Lineman are electricians who work on the power lines that carry electricity from a distribution center to electrical company customers. This is one of several trades often referred to as "electrician." Linemen often learn their trade under the auspices of a union apprenticeship. Apprentice linemen earn a percentage of journeyman wages.
How Apprenticeship Works
Apprentices in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW, learn their trade both on the job and in a classroom setting. Entry-level apprentices start at 60 percent of the journeyman wage. This increases gradually as the apprentice completes 1,000 hour-increments until he earns the full journeyman wage. This is in contrast to learning through the trade through a technical college where an aspiring lineman pays rather than getting paid.
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The average wage of journeyman linemen across the United States is $28.15 per hour as of May 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest 10 percent in the trade average $13.54 per hour, while the top 10 percent can expect to earn $38.18. These fluctuations are a function of both experience and geography. Linemen who work overtime will receive a premium hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 in a single week.
Electricians in different parts of the country make vastly different wages and this will affect the wages of an electrical lineman undergoing his apprenticeship. Alaskan electricians enjoy the highest earnings, averaging nearly $70,000 each year. The Vallejo area of California is the highest-paid metropolitan area for electricians, with the average annual wage being around $80,000 per year. Some flexibility in where a lineman is willing to work can make a huge difference in terms of salary.
Where the Jobs Are
The states with the most jobs for linemen don't necessarily have the highest or the lowest wages. For example, the highest-paid state, Alaska, has the third most jobs for electricians. However, the states with the second and fourth highest number of electrician jobs, West Virginia and North Dakota, respectively, have average wages that are over $20,000 lower than Alaska.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010: Electricians; May 2011
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Electricians; December 2009
- Northwest Line Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee: Wages
- IBEW National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee: Apprenticeship Training