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Electric Power Transmission and Distribution Worker Job Description, Career as an Electric Power Transmission and Distribution Worker, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

workers electricity installers dispatchers

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Median—$23.61 per hour

Employment Outlook Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Power transmission and distribution workers move electricity from generating plants to homes, offices, and factories. One group of workers controls the flow of energy, while another group installs and maintains the power lines and other transmission and distribution equipment.

Load dispatchers work in control rooms of generating plants, usually with several assistants. Watching gauges and other equipment, they make sure the amount of electricity produced matches the amount customers need at any given time. When adjustments are necessary, dispatchers tell other power plant workers to start or shut down generators. Dispatchers throw switches to route the current to specific areas where there is demand. Substation operators, who work in smaller, regional relay stations, control the flow of electricity in specific areas.

Line installers and repairers install cables to service new electric customers and repair broken or unsafe electrical lines. (© Roger Ball/Corbis.)

Some substation operators work alone, maintaining the equipment as well as directing the energy flow.

The lines that send electric power from generating plants to customers are installed and maintained by line installers and repairers. For example, when a new housing development is built, installers place cables underground or on poles and connect them to the houses. The same work crews usually repair broken or unsafe lines. Line installers and repairers are assisted by ground helpers and cable splicers. Ground helpers, or laborers, dig the holes into which poles are placed. They may also hold wires and tools for installers. Cable splicers secure new connections between cables and repair old connections to prevent fires. Some splicers also inspect cables to make sure they are in good condition. Troubleshooters are line installers and repairers who work in emergency situations, repairing and replacing equipment to restore service.

Education and Training Requirements

Job applicants must have high school diplomas or the equivalent. Some vocational and technical schools, working with local power companies, offer one-year certificate programs that emphasize hands-on fieldwork. Two-year associate degree programs, where available, include courses in electricity, electronics, fiber optics, and microwave transmission. Graduates of these programs get special consideration from employers.

Power companies train most of their employees on the job, with experienced workers teaching beginners. Classroom instruction may be provided for new workers and for workers seeking advancement. The classes cover the fundamental laws of electricity, safety rules, and how to read blueprints.

High school classes related to electricity, mechanical drawing, and shop can be helpful to beginning workers.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to power companies. School placement offices, civil service commissions, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet are other sources of employment information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Chances for advancement are good for efficient, reliable workers. With about four years of experience, ground helpers may be promoted to cable splicers or line installers and repairers. Assistants at substations often become substation operators after three to seven years. Substation operators with seven to ten years of experience may become load dispatchers.

The job market for this field is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014. The demand for electricity is increasing, but the demand for additional workers may be offset somewhat by mechanization. Nationwide, only a few thousand new positions are expected to open each year for transmission and distribution workers.

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary. Load dispatchers and substation operators work inside in comfortable surroundings forty hours a week. Rotating shifts, including weekend and evening work, may be required. Installation workers usually work during the day, forty hours a week. Maintenance workers and troubleshooters work day or night, in all kinds of weather. Rotating shifts and overtime are fairly common.

Where to Go for More Information

Edison Electric Institute
701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20004-2696
(202) 508-5000
http://www.eei.org

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
900 Seventh St. NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 833-7000
http://www.ibew.org

Utility Workers Union of America
815 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 974-8200
http://www.uwua.net

Earnings and Benefits

Wages vary with the jobs and their location. In 2004 the median salary for all transmission and distribution workers was $23.61 per hour, with the most experienced workers earning more than $32.54 per hour. Benefits generally include medical and accident insurance, life insurance, and paid holidays and vacations. Union workers often receive retirement plans.

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