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According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines deliver electricity throughout the U.S.
That amount is enough to circle the entire planet over 15 times.
It does not even include the local connections within communities, cities, and neighborhoods.
The power grid is the mechanism that distributes electricity from power stations to consumers.
The U.S. heavily relies on hundreds of thousands of power-line miles to preserve modern standards of living and keep the industry going.
And so, a lot of linemen engage in the maintenance, repair, and upgrade of the power infrastructure of the nation.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 236,600 line workers were employed in 2014.
Another 13,600 are expected to join the workforce within the decade, through 2024.
Outside linemen are known by many titles:
- Electrical power-line workers
- Overhead lineman/lineperson
- Overhead distribution lineman/lineperson
- Utility line electrician
- Electric line technician
- High voltage electrician
- Aerial lineman/lineperson
Below, you’ll learn the duties an outside lineman performs and how you can become one.
Duties of Outside Lineman
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-state.
They have to work under various weather conditions, such as rain, extreme heat, snow, and freezing temps.
Typically, the worse the weather, the more they have to work.
For instance, after an ice storm, families will wait at home for the power to be restored by linemen repairing the power lines.
Some standard duties they perform include the following:
- De-energize electrical power lines
- String overhead wire, including telecommunications cables
- Install cutouts and cross-arms
- Fuzz power lines, use voltmeters and multimeters, and other evaluations to determine if 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
A lineman usually starts 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, allowing you to gain real-world field experience and technical training.
Also, it will prepare you for the journeyman license and, later on, the master electrician license.
In some jurisdictions, linemen aren’t regulated in the same way as electricians, so a license may not be required.
In this case, employers take apprentices and set the training requirements they must meet.
You can find apprenticeships through the Electrical Training ALLIANCE, the largest provider of electrician apprenticeship programs in the U.S.
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.
The common features of the approved programs include:
- Results in the Completion of a Registered Apprenticeship Certificate
- Designed to move apprentices from having no skills to having full entry-level proficiency
- Sponsored by individual employer associations or businesses and may also have an IBEW partnership
- Ensure a standardized level of minimum qualifications
Upon completion, you get a journeyman card issued by the IBEW trade union.
You can apply for it at the local chapter of IBEW with the following qualifications:
- At least 3 ½ years of field experience
- Successfully pass the IBEW exam
With this card, you’ll find it easier to work in various jurisdictions or across state lines.
Many experts in the field chose this career partly because of the high salary offer.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary was $65,650 in 2015, with the top 10% earning $95,990.
Based on past data, these numbers will increase by almost 10% since 2011.
The highest-paying states for linemen are as follows:
- Average – $85,040
- Top 10% – $98,970
- Average – $87,240
- Top 10% – $109,990
- Average – $83,340
- Top 10% – $99,020
- Average – $86,960
- Top 10% – $105,700
- Average – $96,070
- Top 10% – $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 what you can find in the job market as of July 2016.
- Electric distribution mechanic with the City of Los Angeles – $73,205 to $120,707
- Apprentice lineman with Entergy in Dayton, Texas – $52,062
- Experienced lineman with North Houston Pole and Line in Texas – $68,640 to $81,120
- High voltage electrician with the Department of the Army in Fort Campbell, Kentucky – $47,674 to $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 to $57,054
The number of outside linemen will increase by almost 10%.
The top industries with the highest employment for linemen include:
- Building equipment contractors
- Utility system construction
- Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution
- Local government agencies
- Natural gas distribution
Here are the largest job markets with well-known employers:
- Houston, Texas
- 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
- 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.
- Pacific Gas and Electric
- Golden State Utility Company
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