Meter Reader

The Job and What's Involved

Meter readers visit private homes and places of work to check how much electricity, gas or water has been used. They do this by reading the dials on both indoor and outdoor meters and recording the figures, usually on hand-held computers. They also answer routine enquiries from customers.

Meter readers:

  • Plan their working day and route, in order to meet the targets set every week.
  • Drive to all kinds of premises - homes, offices, shops, factories, churches and theatres - to check the readings on electricity, gas and water meters.
  • Walk round the buildings to find outdoor meters.
  • If necessary, lift covers, which can be quite heavy.
  • Knock on doors, and show a badge or other identification, in order to enter buildings to find indoor meters.
  • Read the numbers on the dials of the meters (this may involve bending, stretching, climbing or crawling into cupboards).
  • Record the figures on official record sheets, or on a hand-held computer.
  • Check meters to make sure they are working properly.
  • Report faulty meters so that they can be repaired.
  • Answer customers' enquiries about the service or about bills.
  • If required, call in at their office to hand in record sheets.
  • Back home, download the information from the hand-held computer through a modem to a free telephone number so that the customer can be billed.

Meter readers work between 35 and 40 hours a week. There may be split shifts, with some work in the morning, and then a long break until starting up again in the evening. The normal working day can last to around 8pm, and sometimes Saturday work is required. Part-time work is often available.

Some meter readers report to their office at the beginning and end of the day, but most work from home.

Much of a meter reader's day is spent working alone. The work involves walking long distances, on average between five and eight miles a day, outdoors in all weathers, particularly when looking for meters on industrial estates.

It also involves bending, stretching, climbing stairs and stepladders, and crawling into low-level cupboards. Their work sometimes involves kneeling and lifting quite heavy covers. Water meters are located outside buildings or in communal areas, but gas and electricity meters are usually indoors.

Meter readers are provided with uniforms and/or badges and identification to help them get access to buildings. They usually need a full driving licence. Most companies expect the meter reader to have a car, but a few provide vehicles.

The starting salary for a meter reader may be around £11,700 a year. Some meter readers also earn overtime payments, and many companies also pay a bonus based on the number of meters read. Some employers provide a uniform or outdoor clothing allowance.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 45 companies supplying customers with electricity, gas and water. Some employ meter readers direct. Others contract the work out to meter reading companies who employ their own staff for the job.

There is a big demand for meter readers in all areas. Vacancies are advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices throughout the UK.

In Scotland, all water is supplied by a public authority called Scottish Water. Although there are 100,000 business premises in Scotland with metered water, most domestic customers pay a fixed water rate based on the rateable value of their premises. Scottish Water employ a few meter readers in remote areas where they generally have to carry out several different jobs, but otherwise the work of meter reading is contracted out to freelance operators.

Meter readers may have to fill in a form about any criminal convictions, especially if the job involves entering people's homes.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements for meter readers.

Some companies prefer applicants with some GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3). English and maths are useful subjects.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New staff train on the job. The training lasts about a week, and familiarises the new employee with:

  • The employing company and supply companies (if not the employer).
  • Different types of meters.
  • Pricing systems.
  • Health and safety regulations.
  • Customer care standards.
  • How to read the different meters and enter the readings on a hand-held computer.
  • Any other record keeping.

At first, new meter readers accompany experienced meter readers, before starting work on their own.

In-house training is provided for meter readers when necessary, for example, if new types of meters or hand-held computers are introduced.

There is an NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Utilities Metering Operations.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A meter reader should:

  • Be well-organised and independent.
  • Be happy working outdoors in all weathers.
  • Be fit enough to do the walking involved.
  • Be well-presented and polite.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Work to set timescales, and meet or exceed targets.
  • Have good local geographic knowledge.
  • Be honest and accurate in recording figures.
  • Be able to understand the computer equipment used.
  • Have good health and stamina.

Your Long Term Prospects

Larger companies generally offer greater opportunities for promotion to the position of meter reader leader, supervisor, area leader, or into managerial posts.

Some meter readers become self-employed and work under contract to individual companies.

The experience of dealing with the public, and of working independently, can be useful if the meter reader decides to move into other customer service jobs - for example, in the fields of sales or information.

Get Further Information

Energy & Utility Skills, Friars Gate Two,
1011 Stratford Road, Shirley, Solihull,
West Midlands B90 4BN
Tel: 0845 077 9922

The Office of Gas and
Electricity Markets (Ofgem),
9 Millbank, London SW1P 3GE
Tel: 020 7901 7000

The Office of Gas and
Electricity Markets (Ofgem)
Scotland, 2nd Floor, Regents Court,
70 West Regent Street, Glasgow G2 2QZ
Tel: 0141 331 2678

Office of Water Services (Ofwat),
Centre City Tower, 7 Hill Street,
Birmingham B5 4UA
Tel: 0121 625 1300

Scottish Water, PO Box 8855,
Edinburgh EH10 6YQ
Tel: 0845 601 8855

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