Electricians - Power Utility and High Voltage Line

Line installers and repairers, also known as line workers, install or repair electrical power systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics.

What Do Power Utility and High Voltage Line Electricians Do?

Duties

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 street lights.

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.

Career Snapshot

Power Utility and High Voltage Line Electricians typically install and repairers electrical power systems, distribution systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics. This job may require the workers to erect poles and light or heavy-duty transmission towers. All work performed by such an electrician must meet the regulations of the National Electrical Code.

(Workers in this construction sub-sector may also be titled: A Class Lineman, Apprentice Lineman Third Step, Class A Lineman, Electric Lineman, Electrical Lineman (Power), Electrical Lineworker, Journeyman Lineman, Lineman, Lineworker, Power Lineman)

Power Utility and High Voltage Line Electrician work may be divided into further job sub-sectors such as:

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.

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.

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

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.

Job Details

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

Education and Experience

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.

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.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay for electrical power-line: In May 2019 an industrial and contractor electrician earned an average salary of $72,500
  • Annual pay for telecommunications line: In May 2019 an industrial and contractor electrician earned an average salary of $56,700
  • Employment of industrial and contractor electricians is projected to grow 4% from 2018 to 2028
  • Entry-level education: A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for entry-level positions

Career Growth Opportunity

After three to four years of working, qualified line workers reach the journey level. A journey-level line worker is no longer considered an apprentice and can perform most tasks without supervision. Journey-level line workers also may qualify for positions at other companies. Workers with many years of experience may become first-line supervisors or trainers.

Professional Associations

  • American Public Power Association - The American Public Power Association is the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 2,000 towns and cities nationwide.
  • Center for Energy Workforce Development – This organization provides a career pathway and detailed information geared toward the needs of specific audiences interested in this career sub-sector.
  • Telecommunications Industry Association - TIA brings together communities of interest across Technology, Government Affairs, Standards, and Business Performance to shape solutions, facilitate programs, and provide products and services that enable high-speed networks and accelerate next-generation Information and Communications Technology (ICT) innovation across all markets.
  • Building Industry Consulting Service International - BICSI is a professional association supporting the advancement of the information and communications technology (ICT) profession and currently serves more than 26,000 members and credential holders.
  • The Fiber Optic Association - The FOA is a, international non-profit educational association chartered to promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards.
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - IEEE’s core purpose is to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.
  • Electrical Training ALLIANCE - The Electrical Training ALLIANCE is the largest apprenticeship and training program of its kind, having trained over 350,000 apprentices to journeyman status through local affiliate programs.
  • Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
  • Independent Electrical Contractors - The mission of IEC is to be dedicated to the success and advancement of our members within the independent electrical industry.
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - The IBEW represents approximately 775,000 active members and retirees who work in a wide variety of fields, including utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads and government.
  • National Electrical Contractors Association - NECA members are electrical contractors who work in all aspects of electrical construction. While most qualify as small businesses; large, multi-area electrical contracting firms are also members of the association.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • National Association of Home Builders - NAHB represents the largest network of craftsmen, innovators and problem solvers dedicated to building and enriching communities operating at the local, state and national levels.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals. Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The Associated General Contractors of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry.
  • National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies - Search here for NASCLA accredited electrical examination programs.

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