How To Become a Lineworker in 7 Steps

Updated June 30, 2023

Lineworkers perform essential services, sometimes in dangerous conditions, to connect or repair electricity for homes and businesses. Learning about the duties, skills and steps to become a lineworker can help you plan your career.

In this article, we describe the duties, salary and job outlook for a lineworker, the steps you can take to become a lineworker and skills you can use in a lineworker career.

Key takeaways:

  • A lineworker is an electrician who installs and repairs power lines that are either strung above ground or buried underground.

  • Some tools that lineworkers use are personal protective grounding equipment, hand tools, climbing belts and bucket trucks.

  • If you have earned your high school diploma or GED and have a driver's license, you may also need to attend a trade school, complete an aptitude test, participate in an apprenticeship program or earn additional certifications to become a lineworker.

What is a lineworker?

A lineworker is a type of electrician who works for utility, telecommunications or energy companies to maintain, repair and install power lines. They can work on power lines that are strung on poles above ground or power lines buried underground.

Read more: Electrician Skills: Definition and Examples

What does a lineworker do?

Below is a list of job duties for a lineworker:

  • Drive utility vehicles to work sites

  • Climb poles to service power lines

  • Service transmission and distribution lines from power plants to buildings

  • Plan and supervise installation projects

  • Install electrical equipment for power systems

  • Repair aboveground and below-ground power lines

  • Maintain power lines through regular inspections

  • Manage apprentices and groundsmen

  • Ensure job site follows government and company safety rules

Read more: 50 of the Best Outdoor Jobs

What tools does a lineworker use?

Here's a list of tools and equipment lineworkers use to perform their job duties:

  • Hand tools: Lineworkers use hand tools like wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, wire stripping tools and bolt cutters to service power lines. A lineworker's tools are insulated using a nonconductive substance like rubber, plastic or nylon to protect them from electric shock.

  • Personal protective grounds: Lineworkers can also use grounding equipment like clamps, cables, clusters and ferrules to stay safe while servicing power lines.

  • Climbing belt: A lineworker can wear a climbing belt to scale poles and service power lines safely.

  • Other climbing gear: A lineworker can use gaffs, straps and climbing spikes to scale utility poles safely.

  • Hard hats: Lineworkers wear hard hats to protect them from falls, since they can work from tall heights.

  • Gloves: Wearing insulated gloves can help lineworkers stay safe from electrocution while they work.

  • Bucket truck: Lineworkers for utility, energy and telecommunications companies can drive bucket trucks that allow them to access power lines strung on poles.

Salary and job outlook for a lineworker

According to Indeed Salaries, the average base salary for a lineworker is $24.16 per hour. They can also earn additional pay through overtime compensation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the lineworker occupation will show little to no change from 2020-2030.

How to become a lineworker

Here is a list of steps you can take to become a lineworker:

1. Earn a high school diploma or GED

The first step to becoming a lineworker is to earn a high school diploma or GED. If you don't have a GED, you can take classes to study for the test and pass each subject test to earn a GED.

Read more: GED vs. High School Diploma: What's the Difference?

2. Get a driver's license

During an apprenticeship, you may need to drive for hours to get to job sites in your training region. Getting a driver's license can allow you to get the number of apprenticeship hours your state requires.

3. Attend a trade school

Optionally, some experts recommend that aspiring lineworkers enter a trade school, sometimes called a "pre-apprenticeship," in order to gain essential knowledge and skills to use during a lineworker apprenticeship. It can take anywhere from two months to a year to complete a pre-apprenticeship for a lineworker career. Here are some of the skills you can learn in a trade school:

  • Equipment repair: You can learn to fix and replace damaged or aging electrical equipment.

  • Climbing: You can learn to climb poles safely during a pre-apprenticeship.

  • Tools: A trade school can also teach you how to properly use the tools lineworkers use daily.

  • Cable splicing: A trade school can also teach you to splice cables together to form longer cables or repair existing electrical networks.

  • Reading voltages: Another lineworker skill you can learn in a trade school is how to use tools to read voltages in electrical systems.

  • Line tension: You can learn to calculate the tension of a line before hoisting equipment to ensure a job's safety.

4. Take an aptitude test

You can take an aptitude test to gain entry to an apprenticeship program after obtaining a high school diploma or GED. Lineworker aptitude tests have math and reading comprehension questions that can measure your critical thinking and analytical skills.

If you score high enough on an aptitude test, depending on your state, you can also have an interview for an apprenticeship. You can bring your resume to the interview to show your current qualifications and work experience.

5. Begin an apprenticeship program

Once you're accepted into an apprenticeship program, you can begin working as a paid apprentice under journeyman lineworkers who can teach you the knowledge and skills you need to pass your apprenticeship. A lineworker apprenticeship takes about 7,000 hours of hands-on work and training classes, or about four years, to complete in most states. Here are some trade skills you can learn in a lineworker apprenticeship:

  • Job safety: You can learn the government safety regulations and best practices for lineworkers during an apprenticeship. For example, you can learn how to use personal protective equipment to keep you safe around live wires.

  • Line assembly: An apprenticeship can teach you how to build and install power lines and towers.

  • Pole building: You can also learn how to frame and assemble wooden poles for utility lines in an apprenticeship.

  • Maintenance: During your apprenticeship, you can learn how to properly maintain conductors, telephone lines, street lights and elements of traffic control systems, like traffic lights.

  • Installation: A journeyman lineworker or master electrician can teach you to install wires and other hardware into energy, telephone, traffic control and street light systems.

  • Wire insulation: You can also learn how to insulate wires safely during a lineworker apprenticeship.

  • Conductor use: During an apprenticeship, you can learn how to remain safe while using conductors.

  • Hot stick work: You can learn how to use a fiberglass hot stick to stay a safe distance away from high-distribution voltages.

6. Earn certifications

Optionally, you can earn extra certifications that can help you gain more safety knowledge and perform your lineworker duties. Earning the following certifications can help you get a job as a journeyman lineworker:

  • Commercial driver's license: A CDL can allow you to drive large utility trucks that governments use to service power lines.

  • OSHA certification: You can earn an OSHA certification to show employers your knowledge of safety regulations for electrical work.

7. Become a journeyman lineworker

Once you've completed the required hours of experience in an apprenticeship, you can be eligible to become a journeyman lineworker. Some states require you to get a license to become a lineworker, so you can use your knowledge from your apprenticeship to obtain a license and begin working independently to repair, replace and maintain power infrastructure.

Skills for a lineworker

Whether you're considering a career as a lineworker or you want to improve your job performance, here are some hard and soft skills you can use in a career as a lineworker:

Hard skills for a lineworker

Below is a list of hard skills lineworkers can use on the job:

  • Physical strength: A lineworker can climb to reach electrical lines as you haul heavy gear, so physical strength can help you perform your duties as a lineworker.

  • Comfort at heights: Lineworkers work from 100 or more feet in the air to service electrical lines, so comfort at heights is an asset to aspiring lineworkers.

  • Math skills: You can use math skills to pass an apprenticeship aptitude test and to solve everyday problems you face on the job as a lineworker.

  • Reading skills: Lineworkers can use reading skills to interpret wiring diagrams. You can also use reading skills to pass a lineworker apprenticeship test.

  • Tree trimming: A lineworker can trim branches away from power lines to prevent electrical outages or injuries, so experience with landscaping equipment is a plus.

  • Equipment maintenance: Lineworkers can care for their equipment with regular maintenance to ensure it's ready for use.

  • Project management: A lineworker can use project management skills to develop and oversee large installation projects.

Soft skills for a lineworker

Here are some soft skills that lineworkers can use in their careers:

  • Critical thinking: Lineworkers can work with electricity in dangerous conditions like rain or snow. Critical thinking can prevent accidents during these situations.

  • Time management: Deadlines are common in the lineworker profession. Time management can help you meet deadlines.

  • Detail orientation: Being detail-oriented can help you learn the complicated electrical knowledge needed in your apprenticeship and apply it to your lineworker duties.

  • Independence: A journeyman lineworker can work without supervision, so independence can help you thrive in this career.

Jobs similar to a lineworker

If you're interested in becoming a lineworker or working in a related field, there are several job options you might consider. Here's a list of 10 jobs similar to a lineworker:

1. Electrician
2. Power plant operator
3. Installer technician
4. Aerial lineworker
5. Assembler
6. Construction worker
7. Industrial mechanic
8. Electrical inspector
9. Wind turbine technician
10. Carpenter

Discover Indeed’s top resources for construction talent including career advice, sample resumes, job search quick links and more.


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