Line installers and repairers held about 249,400 jobs in 2012. Nearly two-thirds worked in the telecommunications and construction industries.
The industries that employed the most line installers and repairers in 2012 were as follows:
|Wired telecommunications carriers||29%|
|Electric power generation, transmission and distribution||23|
|Utility system construction||18|
|Building equipment contractors||11|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||6|
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.
They often must work under challenging weather conditions, including in snow, wind, rain, and extreme heat and cold, in order to keep electricity flowing.
Injuries and Illnesses
Line workers encounter serious hazards on their jobs and must follow safety procedures to minimize danger. For example, workers must wear safety equipment when entering underground manholes and test for the presence of gas before going underground.
Specifically, electric power-line workers have hazardous jobs. A worker can be electrocuted if he or she comes in contact with a live cable on a high-voltage power line. When workers engage live wires, they use electrically insulated protective devices and tools to minimize their risk.
Power lines are typically higher than telephone lines, increasing the risk of severe injury from a fall. To prevent injuries, line installers use fall-protection equipment when working on poles or towers. Safety procedures and training have significantly reduced the danger for line workers. However, the occupation is still among the most dangerous. As a result, telecommunications and electrical line workers have a rate of injuries and illnesses that is higher than the national average.
Although most work full time during regular business hours, some line installers and repairers must work evenings and weekends. In emergencies or after storms and other natural disasters, workers may have to work long hours for several days in a row.
To become proficient, most line installers and repairers require technical instruction and long-term on-the-job training. Apprenticeships are 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 field work.
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 5 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 National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee 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.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not mandatory, certification for line installers and repairers is also available from several associations. For example, the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee 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 company vehicles usually need a commercial driver’s license.
Entry-level line workers generally begin with an apprenticeship, which includes both classroom training and hands-on work experience. As they learn additional skills from more experienced workers, they may advance to more complex tasks. In time, they advance to more sophisticated maintenance and repair positions in which they are responsible for increasingly large portions of the network.
After 3 to 5 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.
Line installers and repairers typically have an interest in the Building Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a line installer and repairer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Line installers and repairers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Color vision. Workers who handle electrical wires and cables must be able to distinguish colors because the wires and cables are often color coded.
Mechanical skills. Line installers and repairers must have the knowledge and skills to repair or replace complex electrical and telecommunications lines and equipment.
Physical stamina. Line installers and repairers often must climb poles and work at great heights with heavy tools and equipment. Therefore, installers and repairers should be able to work for long periods without tiring easily.
Physical strength. Line installers and repairers must be strong enough to lift heavy tools, cables, and equipment on a regular basis.
Teamwork. Because workers often rely on their fellow crew members for their safety, teamwork is critical.
Technical skills. Line installers use sophisticated diagnostic equipment on circuit breakers, switches, and transformers. They must be familiar with electrical systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them.
Troubleshooting skills. Line installers and repairers must be able to diagnose problems in increasingly complex electrical systems and telecommunication lines.
The median annual wage for line installers and repairers was $58,210 in May 2012. 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 $30,340, and the top 10 percent earned more than $83,590.
The median annual wage for electrical power-line installers and repairers was $63,250 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,500, and the top 10 percent earned more than $89,020.
In May 2012, median annual wages for electrical power-line installers and repairers in the top five industries in which these installers and repairers worked were as follows:
|Natural gas distribution||$85,390|
|Electric power generation, transmission and distribution||65,690|
|Local government, excluding schools and hospitals||59,760|
|Utility system construction||55,930|
|Building equipment contractors||51,440|
The median annual wage for telecommunications line installers and repairers was $51,410 in May 2012. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,620, and the top 10 percent earned more than $76,540.
In May 2012, median annual wages for telecommunications line installers and repairers in the top five industries in which these installers and repairers worked were as follows:
|Wired telecommunications carriers||61,860|
|Building equipment contractors||42,460|
|Cable and other subscription programming||37,800|
|Utility system construction||35,640|
Although most work full time during regular business hours, some line installers may work on evenings and weekends. In emergencies or after storms and other natural disasters, workers may have to work long hours for several days in a row.
Compared with workers in all occupations, line installers and repairers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2012.
Employment of line installers and repairers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty.
Employment of telecommunications line installers and repairers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. As the population grows and customers increasingly demand enhanced connectivity, installers will continue to build out and provide newer and faster telephone, cable, and Internet services. In addition, the growth of the Internet will require more long-distance fiber-optic lines, including interstate and undersea cables.
Employment of electrical power-line installers and repairers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be largely due to the growing population and expansion of 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 grow in complexity to ensure reliability.
Good job opportunities are expected overall. Highly skilled workers with apprenticeship training or a 2-year associate’s degree in telecommunications, electronics, or electricity should have the best job opportunities.
Employment opportunities should be particularly good for electrical power-line installers and repairers, as many workers in this field are expected to retire.
For information about apprenticeships or job opportunities for line installers and repairers, contact local electrical contractors, a local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a local joint union-management apprenticeship committee, or the nearest office of your state employment service or apprenticeship agency. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s toll-free help line, 1 (877) 872-5627 or the Employment and Training Administration.
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