Becoming a CATV Contractor

CATV contractors install television, Internet and voiceover IP telephone equipment.
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Cable television providers transmit their signals to customers via fiber optics or other cabling through switching stations. These cable providers will send a technician to a customer's home to connect, disconnect or troubleshoot the connection. While some cable providers hire their technicians as employees, many use CATV contractors to serve as either equipment installers and repairers or line installers. Organizations such as Women in Cable Telecommunications have a number of local chapters around the country to provide leadership programs and services for women in the cable TV industry.

What You'll Do

CATV contractors working in the role of line installers work with the transmission lines that carry the signals from the point of transmission to the customer location. These lines are either below ground or travel between poles above ground. If there is a break in the line, or if a line needs to be replaced, these installers will assess the damage and repair or install a new line, then test the line to ensure it is capable of carrying the signal. CATV contractors serving as equipment installers and repairers typically install extension lines or troubleshoot receivers at a customer's location.

Tools, Skills and Education

In most cases, a CATV contractor does not need to be more than a high school graduate to get started in the field; however, candidates with two-year degrees will have an advantage over those with only a high school or GED diploma. Since installers must be able to follow work orders, write any comments that should be conveyed back to the home office and calculate distances for installing cabling, math, reading and writing are fundamental skills required for the position. Companies hiring technicians as employees will often offer qualified candidates the specific job training needed for the position. A contractor may not be offered on-the-job training, so companies will often look for contractors with prior installation experience. Additionally, as a contractor, you will likely be required to provide your own tools, including a truck and a valid driver's license.

Working Outdoors

CATV contractors working as line installers work almost exclusively outside. Repairing above-ground lines often requires climbing telephone poles and being near electrical wires, while repairing below-ground lines may require use of shovels, pick axes and other hand-operated digging equipment. CATV contractors serving as equipment installers typically work at a customer location, which may involve installing lines in walls, through the attic or crawl space or on the exterior of the building. An installer may also be required to climb a pole to connect a customer's service line to a junction box.

Competitive Pay, Slow Growth

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a line installer and repairer's median pay in 2012 was $27.99 per hour, or $58,210 per year. The BLS estimates that jobs for line installers and repairers will increase by 7 percent between 2012 and 2022 -- slower than the 11 percent estimated average for all other occupations. For equipment installers and repairers, the 2012 median pay was $26.22 per hour, or $54,530 per year, and the BLS estimates that these jobs will increase by 4 percent between 2012 and 2022. States offering the highest average wages in 2012 were Rhode Island, at $65,160 per year; New Jersey, at $63,440; and New York, at $63,250.

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