Lineman Salary Review 2019: How does your state compare?
By Kevin Juhasz
For Huskie Tools
No matter what your line of work, knowledge is power when it comes to your lineman salary. Maybe you’re looking for a change of scenery – what parts of the country have the salary and cost of living that is right for you? Maybe you’re looking at a career move to a different company – what is the lineman salary in your region? Maybe it’s time to negotiate a raise – what is the expected pay range for you? Whatever your reason, having the information about salaries, cost of living, and the future of both is one of the most powerful tools you can possess.
The immediate future for linemen is good, depending on what sector of the industry you’re working.
The line installation and repair industry will see strong growth in the area of electrical line work, according to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. This is bolstered by the increase in business and housing development. Growth for this sector is projected to be 14 percent from 2016-2026, which is almost twice the average rate of all industries in the United States. The area that will see very little or no growth is the telecommunications sector. Due to changes in the way Americans talk to each other, telecommunications workers are less in demand. All other areas of line installation will see growth around the national average.
The median wages for electrical line workers nationwide is also the strongest area, with a median salary in 2018 of $70,910. The lowest 10 percent earned below $38,200, while the top 10 percent of workers take in more than $101,650 annually. For telecommunication workers, the bottom was less than $30,950, the median sits at $58,280, and the highest earners make $92,440. While this might give you an idea of how the industry pays, it doesn’t give the clearest picture of salaries. There are big differences between the western and northeastern regions of the nation when compared with areas like the south and midwest. These areas also carry big differences in the cost of living. Comparing the two is helpful for determining what’s best for your career. A welcome boost in salary can be rendered meaningless if get an unwelcome jump in your monthly mortgage.
The important thing to remember when reading this information is that it may still be too broad. There are pockets in the regions where salaries are higher than the statewide numbers. An example is Arkansas, where the state mean is low, but a job in the western portion might pay thousands more.
The regions tend to follow one rule across the nation – higher populations tend to equal higher salaries. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics has lineman salary maps where salaries are broken down by country.
Cost of living can also carry some wide-ranging differences. In some states the cost of living is so high that a move to there could put a worker in a situation of going from a decent living to a paycheck-to-paycheck situation depending on your household income. The Council for Community and Economic Research offers details on various areas, but the research has fees attached.
Sperling’s Best Places offers a calculator that allows you to enter your current residence, a planned residence and your current salary, then gives you an estimate of how much a salary increase or decrease would allow you to live the same lifestyle you currently have. You can also make cost comparisons with various areas.
With the exception of Maine, the northeast region has good to excellent mean wages. Workers can expect a salary range from $64,000-$93,000 with Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey the strongest in the area. The higher salary is needed in this region since the living costs are usually higher. Pennsylvania is the most appealing area here, with a COLI below the national average and a higher mean salary range. Maine is the top 15 of most expensive places in the United States. Combined with the lowest salaries in the region, it’s the least attractive selection in the region.
Once you head into Virginia and below, the lowest pay can be found in the states that tend to have the highest employment. The mean for much of the area sits at $54,000-$63,000, with Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama being slightly better. This area, however, is also the best place for lower costs. Excluding Virginia, the cost of living is below the national average in all the southern states, and they occupy 6 of the 10 most affordable states.
The Midwest is the area that has the biggest swing in mean salaries. The farther north you head, the higher you go. Head south and the mean drops to the bottom. North Dakota is the strongest of the midwestern states, with a mean of $81,000-$93,000. In Oklahoma, you’ll be on the lower end of the spectrum. The cost of living follows much of the same pattern. You’ll find expenses climb as you move north, but not enough to offset the good wages that go along with them.
Another area that can have some big swings in salary. Everything isn’t bigger in Texas, which pays the lowest mean salary in that region, along with Nevada and Utah. Higher pay can be found the further west you venture as Arizona pays in the top mean. Even though Texas isn’t the highest payer, it’s the state where your costs are the lowest. Nevada is the least appealing state, while Wyoming is one of the best choices.
California has been included in the northwest group in this, which sees the highest mean wages in the entire nation. All of the states in this region are paying higher overall. One of the reasons that California needs higher salaries is the high cost of living. It’s the most expensive state on the mainland, with a COLI almost double the national average. If you’re looking for the best deal in the northwest, Idaho is the solid choice.
Alaska and Hawaii
Both are areas that have excellent salaries, paying in the highest range of mean salaries, much like the northwest contiguous United States. The downside is that both these states rank in the top 10 for the most expensive places to live in the U.S. – with Alaska coming at number 8 and Hawaii being the most expensive place to live anywhere in the United States, including the District of Columbia. Even with the high salary, you’re looking at living costs nearly doubling with a move to the islands. Based on current data, it would be the least attractive choice for a line worker career.