy.
  • Contract Engineering Services, Inc.
  • Pauley Construction.

Charlotte, North Carolina

  • Pike Electric, Inc.
  • IES Communications.
  • Utility Lines Construction Services, Inc.
  • TelForce Group.
  • Globe Communications.

San Jose, California

  • IES Communications.
  • Cupertino Electric, Inc.
  • CableCom.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric.
  • Golden State Utility Company.

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