Line installers and repairers install or repair electrical power systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics.
What they do
Electrical power-line installers and repairers typically do the following:
- Install, maintain, or repair the power lines that move electricity
- Identify defective devices, voltage regulators, transformers, and switches
- Inspect and test power lines and auxiliary equipment
- String power lines between poles, towers, and buildings
- Climb poles and transmission towers and use truck-mounted buckets to get to equipment
- Operate power equipment when installing and repairing poles, towers, and lines
- Drive work vehicles to job sites
- Follow safety standards and procedures
Telecommunications line installers and repairers typically do the following:
- Install, maintain, or repair telecommunications equipment
- Inspect or test lines or cables
- Lay underground cable, including fiber optic lines, directly in trenches
- Pull cables in underground conduit
- Install aerial cables, including over lakes or across rivers
- Operate power equipment when installing and repairing poles, towers, and lines
- Drive work vehicles to job sites
- Set up service for customers
A complex network of physical power lines and cables provides consumers with electricity, landline telephone communication, cable television, and Internet access. Line installers and repairers, also known as line workers, are responsible for installing and maintaining these networks.
Line installers and repairers can specialize in different areas depending on the type of network and industry in which they work:
Electrical power-line installers and repairers install and maintain the power grid—the network of power lines that moves electricity from generating plants to customers. They routinely work with high-voltage electricity, which requires extreme caution. The electrical current can range from hundreds of thousands of volts for long-distance transmission lines that make up the power grid to less than 10,000 volts for distribution lines that supply electricity to homes and businesses.
Line workers who maintain the interstate power grid work in crews that travel to locations throughout a large region to service transmission lines and towers. Workers employed by local utilities work mainly with lower voltage distribution lines, maintaining equipment such as transformers, voltage regulators, and switches. They also may work on traffic lights and streetlights.
Telecommunications line installers and repairers install and maintain the lines and cables used by network communications companies. Depending on the service provided—local and long-distance telephone, cable television, or Internet—telecommunications companies use different types of cables, including fiber optic cables. Unlike metallic cables that carry electricity, fiber optic cables are made of glass and transmit signals using light. Working with fiber optics requires special skills, such as the ability to splice and terminate optical cables. In addition, workers use specialized equipment to test and troubleshoot cables and networking equipment.
Because these systems are complicated, many line workers also specialize by duty:
Line installers install new cable. They may work for construction contractors, utilities, or telecommunications companies. Workers generally start a new job by digging underground trenches or erecting utility poles and towers to carry the wires and cables. They use a variety of construction equipment, including digger derricks, which are trucks equipped with augers and cranes used to dig holes and set poles in place. Line installers also use trenchers, cable plows, and directional bore machines, which are used to cut openings in the earth to lay underground cables. Once the poles, towers, tunnels, or trenches are ready, workers install the new cable.
Line repairers are employed by utilities and telecommunications companies that maintain existing power and telecommunications lines. Maintenance needs may be identified in a variety of ways, including remote monitoring, aerial inspections, and by customer reports of service outages. Line repairers often must replace aging or outdated equipment, so many of these workers have installation duties in addition to their repair duties.
When a problem is reported, line repairers must identify the cause and fix it. This usually involves diagnostic testing using specialized equipment and repair work. To work on poles, line installers usually use bucket trucks to raise themselves to the top of the structure, although all line workers must be adept at climbing poles and towers when necessary. Workers use special safety equipment to keep them from falling when climbing utility poles and towers.
Storms and other natural disasters can cause extensive damage to power lines. When power is lost, line repairers must work quickly to restore service to customers.
The work of line installers and repairers can be physically demanding. Line installers must be comfortable working at great heights and in confined spaces. Despite the help of bucket trucks, all line workers must be able to climb utility poles and transmission towers and balance while working on them.
Their work often requires that they drive utility vehicles, travel long distances, and work outdoors.
Line installers and repairers often must work under challenging weather conditions, such as in snow, wind, rain, and extreme heat and cold, in order to keep electricity and telecommunications flowing.
How to become a Line Installer and/or Repairer
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for entry-level positions, but most line installers and repairers need technical instruction and long-term on-the-job training to become proficient. Apprenticeships are also common.
Most companies require line installers and repairers to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers prefer candidates with basic knowledge of algebra and trigonometry. In addition, technical knowledge of electricity or electronics obtained through military service, vocational programs, or community colleges can also be helpful.
Many community colleges offer programs in telecommunications, electronics, or electricity. Some programs work with local companies to offer 1-year certificates that emphasize hands-on fieldwork.
More advanced 2-year associate’s degree programs provide students with a broad knowledge of the technology used in telecommunications and electrical utilities. These programs offer courses in electricity, electronics, fiber optics, and microwave transmission.
Electrical line installers and repairers often must complete apprenticeships or other employer training programs. These programs, which can last up to 3 years, combine on-the-job training with technical instruction and are sometimes administered jointly by the employer and the union representing the workers. For example, the Electrical Training Alliance offers apprenticeship programs in four specialty areas. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:
- Minimum age of 18
- High school education or equivalent
- One year of algebra
- Qualifying score on an aptitude test
- Pass substance abuse screening
Line installers and repairers who work for telecommunications companies typically receive several years of on-the-job training. They also may be encouraged to attend training from equipment manufacturers, schools, unions, or industry training organizations.
Although not mandatory, certification for line installers and repairers is also available from several associations. For example, BICSI offers certification for line installers and repairers, and the Electrical Training ALLIANCE offers certification for line installers and repairers in several specialty areas.
Workers who drive heavy company vehicles usually need a commercial driver’s license.
The median annual wage for electrical power-line installers and repairers was $72,520 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,810, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,500.
Overall employment of line installers and repairers is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029.
Employment of telecommunications line installers and repairers is expected to decrease over the decade due to new technological developments in wireless broadband services and the development of the 5G mobile broadband network, reducing the need for hard-wired telecommunication lines. Employment is projected to decline in the telecommunications industry, as consumers increasingly demand wireless and mobile services instead of landline-based services.
Employment of electrical power-line installers and repairers is expected to grow, largely due to growing population and expanding cities. With each new housing development or office park, new electric power lines are installed and will require maintenance. In addition, the interstate power grid will continue to become more complex to ensure reliability.
Similar Job Titles
Electrical: A Class Lineman, Apprentice Lineman Third Step, Class A Lineman, Electric Lineman, Electrical Lineman (Power), Electrical Lineworker, Journeyman Lineman, Lineman, Lineworker, Power Lineman
Telecommunications: Cable Splicer, Cable Technician, Cable Television Technician (Cable TV Tech), Combination Technician, Field Service Technician, Installation and Repair Technician (I & R Technician), Installer, Lineman, Outside Plant Technician, Service Technician
Electrical: Pipefitter and Steamfitter, Control and Valve Installer and Repairer (except Mechanical Door), Maintenance and Repair Worker-General, Commercial Diver, Ship Engineer
Telecommunications: Boilermaker, Telecommunications Equipment Installer and Repairer, Security and Fire Alarm Systems Installer, Recreational Vehicle Service Technician, Locksmith and Safe Repairer
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
- National Electrical Contractors Association
- Telecommunications Industry Association
Magazines and Publications
Electricity… telephone… cable TV… Internet... the communication lines that support access to these modern essentials are in constant use. Line installers and repairers maintain the power systems and cables needed to keep access flowing. The power grid is the network of power lines that moves electricity from generating plants to customers. Electrical power-line installers and repairers install and maintain the power grid. Telecommunications line installers and repairers work on the lines and cables used by network communications companies. Line installers dig underground trenches and erect poles and towers to install new cable. They use construction equipment, such as trucks equipped with augers and cranes, to dig holes and set poles in place. Line repairers replace old equipment and maintain existing lines. The work can be physically demanding. Work is often performed at great heights or in confined spaces, and outdoors under challenging weather conditions. Workers need good balance, and the strength to climb utility poles and transmission towers. Line workers maintain strict safety procedures, as they encounter hazards such as falls, high-voltages or dangerous gases, which make the occupation among the most dangerous. Although most work regular full-time business hours, some must work evenings and weekends. Some workers travel to maintain a large region. In emergencies workers may have to work long hours for several days in a row. Most entry level positions require a high school diploma or equivalent; line installers and repairers receive long-term on-the-job training to become fully proficient.
On a daily basis, businesses and individuals send and receive vast amounts of data through online communications. Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers install and service this equipment. Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers— also called telecom technicians— set up and maintain equipment that carries communications signals, connects to telephone lines, and accesses the Internet. They also demonstrate and explain the use of equipment to customers and keep records of jobs they’ve completed. Job tasks for these technicians vary depending on their specialization: Central office technicians maintain switches, routers, fiber optic cable, and other equipment at switching hubs, called central offices. “Headend” technicians work at distribution centers for cable and television companies. They monitor cable network signals and maintain networking equipment to ensure proper transmission. Station installers and repairers set up telecommunications equipment in homes and businesses and troubleshoot equipment problems if they come up. Most telecom technicians work full time. At companies that provide services 24/7, shift work is typical, and may include evenings, holidays, and weekends— with some workers on call around the clock. Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers typically need technical training in electronics, telecommunications, or computer technology. Courses are usually offered at community colleges and technical schools. For some positions, industry certification is helpful. Once hired, telecom technicians receive on-the-job training.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org