We have a lot of myths about linemen. They’re all big, strong guys who can climb poles and fix wires in the middle of a thunderstorm. In reality, most lineman work is done from trucks or at ground level, and they don’t need to know how to climb poles either. The job has changed over time as well – today, you might spend weeks installing fiber optic cable for new internet service providers before switching gears to help with an outage somewhere else on the grid. It’s not just hard labor anymore – there are some highly technical aspects too that require training or on-the-job experience if you’re going to be good at it. This article will teach you how to become a lineman. So let’s get into it
1. What is a Lineman?
A lineman is a person who works in the electrical power industry. They are responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining the electrical infrastructure. Linemen typically work in dangerous conditions and must be able to work quickly and efficiently to keep the power on.
A lineman’s primary responsibility is to keep the electrical grid operational, and they do this through a combination of hardware installation & repair as well as prevention work. They may install new power lines or maintain existing ones, inspect poles and transformers for damage, fix failed equipment at those locations, and more. Newer technologies such as drones and robotics are being implemented to help them complete their tasks.
Linemen work in a wide variety of environments, but the best conditions are found where it is dry and not too hot or cold. They spend a lot of time outside, so good weather is preferred. The worst possible conditions would be snow and ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.
Some linemen also work indoors, often in substations. However, this still requires them to climb tall structures (like poles) and hang from them at great heights. There is an old saying that it takes “10 feet of ground for every 1 foot off the ground”, meaning that there are many hazards even when you’re just walking around on the ground level.
2. How Dangerous is the Work?
Linemen are often exposed to toxic fumes, dangerous chemicals, and harmful dust particles in their line of work. The dangers associated with electricity such as electrocution, getting shocked, and arc flash also pose a significant risk of injury or death, though modern safety equipment has significantly reduced the frequency of such injuries.
Linemen may also encounter situations involving heavy machinery and breathing in fumes from burning materials. The work can be very hot too, especially when working outside on a sunny day and the temperature soars.
3. What are Some Skills or Characteristics that Make a Good Lineman?
Good eyesight is required to operate in dangerous conditions safely. On-the-spot thinking abilities are important, as a lineman must be able to think quickly when faced with a problem that requires them to exercise their judgment at that moment. They need to have an in-depth knowledge of the infrastructure they work on.
Linemen usually start very young, and most high schools in the US do not offer training specific to this job. It is possible for someone who is interested in taking the training classes offered at technical schools upon graduation, but they usually start their careers working under an experienced lineman to learn the job.
4. How to Become a Lineman?
In order to become a lineman, there are many steps that need to be taken. The first step is starting out as an apprentice lineman with one of the many companies that provide this service. Typically, apprentices are hired for two-year terms and must complete at least 1,000 hours of fieldwork over their tenure before taking the lineman exam. If they pass the exam, they can apply for a position on their company’s line crew or move on to another company if desired.
After gaining experience as a lineman for one or more years, the next step is to take the International Lineman’s Rodeo (ILR) certification exam. The ILR certification exam tests linemen’s knowledge in many areas such as transmission and distribution construction safety, equipment operation safety, tower erection safety, material handling safety, work practices, etc. This exam is required to gain employment with some companies and is generally required before advancing in the industry. The ILR certification exam costs $100 per person, and the written test is given 3 times a year (February, June & October) at various locations around the country.
Now that you are an established lineman with experience and ILR certification, you are ready to advance into specialized positions within the industry. Some examples of specialization include your own company, working for utility providing services, attending college to receive an engineering degree, or becoming a lineman instructor at a training center.
5. The Benefits of Being a Lineman
Some of the benefits of being a lineman include:
- A lineman’s job is dependable. It offers employment often during times of growth or advancement in the economy.
- A lineman works with people, not machines.
- Learning opportunities are available to increase an individual’s knowledge and expertise.
- The work itself is rewarding because linemen are helping society provide essential utility services that people depend on every day.
- Work is safe, and a lineman has a good chance to stay injury-free.
- The job provides an opportunity for community service.
- There are usually multiple employers in the area, so there is no shortage of work opportunities.
- The work schedule does not conflict with school or daycare hours, providing additional flexibility
6. The Challenges of Being a Lineman
Some of the challenges of being a lineman include:
- Working in all weather conditions
- High voltage around the line equipment
- Walking or working on steep terrain
- Keeping vegetation under control for clear electrical transmission lines
- Delivering supplies to the line camps by truck, plane, boat, ATV (quad), snowmobile, and helicopter
- sometimes in challenging locations
- Possibility of the line camps being inaccessible for a period of time
- A high-risk occupation
7. Salary of Linemen
Linemen can make from 40,000 dollars to 70,000 dollars a year. The actual salaries of linemen will be more in northern states of America, where electricity is very common. They can make between 50,000 and 80,000 dollars a year. On the other hand, a trained new college graduate with a lot of experience may start the career with 40,000 dollars.
The salary of linemen may vary depending on the experience he gained in this field. The experienced lineman will have more than five years of experience and can take around 50,000 to 80,000 dollars per year.
While working overtime is an integral part of this profession, time spent each week doing so is more important than just simply adding on to an already high base pay figure. Some linemen report putting in 80 hours or more per week, with only one day off during an entire month. This type of work schedule is likely to result in higher earnings for the lineman.
A new college graduate with four years of experience can make around 55,000 to 85,000 dollars per year. The exact salary will vary depending on location and company.
8. The Job Outlook for a Lineman
A lineman is a professional who is responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical systems and equipment. They work in a wide range of industries, including construction, telecommunications, and utilities. The job outlook for a lineman is very good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for linemen is expected to grow by 12% from 2016 to 2026. This is much faster than the average for all occupations. At the same time, there is expected to be a shortage of nearly 50 000 qualified people entering the workforce.
9. Top Recruiting Companies for a Lineman
Some of the top recruiting companies for a lineman include:
- AECOM Technical Services
- Baker Hughes PLC
- Fluor Corporation
- National Oilwell Varco, Inc
- Nabors Industries Ltd
- Cameron International Corporation
- Siemens AG
- TICONDEROGA TOTAL CONSTRUCTION USA LLC
- CB&I Services Inc
- DOWDUPONT INC – TECHNIP
10. Best Colleges for a Lineman
- Union College – The first school we looked at was Union College in Schenectady, New York. This school has a program that offers an Associate degree in Electrical Engineering Technology or Electronics Engineering Technology with concentrations in Industrial Systems or Transmission & Distribution Systems (Level II). Graduates are fully qualified to take the examination of ECIET (Electrician Certification Institute) Level I, which is required by many employers when hiring new linemen. Other programs include Construction Management Technologies and Liberal Arts.
- California State University, East Bay – The next school on our list of best colleges for linemen is California State University in Hayward, CA. This college has a Labor Studies department that offers an Electrical Engineering Technology program which provides students with the skills needed to work in different fields of electrical engineering (industrial controls, power generation, and distribution). Other programs include Construction Management Technologies and Liberal Arts.
- SUNY College of Technology – The next college on our list is the State University of New York in Delhi, NY. This school has a program that provides students with Powerline Technician training which prepares them for careers as lineman or substation operators. Graduates can sit for ECIET Level II certification and for the United States Substation Operator Certification (USSO) examination. Other programs include Construction Management Technologies and Liberal Arts.
- Arkansas State University – The next school on our list is Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR. This college has a program that prepares students to take the ECIET Level I certification exam as well as USSO certification. The program provides students with the skills needed to become an Operations Supervisor, Line Construction Technician, Line Equipment Installer, or Substation Operator. Other programs include Construction Management Technologies and Liberal Arts.
- Northern Michigan University – Our next school on the list is Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI. This college has a Labor Studies program that offers an Electrical Engineering Technology degree with areas of concentration in Transmission & Distribution and Industrial Controls. Other programs include Construction Management Technologies and Liberal Arts.
The lineman career path is a fulfilling and lucrative one, but it does require some training. If you’re interested in this profession, the first thing to do is look for an electric utility company that has a formal apprenticeship program. Once accepted into the program, your hours will be spent on on-the-job training with experienced linemen who can teach you all of their secrets to success. You’ll also spend time in classrooms learning about safety procedures and how to use proper tools like power linesman’s pliers or crimpers correctly. The more work experience you have as a lineman apprentice before becoming licensed by the state, the better off you’ll be when confronted with new challenges out there on those poles high above the ground!