What is a Lineman (And How Much Do They Make)?


What is a Lineman (Lineworker)?

A lineman (also known as a lineworker, linesman, powerline worker or powerline technician) is someone who installs and repairs cables or wires used in electrical power or distribution systems. A lineworker’s work may include the installation and maintenance of telecommunications lines (cable, internet and phone), telegraph, or electric power lines.

A lineman will usually work for energy companies, telecommunications companies, or utility companies. They report to a group of supervisors or managers who ensure that the electrical lines are properly installed and maintained.

Daily responsibilities of a Linemen include:

  • Installation and repair of overhead power lines
  • Installation and repair of underground power lines
  • Installation, maintenance, and repair of other electrical subsystems and components
  • Design and layout of electrical systems (Advanced Lineman)

Lineman are a specialized class of electrical worker, to the extent that there are specialized lineman schools. Lineman even have their own dedicated set of electrical pliers and lineman boots named after them!

Lineman Salary

Considering a career as a lineman? Here’s something to light up your interest: the average lineman earns a solid $69,380 annually, with top earners taking home up to $98,190! Even at the start, linemen make a respectable $37,600. These figures aren’t just impressive; they’re a testament to the value and demand for these indispensable professionals.

The highest earning states for Linemen in terms of annual wages are Alaska ($86,130), Oregon ($89,300) and California ($94,730). By 2024, the lineman occupation is expected to have a 6% growth rate.

How To Become A Lineman

When deciding on becoming a lineman, there are two options:

  • Going to Linesman School or
  • Getting a Linesman Apprenticeship

We’ll dive into both options so you can find out which one best suits you.

What is Lineman School?

A lineman school (or lineman college) gives future linesman the knowledge and understanding of what a lineman does before applying to an apprenticeship. Budding lineman learn how to climb poles, how to use the tools of the trade, and learn day to day tasks of a lineman.

You don’t need a formal degree from a college or university to become a lineman. For those who don’t want to pay thousands of dollars to pay for college, or aren’t interested in taking the “college route”, becoming an electrical lineman is a great option.

How Long Is Lineman School?

Lineman school is typically a 10-15 week program, although this varies depending on which lineman school you go to. Northwest Lineman College, Southeast Lineman Training Center, and NATL (North American Lineman Training Center) all have 15 week school programs. After this, you can apply for a lineman apprenticeship.

The California-Nevada Power Lineman Apprenticeship Program is a four year “earn while you learn” school consisting of a minimum of 7,000 hours of on-the-job training and related academic classes. This gives you the option to spread out your schooling over a longer time period.

Lineman School Cost

Even though lineman are well paid, it’s important to know how much lineman school costs. This can vary from school to school, so we’ve compared some of the most popular lineman school’s fees in the table below (all numbers are in $USD):

Lineman SchoolApplication FeeTuition Fee*Lineman Tools & Other EquipmentTotal Cost
Linemen Institute of the North East$110$10,890$5,517$16,517
Southeast Lineman Training Center$100$10,440$4,455$14,995
North American Lineman Training Center$100$8,700$2,455$11,255
Northwest Lineman College$100$14,550N/A$17,450
California-Nevada JATCN/A$12,250N/A$12,250

*Note that we have included the lineman school’s “Lab Fee” in the Tuition Fee where applicable.

† The California-Nevada Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JTAC) has stated that:

“There are no out-of-pocket tuition costs associated with the California-Nevada Power Lineman Apprenticeship Program. All tuition fees ($12,250) are waived if you work for a contributing contractor for a period of five years or 8,000 hours after completing step six of the seven-step program.”

Although they state that “apprentices are required to provide their own hand tools and climbing tools.” See their website for more information (alternatively we have guides on the best wire strippers and list of tools that you may find useful).

Lineman Apprenticeship

To become a lineman apprentice, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or GED certificate
  • Submit an application to your local Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC)

Depending on where you live, some JATCs have additional requirements such as a grade of C or better in algebra and a Class A CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). Once you apply to an apprenticeship program, you will have an interview and safety orientation before being paired with power company linemen and starting your on-the-job training and classroom instruction.

Another way to start becoming a lineman is by contacting your local contractor.

You could either cold-call them by opening your local yellow-pages and giving them a call. Or you could ask your family and friends if they know anyone working as an electrical professional. Even if they’re not a lineman, they have a much higher change of knowing one.

Once you get on the phone with a lineman or a lineman contracting company, ask them if they are accepting any apprenticeships.

To get into one, you’ll generally need a high school diploma or a GED. You can increase your chances substantially by studying at a 2-year community college majoring in electrical distribution theory.

Once you’ve been accepted for a lineman apprentice, you’ll go through a 7-year apprenticeship to before become a full-time lineman.

Is Being a Lineman Dangerous?

Yes. Lineman are listed in the top 10 civilian occupations with highest fatal work injuries according to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries conducted by the US Department Of Labor. This doesn’t mean that something is guaranteed to happen to you working as a lineman – but it’s important to be aware of the potential risk involved.

Working with high voltage equipment can be dangerous, so you need to ensure you are competent, well trained, wearing the right protective electrical gear (including good safety glasses and electrical gloves), fit for work, and focused on the job at hand.

How Many Lineman Die a Year

There were 26 electrical lineman workplace deaths in America in 2017. This is a fatal work injury rate of 18.7 people per 100,000 full-time lineman, or a workplace death rate of approximately 0.0187% (i.e. 0.0187% lineman died during work in a single year). This data is provided in a report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The graph below shows lineman workplace deaths in 2017, as well as the other 9 most dangerous jobs:

Lineman Workplace Deaths Graph

About Blake Sutton

Blake has worked as an electrician for over 10 years, receiving his Journeyman Electrician license in 1998. Looking to take his professional electrical career further, in 2008 he received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) from the University of Texas in Austin. Blake now works full time as an electrical engineer, specializing in power systems.