Electrical power line technicians are the daredevils responsible for servicing power lines during outages resulting from thunderstorms, snowstorms, hurricanes or other hazardous conditions.
They also take care of more mundane day-to-day power grid installation, maintenance and repair tasks. When power grid problems arise, they must have the troubleshooting skills necessary for tracking down which devices are defective. This requires familiarity with a wide range of electrical equipment including switches, transformers, and voltage regulators.
Numerous factors make their work dangerous. For starters, their job consists of guiding the flow of high-voltage electricity from power plants to consumers. They might need to deal with hundreds of thousands worth of voltage at times they’re working on long-distance capacity power transmission lines. They must also ascend to great heights to work on transmission towers and poles; this aspect of the job adds yet another element of risk. Line workers’ duties are especially hazardous during extreme weather conditions.
Driving is a critical part of the job description for many power line technicians. They must be able to drive trucks and operate truck-mounted buckets.
Average Pay for Powerline Technician
As of May 2015, annual median pay for electrical power line technicians was $66,450. Some of the highest paid workers in this occupation earned about $96,000 that year, and some of the lowest paid workers earned as little as $36,000.
There are multiple industries that employ line workers. Most power line technicians find employment in the electric power generation industry. The most recent data available at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that these workers earn an average of about $34.49 an hour and a yearly salary of about $71,740.
Electrical power line technicians earn a comfortable salary at the high end of the pay scale for line workers. However, these workers are not the best paid of all line workers. In comparison, workers doing similar jobs in the natural gas industry earned even more, with a mean hourly rate of $45.60 and mean annual salaries of $94,850.
However, there are many more of these types of line technician jobs available in the electric power generation industry than there are in the natural gas distribution industry. As of 2016, there were more than 54,410 line workers employed by businesses whose primary focus was electrical power generation; in contrast, only about 2,500 line workers found employment with businesses where the primary focus was on natural gas distribution. Workers trying to decide between the two niches should take into account that they are much likelier to find a job with an electric company as they consider their options.
Electrical contractors also employ line workers, but the pay rate for these workers is far less attractive. The annual mean pay for these line workers was $43,670 as of 2016.
Local, state and federal governments also employ a small number of line workers. Workers employed at the state level earned some of the highest paychecks in the niche; the mean annual pay for this group was $85,260 as of 2016. With a total of only about 150 state-level line worker jobs, the level of competition for these jobs is high.
As of 2016, some of the lowest paid electrical power line technicians were working in the utility construction industry. The mean hourly rate for these workers was $29.12, and their annual mean salary was $60,570.
Typical Requirements / Experience:
In addition to having a high school diploma, an electrical power line technician needs to have math, technical and troubleshooting skills. Algebra and trigonometry skills are assets for power line technicians. Prior experience or training in electronics is beneficial; such training can come from military experience or from classes at a vocational school or community college. Some power line technicians seek certifications or training from unions or industry organizations such as the Electrical Training Alliance, the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association.
Many line workers are union members. It’s typical for electrical power line technicians to complete apprenticeships through their unions or their employers. Some employers require extensive amounts of paid training on the job — in some cases as much as four years’ worth.
Some power line technicians who drive heavy machinery on behalf of their employers need to have commercial drivers’ licenses to comply with state or local laws.