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Laying it on the Line

Fast facts about lineworkers

April 2024

For lineworkers, rodeo competitions inspire camaraderie and strengthen passion for the trade.

by Scott Flood, Contributing Columnist

You probably don’t think about them until your power goes out, but electric lineworkers protect our homes and communities 24 hours a day. Like other first responders who keep us safe, lineworkers endure all kinds of weather and challenging conditions.

This month, we celebrate National Lineworker Appreciation Day to honor the men and women who power life. Here are some quick facts about lineworkers and the work they do.


Lineworkers first appeared during the 1840s rush to spread telegraph service across the U.S., stringing wires between trees and other natural objects. It didn’t take long for everyone to realize tall poles were safer and more practical.

Lineworkers are responsible for maintaining and upgrading the nation’s electric grid that connects more than 7,300 power plants to 145 million consumers through 60,000 miles of high-voltage lines, millions of miles of distribution lines, and more than 50 million transformers.

Roughly 6,300 of the more than 122,000 U.S. lineworkers are women. Electric cooperatives are actively seeking women for a variety of career paths. Whether climbing poles or the office ladder, women have an important role to play in the energy industry.

Lineworkers climb utility poles with up to 40 pounds of safety gear and tools.


Lineworkers climb with up to 40 pounds of safety gear and tools. One essential tool for lineworkers is the hot stick, an insulated fiberglass pole used to safely move energized wires and other equipment. Hot sticks vary in size depending on the job.


Squirrels and snakes are a major cause of power outages, and lineworkers encounter plenty of both while working. They’ve also been known to rescue kittens that climbed too high in a tree and curious bears on top of utility poles.

When your office is the great outdoors, these encounters are part of the job. Many lineworkers enjoy showing off their skills at “rodeo” competitions. These events provide the public the opportunity to see lineworkers in all their glory and a firsthand look at what it takes to get the job done.

For lineworkers, rodeo competitions inspire camaraderie and strengthen passion for the trade.


Described by the Energy Department as one of the nation’s highest-paid professions that doesn’t demand postsecondary education, becoming a journeyman lineworker typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent, training and a paid apprenticeship, which typically spans four years. Apprentice lineworkers receive hands-on training and experience in the field before advancing to journeyman status. Lineworker salaries range anywhere from $40,000 to $144,000, depending on location, skillset and experience.


Roughly 60,000 lineworkers hit the road annually to respond to devastating storms and the damage they leave behind. In addition to extreme weather exposure, lineworkers face a variety of dangers, including electric shock, falls from elevated work locations and roadside traffic accidents. High injury rates among early lineworkers led to the creation of apprenticeship programs and organized labor throughout industry.

Safety is always the No. 1 priority, which is why lineworkers continuously receive training to stay mindful of safety requirements and up to date on the latest equipment and procedures.

Lineworkers power our lives. The next time you see one, remember to thank them for the essential work they do.

Scott Flood writes for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.