Line Installers and Repairers

What Line Installers and Repairers Do

Line installers and repairers install or repair electrical power systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vggk5l7taBs

Work Environment

Line workers encounter serious hazards on the job, including working with high-voltage electricity, often at great heights. The work also can be physically demanding. Although most work full time during regular business hours, some work irregular hours on evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays when needed.

How to Become a Line Installer or Repairer

To become proficient, most line installers and repairers require technical instruction and long-term on-the-job training. Apprenticeships are common.

Pay

The median annual wage for electrical power-line installers and repairers was $72,520 in May 2019.

The median annual wage for telecommunications line installers and repairers was $56,750 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of line installers and repairers is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029.

Line installers and repairers, also known as line workers, install or repair electrical power systems and telecommunications cables, including fiber optics.

Duties

Electrical power-line installers and repairers typically do the following:

  • Install, maintain, or repair the power lines that move electricity
  • Identify defective devices, voltage regulators, transformers, and switches
  • Inspect and test power lines and auxiliary equipment
  • String power lines between poles, towers, and buildings
  • Climb poles and transmission towers and use truck-mounted buckets to get to equipment
  • Operate power equipment when installing and repairing poles, towers, and lines
  • Drive work vehicles to job sites
  • Follow safety standards and procedures

Telecommunications line installers and repairers typically do the following:

  • Install, maintain, or repair telecommunications equipment
  • Inspect or test lines or cables
  • Lay underground cable, including fiber optic lines, directly in trenches
  • Pull cables in underground conduit
  • Install aerial cables, including over lakes or across rivers
  • Operate power equipment when installing and repairing poles, towers, and lines
  • Drive work vehicles to job sites
  • Set up service for customers

A complex network of physical power lines and cables provides consumers with electricity, landline telephone communication, cable television, and Internet access. Line installers and repairers, also known as line workers, are responsible for installing and maintaining these networks.

Line installers and repairers can specialize in different areas depending on the type of network and industry in which they work:

Electrical power-line installers and repairers install and maintain the power grid—the network of power lines that moves electricity from generating plants to customers. They routinely work with high-voltage electricity, which requires extreme caution. The electrical current can range from hundreds of thousands of volts for long-distance transmission lines that make up the power grid to less than 10,000 volts for distribution lines that supply electricity to homes and businesses.

Line workers who maintain the interstate power grid work in crews that travel to locations throughout a large region to service transmission lines and towers. Workers employed by local utilities work mainly with lower voltage distribution lines, maintaining equipment such as transformers, voltage regulators, and switches. They also may work on traffic lights and street lights.

Telecommunications line installers and repairers install and maintain the lines and cables used by network communications companies. Depending on the service provided—local and long-distance telephone, cable television, or Internet—telecommunications companies use different types of cables, including fiber optic cables. Unlike metallic cables that carry electricity, fiber optic cables are made of glass and transmit signals using light. Working with fiber optics requires special skills, such as the ability to splice and terminate optical cables. In addition, workers use specialized equipment to test and troubleshoot cables and networking equipment.

Because these systems are complicated, many line workers also specialize by duty:

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 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 are employed by utilities and telecommunications companies that maintain existing power and telecommunications lines. Maintenance needs may be identified in a variety of ways, including remote monitoring, aerial inspections, and by customer reports of service outages. Line repairers often must 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.

Electrical power-line installers and repairers held about 115,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of electrical power-line installers and repairers were as follows:

Electric power generation, transmission and distribution 47%
Power and communication line and related structures construction 27
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 12
Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors 4

Telecommunications line installers and repairers held about 123,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of telecommunications line installers and repairers were as follows:

Telecommunications 58%
Utility system construction 16
Building equipment contractors 15
Self-employed workers 2

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.

Line installers and repairers often must work under challenging weather conditions, such as in snow, wind, rain, and extreme heat and cold, in order to keep electricity and telecommunications 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.

Electrical power-line installers and repairers can be electrocuted if they come 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.

To prevent injuries, line installers and repairers use fall-protection equipment when working on poles or towers. Safety procedures and training have significantly reduced the danger for line workers. However, telecommunications line installers and repairers still have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.   

Work Schedules

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.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of line installers and repairers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical equipment.

Bachelor’s degree $101,250

Electricians

Electricians

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $56,180

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.

High school diploma or equivalent $85,950

Telecommunications Equipment Installers and Repairers

Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers set up and maintain devices that carry communications signals.

Postsecondary nondegree award $57,910

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.

For more information about line installers and repairers, visit

American Public Power Association

Center for Energy Workforce Development

Telecommunications Industry Association

For information about certification, visit

BICSI

The Fiber Optic Association

Electrical Training ALLIANCE

O*NET

Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers

Telecommunications Line Installers and Repairers


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Line Installers and Repairers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/line-installers-and-repairers.htm (visited ).