Electricity is something we all take for granted in our daily lives, s o it's no great surprise that electricity is such a big business, w ith around 20,000 electrical contracting companies in the UK employing around 365,000 people and supporting 8,000 apprentices.

But there's still a huge deficit of qualified electricians in the UK, so there's never been a better time to consider it as a trade career.

So, what will I actually be doing?

Electricians can be divided into three:

  • Installation electricians who test and install wiring systems (lighting, security, fire) and equipment. They sometimes follow architects drawings and either work in homes or on buildings sites.

  • Maintenance electricians who test and maintain electrical equipment and often work in commerce or heavy industry.

  • Production electricians who construct complex electrical and electronic appliances from wiring diagrams.

Your duties will depend on which area you have decided to work in. You could be re-wiring a home, laying cables on a building site, testing systems in a factory or installing a CCTV system in an office, there's a variety of potential jobs awaiting you.

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The finer details...

Electricians work up to 40 hours per week but as electricians often can’t leave a job unfinished you can expect to work some overtime.

Where you work largely depends again on the kind of electrician you are. You could spend your day in a factory, home, building site, hospital, school. Word of warning, it's not all glamorous working as an electrician, it can be physically demanding as you’ll spend long hours in often cramped conditions or on cold, windy building sites.

Money, money, money

Newly-qualified electricians can earn up to £20k per year. Experience and specialised training can raise this figure to between £30k and £40k within just a few years.

As with any job, he greater your specialism, the higher your salary. As the trend for renewable energy sources grows you could look at specialising in green technologies such as wind turbines or photovoltaic systems.

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The good points...

Lots of variety and plenty of job security.

...and the bad

Working long hours in sometimes physically difficult circumstances.

Is there study involved?

Although there are no minimum requirements to train as an electrician, good GCSE (C and above) results in maths, English and preferably physics and ICT (that’s Information Communication and Technology) will give you a great advantage. If you don’t have the above, you will be required to take an aptitude test. Applicants also need to pass a colour vision assessment to enrol on the course.

The most common route to electrician training is via an apprenticeship scheme. Aimed at anyone who’s 25 or under, an apprenticeship takes four years to complete and will involve theory-based learning as well as practical demonstrations of your skills.

Currently, training to become a qualified electrician involves taking the City & Guilds 2330 Certificate in electrotechnology and 2356 electrotechnology NVQ.

From January 2011 the above qualifications are due to be replaced by a new hybrid qualification - the 2357 City & Guilds Diploma in electrotechnology.

Over 25s can enrol on training programmes but will not be allowed to take part in the apprenticeship programme.

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OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?

If you can check off most of the following attributes, you could be set for success in a career as an electrician:

  • Practical
  • Good at following detailed instructions
  • Adaptable
  • Good with both heights and confined spaces
  • Careful and precise
  • Polished customer service skills
  • An analytical and mathematical mind


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