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Career Advice

How to Become an Electrician

So a career as an electrician has sparked your interest?  That’s not surprising, there are loads of great benefits that come with the job which make this essential role as popular today as it has ever been. Hopefully this quick guide to some of the basic info you need should get you well on your way.

What does an electrician do?

Rather an obvious question you might think, but it never hurts to pin down the details. Basically an electrician is a tradesperson who specialises in the installation and maintenance of electrical wiring in buildings, machinery and wherever else their services are required. As you can imagine, it has the potential to be an enormously varied career working in a number of different environments, but luckily electricians tend to be divided up into 5 categories depending on the kind of work that they specialise in;

  • Installation electrician – This is the type that you will probably be most familiar with. They are concerned with installing electrical systems including lighting, fire protection, security and data-network systems and any other electrical requirements in all types of buildings.

  • Maintenance electrician – As the name suggests, these folks work in a maintenance role which involves ensuring that all electrical systems are working as they should with a particular emphasis on safety regulations.

  • Electrotechnical panel builders – A somewhat lesser known but vital role which is involved in the building and installation of control panels that operate the electrical systems within buildings.

  • Machine repair and rewind electrician – These are concerned with the maintenance and repair of electrical motors and other electrical machinery. They find themselves working in a very wide range of environments from cruise ships to coalmines.

  • Highway systems electrician – This role undertakes the installation and maintenance of street lighting within public areas and those involved in the management of traffic.

Given that there are quite a few different types of electrician, you can imagine it’s rather difficult to create a definitive list of their job activities, however you could say that the vast majority of your time will be taken up in the installation, maintenance and testing of electrical systems.

What skills and attributes do you need?

Aside from the highly specific skills which you will gain through your education and training there are a number of skilltheir attributes and competencies which should help you during your career;

  • The desire to work in a very ‘hands-on’ and practical role which will require good dexterity and coordination

  • A methodical approach to work and an understanding of the need to adhere to stringent health and safety practices

  • Good skills in reading diagrams, technical drawings and blueprints and the ability to carry out the actions which they describe

  • A desire and skill to work in a role that requires a high degree of accuracy

  • The ability to work quickly and accurately, often to quite tight deadlines

  • A willingness to work in a range of environments including outdoors and in all weather types

  • Comfortable to work within very confined spaces

  • Excellent communication skills both written and verbal

  • A good team player- especially if you intend to work on large projects requiring a number of electricians

  • An understanding that to be an electrician you must have a flexible approach to your work as the role may at times require evening and weekend work.

Income and Hours of work

As with any role it is impossible to say with certainty the hours of work that you will be expected to work, as these electrician bookcould vary quite significantly depending on the company that you are working with. However, as a general rule, electricians will usually work a standard 37 hour week Monday to Friday with Saturday and Sunday off.  However there are some roles in which the working pattern will be more complicated and could require you to adhere to a shift pattern or be ‘on-call’ from time to time – a good example of this is a machine repair electrician working in manufacturing.

Salaries for electricians tend to be some of the highest seen amongst tradespersons (although again this is largely dependent upon your experience and the company which you work for)  Generally speaking as a newcomer to the industry you should expect somewhere in the region of £16,000 to £19,000 per year.  As you gain experience and skill you should see your salary raise to around £22,000 to £25,000 within a few years, however those with a high level of experience can earn more than £30,000.

Qualifications

Such is the nature of the work of an electrician that there is a certain level of experience and qualification needed before you will be able to work outside of the classroom. This is usually a Level 1 and 2 certificate in electrical installation. These courses are usually undertaken full-time and will prepare you to enter into a traineeship or apprenticeship, depending on your age at the point of application.

The most common route to becoming an electrician (in the UK at least) is through working in an apprenticeship. This is a work placement for under 25’s  in which you learn on the job and also attend college to gain the necessary official qualifications. These apprenticeships will usually last for 4 years and will see you complete a Level 3 qualification such as a Diploma in Electrical Installations.

Those who are over this age and who have previous experience of the industry can choose to complete an alternative Level 3 qualification such as a Diploma in Electrotechnical Services or a  Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems & Equipment which can normally be carried out alongside your job.

There is usually no minimum qualification needed in order to begin your study / training as an electrician however having good GCSEs particularly in subjects such as maths, english, physics and ICT will certainly help you to get off to a good start.

Best of luck if you are still thinking of becoming an electrician, but if not you might like to have a look in our career directory where we are sure you will find the career that is right for you.

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