The Tower Climber
A tower technician – aka “tower climber” – services all kinds of aerial towers. In telecommunications, these towers contain antennas, wires and other technology to relay signals from the world to your precious phone.
Know how frustrating it is when you don’t have enough bars to receive a text or a call? Or when the person you’re talking to is “breaking up” (and not in the relationship sense)? Well, then, you can appreciate the important work of a telecom tower climber.
They don’t just climb, of course. Cell phone carriers rely on the tower technician to maintain and fix cell towers. A subset of these professionals have rigging jobs, which involve lifting heavy equipment, often with the help of a crane. Riggers usually work on a team with tower climbers.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A TOWER CLIMBER IN GEORGIA
You sometimes get asked silly questions, like “How’s the view?” or “What’s the weather like up there?” (Yep, everyone’s a comedian.) Beyond that, a tower technician…
- Climbs to sometimes great heights to inspect, test and maintain the components on a cell tower
- Installs coaxial and fiber optic cables
- Changes out transmission lines, antennas, light bulbs and other equipment
- Installs and repairs equipment as needed
- Builds radiofrequency shields, which protect electronic equipment from signal interference
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A TOWER CLIMBER
This is what the climbers in the field say you’ll need to be:
- Unafraid of heights! The average telecom tower can be hundreds of feet tall. If you have a panic attack at the thought of high places, this is not the job for you.
- Powerful. You need to be strong enough to climb the tower, where you may work for hours at a time. You may also have to lug heavy equipment (35 to 70 lbs.) with you on the way up.
- Detail oriented. Safety is crucial to a tower climber and those around him or her. When you are changing a light bulb or fixing an antenna 500 feet off the ground, you have to know what you’re doing.
- Flexible. The tower technician often works irregular hours, including nights and weekends. You may be asked to travel outside of the regular service area, sometimes for several days at a time, to work on towers elsewhere.
IS THIS YOU?
Here are a few things to consider as you explore becoming a tower climber.
- The thrill of the climb. If you really like to be in high places, this career is awesome.
- A sense of accomplishment. Not everyone has the physical and mental strength to climb towers day after day. It’s a hard job. But you’re not just climbing towers – you’re keeping the world connected!
- The scenery changes, and so does the nature of the work. You could be doing a different job, on a different tower in a different location every day.
- This is a dangerous job. Every day, without fail, you must take great caution to follow all safety precautions and procedures.
- The weather can be less than pleasant. While you won’t be up there in a lightning storm, you may be needed to scale that tower in wind, rain and extreme heat or cold.
- You’re on your feet for long periods of time. Standing, bending and crouching are the positions of tower maintenance.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
What’s a typical tower climber salary?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically list a pay range for tower climbers. But the BLS does report that in Georgia, radio, cellular and tower equipment installers and repairers — a related field — can earn an average salary of $56,530 (May 2016).
How do you become a tower technician?
Some telecom companies require experience. Others will train you on the job. It may be helpful to have the necessary certifications (see below) before you apply for the job. It all depends on the company.
Here are the minimum requirements:
- Must be 18 years old
- Have a high school diploma
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Take and pass a drug test – some companies also require a background check
Many companies require the tower climber to have one or more of these certifications:
- OSHA-10 – a course from the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) that outlines workplace safety
- Climbing basics and fall prevention – taught by private companies such as Gravitec and ComTrain
- The National Association of Tower Erectors
- The American Red Cross
During training, you’ll learn all about…
- Cell tower equipment basics
- Radiofrequency waves and how do you protect people and equipment from them
- Climbing skills
- Safety skills
FIND A TOWER TECHNICIAN PROGRAM IN GEORGIA
Georgia Piedmont Technical College has a certificate program in telecommunications service (operations technician) that can support your preparation to be a tower technician.
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and want to study telecom tower servicing at a Georgia technical college, why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? Good idea – take me to the application >
OUTLOOK FOR THE TOWER CLIMBER
While no hard data for future demand is available, telecom companies report that turnover is high in this field. So they continue to need talented people to service their cell towers.
ACCORDING TO ‘TOWER CLIMBER 2’ (FROM THE INTERNET)
“A lot of it is just that feeling you get when people are just set off and amazed when you tell them what you do for a living. They’re like, I could never do that. You’d never catch me up that high. And it’s always a thrill because every tower’s different. Every tower is … a new experience so you never know what you’re going to find once you get up there.”
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Download this handy PDF for some facts on-the-go.