Electricians install, inspect and test wiring systems and components in all types of buildings, structures and machinery. They play a key role in the construction, engineering, manufacturing and service industries.
Their area of work may be:
Installation electricians work on construction or refurbishment projects. They follow architects' or contractors' plans, which show where to fit wiring systems, power outlets and electrical equipment. This involves:
Electricians use a variety of hand and power tools to measure, cut, join and fit cabling, wiring and equipment.
They may work alone or in teams, and will also liaise with other tradespeople, such as plumbers, carpenters and builders, as well as architects and site managers.
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 for emergencies they may need to be available 24 hours a day.
Part-time or flexible hours may be possible, especially for self-employed electricians.
They work indoors, in houses, factories, offices or workshops, or outdoors on building sites.
The work can involve climbing, crawling, lifting or bending. Electricians may have to work at heights or underground. The working conditions can be cramped, cold, dirty or dusty.
Starting salaries on Apprenticeships may be around £10,000 a year. Electricians may be paid extra for working shifts or overtime. There may also be travel allowances.
Around 350,000 people work in the electrical industry. They work for electrical contractors and building firms, electrical manufacturers, general manufacturing and engineering companies, railways, local government, hospitals, colleges, and 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.
Jobs tend to be advertised in the local press and in Jobcentre Plus offices.
The most usual way into this job for young people is to find an employer or organisation that offers Apprenticeships. Most Apprentices start at 16 or 17 years of age.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
To start an Apprenticeship as an electrician, candidates usually need GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) in maths, English and science. 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 (but there are other training providers who offer electrotechnical Apprenticeships) 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 qualifications for this are three GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) in English, maths and science.
Colleges around the country also offer part-time City & Guilds (2330) Electrotechnical Technology courses. 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 day or block release.
Apprentices work towards three separate qualifications: City & Guilds (2330) Certificate in Electrotechnical Technology at Levels 2 and 3, and NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Electrotechnical Services, which is assessed in the workplace.
Maintenance electricians work towards City & Guilds (2140) Engineering Systems Maintenance, BTEC National Certificates in Engineering and Electrical/Electronic 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 need certification to prove they have enough training and experience. Check with the trade organisations listed below.
Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.
Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
Electricians working for companies may, with experience, be promoted to supervisory or management positions. Further training and qualifications are essential to become an approved installation electrician and to move on to work at a higher level.
Electricians may move into electronics, computer installation and maintenance.
Installation electricians can become self-employed or set up their own contracting businesses. There may also be opportunities to work overseas.
Joint Industry Board for the Electrical Contracting Industry,
Kingswood House, 47/51 Sidcup Hill, Sidcup DA14 6HP
Tel: 020 8302 0031
Tel: 0800 085 2308
NASEC Apprenticeships, Engineering Construction Industry Training Board,
Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP
Tel: 01923 260000
Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT),
The Walled Garden, Bush Estate, Midlothian EH26 0SE
Tel: 0131 445 5659
SEMTA (Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance),
14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT
Tel: 0800 282167
SummitSkills, Vega House, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes MK15 0DF
Tel: 0870 351 4620
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.