Starting your career as an electrical lineman can be tough. Word is spreading fast that these jobs pay well and most offer generous benefits packages.
For those who can’t afford hundreds of thousands of dollars for a college degree, or are simply not interested in pursuing the “college route,” becoming an electrical lineman (women are called linemen, too) is one way to make a decent living. But all the attention about benefits, pay and entry into this field has created an avalanche of applicants.
Trade schools are cranking out lineman certificates, and colleges are graduating lots of people with associate technical degrees. What’s more, in this economy, many recently laid off engineers and technicians are eager to get into this high paying trade.
One way to get into lineman work is to “connect” with a contractor. If you know one or run into a working contractor, ask him or her if they are hiring apprentices. To break in, you’ll need at least a high school diploma or GED with good grades. Your chances go up substantially if you have a two-year Associates Degree from a community college and you studied electrical distribution theory.
If you can, do some electrical “gruntwork” for minimal or even no pay while you’re getting your Associates Degree. Let the boss know that you’re working toward your degree and show an eagerness to start at the bottom as laborer or helper. Like the military, apprentices with the most time-in-grade will usually get the best work assignments, and that includes moving up to lineman apprentice--if there is an opening. Once you become a lineman apprentice, you’ll have to go through a six-year apprenticeship program before you become a full-fledged lineman.
Another way to get into this field is through the IBEW. Visit your local IBEW hall and talk to them about getting into the trade. You’ll be asked to sign one of their books, and when a slot opens up, they’ll call you and put you wherever junior apprentices are needed. You can expect to do some traveling during the time you’re on call. IBEW will also send you to training after a year, which is probably the best hands-on lineman training you can get.
So the good news is, you can make a decent living as an electrical lineman, and you don’t need to go into debt getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The bad news is, the competition is fierce so you really have to apply yourself.