About the Job
A line installer, also known as a line worker, is the one responsible for installing, repairing, and maintaining power lines and cables. Everywhere you go, there are power lines and cables that provide people with electricity, phones, cable television, and Internet. Line installers can also specialize in different areas depending on the industry.
What You’ll Do
Electrical power-line installers and repairers install, maintain, and repair the electrical grid – the network of power lines that provide electricity to homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and other buildings. They work with high-voltage lines and transformers, underground conduits, and highly specialized equipment. Line workers tend to travel around within their designated region in order to make sure that everything is running smoothly and that there are no outages. They may also work on traffic-signal lights and streetlights.
Telecommunications line installers and repairers install, maintain, and repair lines used by communications companies such as cable television, telephone, or Internet. Some of these lines are fiber-optic, and instead of carrying electricity, they transmit signals using light. Working with these lines requires specific training to learn how to splice and terminate the cables.
Because both types of systems are complicated, many line workers specialize according to their job duties.
The following are examples of types of line installers:
- 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 in the ground 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 employed by utility and telecommunications companies maintain existing lines. Maintenance needs can be identified in a variety of ways, including by remote monitoring, by aerial inspections, and by customer reports of service outages. Line repairers must often replace aging or outdated equipment, so many of these workers have installation duties in addition to their repair duties.When a problem is reported, line repairers must identify the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.
Qualities and Skills Needed
Ability to see all colors
A high school diploma is required to become either type of line worker. Most of the time, the worker will be trained on the job by his or her company. Long-term on-the-job and technical training will help a worker advance in his or her career. Apprenticeships are also common.
Math skills in algebra and trigonometry are highly desirable assets, as well as technical training from apprenticeships, community colleges, or stand-alone courses on electricity or electronics. Many community colleges partner with companies to offer one-year certificates with an emphasis on hands-on training and experience.
Associate degrees that provide students with training in telecommunications and electrical utilities are also accepted and may offer job searchers a boost. These programs typically include courses in electricity, electronics, fiber optics, and microwave transmission.
Electrical line workers usually complete apprenticeships or employee training programs in order to become more skilled. Such programs can last up to three years and can combine on-the-job training with technical instruction. This training may take place through a partnership between the employer and a training program. An apprentice may then test for a journeyman’s license. Advanced licensure allows the line installer or repairer to work without supervision. Many go on to become first-line supervisors or trainers.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not mandatory, certification for line installers and repairers is also available from several associations. For example, the Electrical Training ALLIANCE offers certification for line installers and repairers in several specialty areas.
In addition, The Fiber Optic Association (FOA) offers two levels of fiber optic certification for telecommunications line installers and repairers.
Workers who drive heavy-duty company vehicles usually need a commercial driver’s license.
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The average salary is $62,400 but will vary depending on experience and training.