Ever see a worker scale a utility pole or get lifted in a bucket attached to a truck?
Well, those are linemen (or women) who install, maintain and repair electrical power lines and cables. Thanks to their good work, you can microwave your pizza and stream movies on Netflix in the comfort of your home.
Lineman jobs come in several flavors:
- Power line workers install and maintain the overhead network of wires that bring electricity from power plants to homes and businesses. They put in new poles and wires, perform routine maintenance and fix problems. In short, they work to keep the lights on.
- Line installers put up the utility poles and wires that carry electricity. They use lots of different construction equipment to dig holes in the ground, plant the utility poles and string the wires across the poles. They also replace older equipment when needed.
- Line repairers usually work for a utility company to maintain existing power lines. They’re also called to do emergency repairs when utility poles and wires fall victim to high winds, ice storms or car crashes.
Being a lineman is a very physical job. Linemen work at the top of poles carrying or wearing heavy equipment. Of course, they’re outdoors most of the time, sometimes in the kind of weather that has the rest of us curling up inside with a blanket. Oh, and they can’t be afraid of heights.
But lineman jobs are also rewarding! Linemen are highly trained, and they get satisfaction from restoring power, solving problems and being the superheroes we all depend on after a bad storm.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A LINEMAN IN GEORGIA
Lineman jobs include a variety of day-to-day tasks.
- Climb poles and transmission towers, or use truck-mounted buckets, to access power lines and cable
- Use (sometimes) heavy equipment to install, repair and replace power poles and lines
- Troubleshoot problems up on the pole and down on the ground
- Prevent outages by inspecting and testing power lines and the equipment that supports them
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A LINEMAN
Lineman who’ve climbed the ranks along with the utility poles say you’ll need to have:
- Color vision. Turns out, the colors of electrical wires and cables mean something (who knew?!). So workers who handle electrical wires and cables must be able to identify the full spectrum of colors.
- Physical strength and stamina. For linemen to do their jobs, they’re sometimes required to belt-climb up to the top of those utility poles – a technique called “hitchhiking” – while wearing as much as 60 pounds of gear. On the ground, they have to be able to pick up and haul tools, cables and equipment – some of which can be very heavy. In general, linemen put in long days, especially when there’s a storm or emergency.
- Team spirit. Linemen usually work in a crew, so you must be able to play and communicate well with others. Your safety – and that of the crew – depends on it.
- Specialized skills. You’re probably not surprised to hear that working on utility lines can be dangerous. So linemen have to know what they’re doing. That means being familiar with electrical systems and the equipment to diagnose problems as well as the tools to install and repair.
- Problem-solving skills. Why’s the line not working? Linemen have to figure that out.
IS THIS YOU?
Here are a few things to consider as you decide whether a career as a line worker is right for you. You can also check out this YouTube video, “A Day in the Life of a Lineman.”
- Because power lines can go down or need maintenance at any time, each day can be a different job in a different place (and sometimes in a different city or state).
- Team atmosphere. Linemen rarely work alone, so you can always rely on the support and expertise of your squad.
- This is not a desk job by any stretch. Lineman have the advantage (and sometimes the disadvantage) of mainly working outdoors.
- Great views. Hey, not too many jobs involve riding a bucket into the sky!
- Lineman jobs can be physically demanding. Line installers must be comfortable working at great heights and in confined spaces. While those bucket trucks are great, all line workers also must be able to climb utility poles and transmission towers and keep their balance while working on them.
- A lot of times, linemen will work under challenging weather conditions. If ice, wind or rain brought the lines down, guess who often has to go out in that same weather? The lineman.
- Lineman jobs are among the most dangerous occupations. Linemen can encounter high voltage and other hazards on their jobs. They have to put safety first to minimize the danger.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
What’s a typical lineman salary?
In Georgia, line installers and repairers earn an average salary of $50,320 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016).
How do you become a lineman?
Electrical linemen must undergo extensive training, through a technical school, apprenticeship or special program from the employer. Apprenticeships can last up to three years and combine on-the-job training with technical instruction.
To get apprentice lineman jobs, you typically need to be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or legal resident. You’ll need a high school diploma or the equivalent. And you’ll have to pass a drug test and get a qualifying score on an aptitude test. Some schools and programs also require you to have a Class A CDL (commercial driver’s license), which allows you to drive vehicles over 26,001 lbs.
During the technical training (a.k.a. lineman school), you’ll learn things like…
- Basic math and electricity skills
- How circuits, generators and transformers work
- Climbing fundamentals
- How to use line tools and equipment
- How to use safety equipment
FIND A LINEMAN SCHOOL
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and want to go to lineman school at one Georgia’s technical colleges, why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? OK! Bring on the application >
OUTLOOK FOR LINEMEN
Nationally, the demand for linemen is projected to increase by about 6% by 2024, adding 13,700 jobs.
IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR
MEET TYREE: A lineman in Georgia who followed in his father’s footsteps.
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Download this handy PDF for some facts on-the-go.