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The Difference Between Wiremen & Linemen

Wiremen are all electricians, yet not all electricians are wiremen. How does that work, and what is an outside lineman? Read on to learn the differences between linemen and wiremen.

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What is an Outside Lineman?

The vast majority of outdoor electrical power lines were installed by outside linemen. As one, you will run the lines from the power source to the building. The outside lineman may have to climb high or crawl low to get the power flowing.

You may restring power lines or maintain the old ones. You might be in charge of planning entire electrical projects or just be there to supervise. The outside lineman may work in rural or urban settings — anywhere electrical lines are needed to be maintained or installed.

To become an outside lineman, you must be 18 years of age, have passed Algebra with a C or higher, and have your high school diploma or GED. You’ll enter a journeyman lineman apprenticeship program, which takes approximately 3-5 years of classes and real-life job training (including climbing and rescue classes), before taking the credentialing exam. Once you pass the exam, you’ll be qualified to work as an outside lineman.

What is an Inside Wireman?

Inside wiremen are the electricians who install, maintain, or repair interior electrical equipment for commercial or industrial buildings. Some people lump residential wiremen with inside wiremen — and while they do similar work, residential wiremen focus on single and multi-family houses, while inside wiremen do commercial work.

Your days could vary tremendously based on what is needed. You may be asked to install a controls system one day and troubleshoot an entire building to identify a singular electrical issue the next.

Similar to the requirements for becoming an outside lineman, to be an inside wireman, you must first be at least 18, have earned a minimum of a C in Algebra, and hold a high school diploma or GED. Then, there is an apprenticeship program that will take approximately 3-5 years, after which, you'll be eligible to take the certification exam.

Similarities and Differences

The main difference between inside wiremen and outside linemen is where they work. All electricians, no matter the specialty, are taught the basics. You will learn how to read blueprints, troubleshoot, install, repair, and maintain electrical for every type of building.

Almost all electricians, including wiremen and linemen, work full time. You can expect irregular hours as a lineman and wireman too since power outages are not limited to conventional work hours. Inclement weather is another obstacle outside linemen need to be prepared for.  

In 2023, the average pay for electricians was $67,810 (bls.gov). The top 10 percent of electricians averaged $104,180 or more. Your specialty will play into your pay as well, with more complicated or difficult positions having higher earning potential. Once you figure out which area of the trade to go into, find a school near you!


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