• Chris Simpson

Lineman Apprenticeship Programs vs Lineman School

Updated: May 26

What is the best path to start a lineman career?


Maybe its our memories of being scolded by our third grade teachers but a not-so-wonderful feeling can come to mind when you think of the word school. An experienced journeyman lineman is one the of the most fulfilling career paths one can imagine, in addition to a top tier paying job. The road to becoming a journeyman lineman from many individuals often starts in different ways.


A lineman is a professional electrician with specific training and skills to maintain as well as install electrical power lines on transmission towers. In 2020, lineman on average can make upwards of $75,000 a year with many opportunities to make much higher based on specific location and types of projects.


A line apprenticeship or power distribution apprenticeship is a long-term training program run by a professional organization. These professional organizations often include local utility districts or joint programs between a local community college and private electric or power company.


It is designed to teach you everything you need to know to be a professional electrician, and it includes a certain number of hours of on-the-job training. On-the-job training is often referred to as "OJT". In addition to OJT there will be a certain number of hours of classroom instruction. As you explore different lineman programs across the country you will notice that the details are different in certain areas. Many lineman apprenticeship programs across the country take four to five years to complete.


A specialized lineman school can accelerate the process of lineman career development. Many lineman school programs offer educational packages that instruct on electricity, fiber optics, and microwave transmission. They often will include specific certifications that students will receive within the program such as a metering certification, CPR certification, first-aid certification and an OSHA construction safety health card.


The starting point for both these paths, most programs (although there is some variance across the country) will likely be the same requirements to start a lineman career:


· 18 years of age

· A valid drivers license

· High school diploma or GED


After these similarities there begins to be more differences between attending a lineman school and jumping straight into an apprenticeship.


What is the difference between lineman apprenticeship programs vs lineman school financially?


As you contact various apprenticeship programs in your search you will likely hear the phrase “earn while you learn”. This phrase means that you will be paid for the work (although significantly less than a licensed lineman) during your apprenticeship.


lineman training to climb
Lineman training climbing

Many lineman school programs as well as community colleges that offer lineman training programs offer scholarships that can help off set the cost of this more formal education. As someone entering this career path it is important to do your due-diligence financially on what would be the break down of costs as well as what is the expected return via the starting wages for a programs graduates or the average starting wage of an apprentice. Something that lineman apprentices often forget about is the cost of the tools of the trade.


In some programs the boots and the tools are included while in others they are not. Finally, if you are military be sure to consider GI bill benefits that may affect your decision financially.

Industry lineman that had strong experiences in lineman schools often talk about the quality of the education and the art of the craft that is learned. The technical skills and use of sophisticated diagnostic equipment on circuit breakers and transformers will obviously be learned during an apprentice but many young lineman find it helpful to have a very experienced line instructor working with them in a more education based setting.


In order to be an instructor at a lineman school that individual will likely have completed a journeyman level power lineman technician program. These instructors have strong industry experience and not are only committed to students skills training but also their professional and career development and can provide guidance on interviewing and job application processes.


What should I consider?


A greenhorn is a greenhorn. Regardless of the starting point that you choose to begin your career it will require an apprenticeship in which you learn the tricks of the trade, make industry mistakes and learn from your (hopefully not too serious) mistakes. The lineman industry is very much a family affair in the sense that lineman look after one another.


Best Resume for lineman jobs


While as a first year apprentice lineman you might be given some gruff and have some not so fun extra chores it is an opportunity to earn the respect of your peers and pay your dues to the industry. Furthermore, in your later days as an experienced journeyman you have the responsibility of not only looking after the general safety and well being of those around you with less experience but also the opportunity to pass down the lineman knowledge you have learned in your years.


At the end of the day in whatever state you choose to work in both apprenticeship and licensure are both required to be a lineman. The duration of lineman training schools can vary greatly from 12-15 weeks to several years. For shorter term lineman training schools their goal is often to expedite the process of teaching basic climbing skills as well as the general certifications that an entry level apprentice hiring manager will be looking for.


One thing that is often forgotten when considering lineman apprenticeship programs vs lineman school is the employer’s perspective of the one what would hire you. Employers in the utility sector anecdotally complain about hiring graduates of school program who then turn around and bounce from job to job. While many of the basics skills learned in both lineman apprenticeship programs as well as lineman training schools are applicable regardless of employer there is still significant on boarding and off boarding costs associated with turnover in the lineman industry.


How do I find a lineman apprenticeship program near me?


Many local electric co-ops as well as utility companies offer lineman apprentices. In rural areas where finding talent can be difficult there are often strong incentives to place young individuals into these roles. However, relatively speaking for the entire country lineman apprenticeships can be competitive as it is such a strong route to full time employment in a high-paying industry. Lineman apprenticeship programs turn away many good candidates each year purely as there were more experienced and better qualified individuals. If you are reading this article and thinking that a lineman apprenticeship sounds like an amazing deal you are right. A lineman apprenticeship is as solid of a path one can get into the industry and most of your classes are paid for. Therefore, this is a significant for the employer and the apprenticeship organizer. These apprenticeship organizers want to make sure you are the right person for the job as well as not going to bounce when the going gets tough.


lineman training in utility bucket
An apprentice lineman enters the bucket

The Lineman Central Apprenticeship Search allows you to search for lineman career starting points all across the country. In Georgia for example you will find that there are many community colleges offering technical education for aspiring lineman such as programs at North Georgia Technical College Lineman Program, South Georgia Technical College Lineman School, and Georgia Piedmont Technical College Lineman Program. In regards to a lineman apprenticeship program in Georgia you will see that SELCAT (also known as the Southeastern Line Constructors Apprenticeship & Training) is offering an apprenticeship pathway. This initiative is a local educational program affiliated with the National Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee (NJATC) and trains a local workforce for utility employers in the southeastern United States. Private utility and energy companies in the area are also offering apprenticeship positions. Examples of such companies in the Georgia area include Pike Corporation and Southern Company.


How do I find a line school near me?


When beginning your search for a lineman school near you on Lineman Central you will soon see that they break down into two buckets: community colleges and specialized lineman training schools. The prices and duration of these program will vary greatly and will require your research.


For example, in California there are community colleges such as Los Angeles Tech Community College but there are also specialized lineman training schools such as The Sacramento Power Academy.


Wrapping up the line


In conclusion lineman should very much view the decision to enroll in a lineman school or a lineman apprenticeship program as a financial decision. Additionally, some lineman in the industry now considered there time at a lineman school their time to ‘test the waters’ and see if this was the career path for them. As a whole, this requires doing research on what is the average starting wage for an apprentice as well as an alumni of various education programs. A good professional development quote is to ‘start with the end in mind’. You can find many full time job listings for experienced lineman. These jobs are well paying jobs all across the country. Explore what types of requirements you often see in your specific region and connect that with the educational resources you find on this website.

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