There are around 365,000 electricians in the UK and about 8,000 apprentices. That’s a lot of electricians! So why do we need them?
Well, just think about how much of your daily life depends on electricity. The power is literally in the hands of electricians; without them we’d still be using candles to light our way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, when nature comes calling with annoying urgency.
The role of electricians is a hugely important one. They are responsible for testing, installing and making the electrotechnical systems that cross our paths every day, and ensuring all the while that they are safe to use by the general public.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll be screwing in a couple of light bulbs here and there; this can be high powered stuff.
There are the electricians that install power systems and wire up buildings, from your bog standard house, to huge buildings and factories.
Then there are the maintenance electricians, who you might find working in commerce or industry, that check and maintain electrical systems and equipment.
Finally, there are the rather fancily named electrotechnical panel builders, who construct those equally fancy control panels that allow people to manage the electrical systems of an entire building at the touch of a button.
These guys are similar to production electricians who deal with the really complicated stuff, wiring up tricky electrical appliances from complex diagrams.
As an electrician, you might also be responsible for installing electrical equipment and machinery in factories and other industrial settings. It’s pretty heavy-duty work, but if you know your stuff, you can get a real kick from seeing something go from absolutely nothing to being in perfect working order.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, your working environment can be as varied as the work you do. Your career can take you absolutely anywhere. You might be working in businesses, in homes, or even outdoors on construction sites.
Salary & benefits
If you start out as an apprentice, you might earn between £8,000 and £10,000 a year. Don’t worry though; once you are qualified you could earn over £19,000 a year, rising to over £30,000 a year with plenty of experience.
Your working hours probably won’t be predictable. An electrician often has to work longer hours to make sure that something is done, so if you’re looking for a cosy nine-to-five job, then this probably isn’t the career for you.
Electrical faults can happen at any time, so electricians should be prepared to sometimes work outside of normal hours, such as in the evenings or at weekends. However, most electricians won’t work longer than a 45-hour week.
Most electricians enter the profession through apprenticeships. They’ll do a mixture of on-the-job and college based learning in order to complete their NVQ Diploma at Level 3 and qualify as an electrician. You don’t have to be an apprentice to complete an electrician NVQ but you will need to be in employment or working on a building site.
If you want to become an electrician, you’ll need good practical skills, be able to follow technical plans and drawings, have good communication skills, and an eye for detail. Electricians need to be able to measure accurately, work carefully and methodically, and possess problem solving and analytical skills too.
Training & progression
Qualifying as an electrician takes around four years during which you’ll complete your NVQ. In addition, electricians can go on to pick up other qualifications, such as City & Guilds Inspection, Testing and Certification of Installations.
The more things you want to do and the more specialised the area you want to get into, the more qualifications and training you’ll need. Some electricians go on to take foundation degrees, HNCs, HNDs or degrees in Building Services Engineering.
Taking further qualifications will usually open up more chances to progress in your career, such as graduating to technician or managerial roles.
Electricians might also set up their own businesses, move into teaching or design consultancy.