Career Spotlight : Electrician
Electricians install and maintain all the equipment needed to provide a safe electricity supply in a house, office or other building.
They install or maintain the cables, conduits, fittings, meters, switchgear and wiring and have to be extremely careful about health and safety.
Installation electricians work in houses and businesses, following architects' or contractors' plans to install the cables, power points, light fittings, fuse boxes and other electrical equipment such as immersion heaters and central heating controls.
Service and maintenance electricians may work on large manufacturing machinery or they may be called out to repair washing machines, cookers or office equipment.
They may work alone or in teams and will also liaise with other tradespeople, such as plumbers, carpenters, builders, as well as architects and site managers.
Hours and environment
Most electricians work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, but many work overtime, weekends and shifts to fit in with customers. If they are on call-out for emergencies, they may need to be available 24 hours a day.
They work indoors, in houses, factories, offices or workshops, or outdoors, on building sites. The work can involve climbing, crawling, lifting or bending. They may have to work at heights or underground. Working conditions can be cramped, cold, dirty or dusty.
Salary and other benefits
These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.
The figures given are based on pay rates recommended by the Joint Industry Board for the electrical contracting industry.
- Apprentice electricians earn around £10,000 a year.
- Approved electricians earn between £18,000 and £20,000 a year.
- Experienced electricians can earn £23,000 a year or more.
Electricians may be paid extra for working shifts or overtime. There may also be travel allowances.
Skills and personal qualities
- be good with their hands and able to use a range of tools
- be good at maths and science, especially physics
- be able to follow technical drawings and work out calculations
- be highly safety-conscious
- keep up to date with technology
- be methodical and careful
- be able to solve problems
- be physically fit and able to work at heights
- have normal colour vision
- be able to work on their own or with minimal supervision, be responsible for their own work and make decisions
- be organised
- be tactful and polite when dealing with customers.
Around 350,000 people work in the electrical industry. They work for electrical contractors and building firms, electrical manufacturers, general manufacturing and engineering companies, local government, hospitals, colleges, power generating and supply companies. There are also many self-employed electricians.
There is a shortage of trained electricians and there are good prospects for people with experience.
Entry for young people
The most usual route into the job for young people is to find an employer or organisation that offers apprenticeships. Most people start at 16 or 17 years old.
To start an apprenticeship as an electrician, GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) in maths, English and science are usually required. Some employers may accept applicants for training on the basis of an interview and an aptitude test.
Apprenticeships for installation electricians are run mainly by JT Limited (JTL) in England and Wales, and by the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT) in Scotland.
Apprentices may be eligible for a fast-track Advanced Apprenticeship in Electrotechnical Maintenance or Electrical Maintenance under the National Apprenticeship Scheme for Engineering Construction (NASEC). The entry requirements are three GCSEs (A-C) in English, maths and science.
Colleges around the country also offer City & Guilds 2351 Electrical Installation. This is a part-time course. Check entry requirements with the individual colleges.
An electrical installation apprenticeship usually takes around four years and includes on-the-job practical training through work experience. Apprentices also spend time at college on a day or block release basis.
Apprentices work towards three separate qualifications: City & Guilds 2330 Certificate in Electrotechnical Technology (building and structures) at Levels 2 and 3, and NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Electrotechnical Services (Electrical Installation - building and structures), which is assessed in the workplace.
Maintenance electricians work towards City & Guilds 2140 Engineering Systems Maintenance, BTEC National Certificate in Engineering, SQA national certificate modules or NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Engineering Maintenance.
There are new regulations to ensure that people carrying out electrical work have the skills to do the work safely. Electricians may have to have certification that proves they have enough training and experience. Check with the trade organisations listed below.
Apprenticeships which may be available in England are Young Apprenticeships, Pre-Apprenticeships, Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships. To find out which one is most appropriate log onto www.apprenticeships.org.uk
It is important to bear in mind that pay rates for Apprenticeships do vary from area to area and between industry sectors.