Becoming a Cable Installer: Job Description & Salary Information

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A cable installer's median salary is around $54,000. Is it worth the education and training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career outlook to find out if becoming a cable installer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons to Becoming a Cable Installer

Cable installers, also known as telecommunications line installers, place the cables and lines used to provide cable television, the Internet and telephone services. Some of the pros and cons of becoming a cable installer are listed in the table below.

Pros to Becoming a Cable Installer
Only requires high school education*
Good salary for required education investment (median salary for those with high school education is around $35,000, median for cable installer is around $54,000 per year)*
Safety equipment and tools are generally provided by employers*
Some employers offer on-the-job training for new cable installers*
Occupational advancement opportunities to trainer or managerial jobs*

Cons to Becoming a Cable Installer
You may have to travel long distances as part of your job*
Irregular and weekend hours are sometimes required*
Confined spaces and great heights are common work environments for cable installers*
Cable installers might have to work in bad weather*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

Cable installers use fiber optic cables that transmit signals using light to provide Internet, telephone and cable television services. You'll normally receive a few scheduled assignments at the start of the day and travel to your appointment locations at the correct time. You might be called in to respond to an emergency assignment if the need arises. You bring your own tools to use in the installation process. You'll test your installations and train clients in the proper use of their new technology before leaving for your next job.

Salary Information

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that telecommunications line installers and repairers, including cable installers, earned a median salary around $54,000 (www.bls.gov). The top ten percent of all telecommunications line installers and repairers made more than $81,000 annually. Natural gas distribution was the highest paying industry for cable installers. Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Delaware reported the highest wages for cable installers.

Occupational Requirements

Training and Education

Cable installers are generally expected to have a GED or a high school diploma. Basic mathematic and reading skills are important for career success in this field. You might be required to receive some training or education geared towards cable installation prior to employment. You can sometimes obtain this training through military service, but you can also find post-secondary vocational programs at many community colleges. Majors that you'll want to consider include telecommunications, electricity or electronics. A 1-year certificate program or a 2-year associate degree is suitable for many cable installers. Finally, your employer might require several years of on-the-job training before allowing you to work on your own.

Useful Skills

No matter what your training, you'll need to have good vision and manual dexterity to be able to distinguish colors of color-coded wires to be able to maneuver cable into tight spaces. You must be able to climb ladders and carry heavy tools. Cable installers typically drive themselves to their worksites and thus need a driver's license.

What Do Employers Look for?

Good physical strength and endurance is expected by many employers looking for cable installers. You have to be able to lift the materials you work with and transport them from your employer to a customer's home or business. Many employers want cable installers that possess a driver's license so that they can transport themselves to a client's residence. You can learn what real employers were looking for in cable installers in May 2012 by reading job ads below.

  • In North Carolina, a cable-installer job advertisement wanted applicants with a high school diploma and one year of experience. Because of ladder restrictions, applicants were required to weigh 250 pounds or less.
  • A technology company in Kentucky was looking for a traveling cable installer with at least three years of cable installation experience. Applicants were expected to be familiar with telecommunications industry standards. The job required weekly air travel.
  • A cable installer in North Carolina advertised for a cable installation technician. The job qualifications included passing a background check and drug test and being 21 years of age or older.
  • A telecommunication services company was looking for cable installers in San Antonio. Job candidates were required to have their own truck and some knowledge of the industry, although the employer was willing to train motivated candidates.

How Do You Stand out?

There are numerous professional designations and certifications available for cable installers. You can stand out from the crowd by taking the time to acquire one of these certifications. Some organizations that offer certifications include the Fiber Optic Association, which offers the Certified Fiber Optic Technician, Certified OSP Technician and Certified Premises Cabling Technician. You can also pursue other advanced and specialist certifications. To become certified, you'll need to demonstrate that you have the appropriate education and training, and you'll need to pass their examination.

Other Career Choices

If you enjoy working in this field, but you want to branch off into a different industry, consider becoming an electrician. As an electrician, you'll read blueprints and other diagrams to familiarize yourself with the electrical systems you'll be working with. After inspecting the components, you'll identify any issues with the system and make repairs or replacements as necessary. In May 2011, the BLS reported that electricians earned about an average of $53,000 annually.

If you're willing to obtain some additional education, you might want to look into becoming an electrical engineer instead of a cable installer. You'll create or improve products that use electricity. After you design the initial plans, you'll work on a prototype of the product. Once you've completed your product, you'll oversee the manufacturing, testing and installation process. The average yearly salary for electrical engineers was around $89,000 according to the BLS in May 2011.

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