How to Become a Line Installer or Repairer
Most installers and repairers have a high school diploma and receive long-term on-the-job training.
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for entry-level positions, but most line installers and repairers need technical instruction and long-term on-the-job training to become proficient. Apprenticeships are also common.
Most companies require line installers and repairers to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers prefer candidates with basic knowledge of algebra and trigonometry. In addition, technical knowledge of electricity or electronics obtained through military service, vocational programs, or community colleges can also be helpful.
Many community colleges offer programs in telecommunications, electronics, or electricity. Some programs work with local companies to offer 1-year certificates that emphasize hands-on fieldwork.
More advanced 2-year associate’s degree programs provide students with a broad knowledge of the technology used in telecommunications and electrical utilities. These programs offer courses in electricity, electronics, fiber optics, and microwave transmission.
Electrical line installers and repairers often must complete apprenticeships or other employer training programs. These programs, which can last up to 3 years, combine on-the-job training with technical instruction and are sometimes administered jointly by the employer and the union representing the workers. For example, the Electrical Training Alliance offers apprenticeship programs in four specialty areas. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:
- Minimum age of 18
- High school education or equivalent
- One year of algebra
- Qualifying score on an aptitude test
- Pass substance abuse screening
Line installers and repairers who work for telecommunications companies typically receive several years of on-the-job training. They also may be encouraged to attend training from equipment manufacturers, schools, unions, or industry training organizations.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not mandatory, certification for line installers and repairers is also available from several associations. For example, BICSI offers certification for line installers and repairers, and the Electrical Training ALLIANCE offers certification for line installers and repairers in several specialty areas.
In addition, The Fiber Optic Association (FOA) offers two levels of fiber optic certification for telecommunications line installers and repairers.
Workers who drive heavy company vehicles usually need a commercial driver’s license.
Entry-level line workers generally begin with an apprenticeship, which includes both classroom training and hands-on work experience. As they learn additional skills from more experienced workers, they may advance to more complex tasks. In time, experienced line workers advance to more sophisticated maintenance and repair positions in which they are responsible for increasingly large portions of the network.
After 3 to 4 years of working, qualified line workers reach the journey level. A journey-level line worker is no longer considered an apprentice and can perform most tasks without supervision. Journey-level line workers also may qualify for positions at other companies. Workers with many years of experience may become first-line supervisors or trainers.
Color vision. Workers who handle electrical wires and cables must distinguish colors because the wires and cables are often color coded.
Mechanical skills. Line installers and repairers must have the knowledge and skills to repair or replace complex electrical and telecommunications lines and equipment.
Physical stamina. Line installers and repairers often must climb poles and work at great heights with heavy tools and equipment. Therefore, installers and repairers need to work for long periods without tiring easily.
Physical strength. Line installers and repairers must be strong enough to lift heavy tools, cables, and equipment on a regular basis.
Teamwork. Because workers often rely on their fellow crew members for their safety, teamwork is critical.
Technical skills. Line installers use sophisticated diagnostic equipment on circuit breakers, switches, and transformers. They must be familiar with electrical systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them.
Troubleshooting skills. Line installers and repairers must diagnose problems in increasingly complex electrical systems and telecommunication lines.