How to become an electrician: a brief overview of training options
Student’s Guide to the Wiring Regulations author Steven Devine discusses gaining an education and starting your career in the electrical industry.
The electrical industry is vast and there is an ever increasing demand for experts in various different areas. Anyone can see the impact that electricity has on our lives; it’s everywhere. One of the many reasons people are drawn to work in the electrical industry is because it offers such a diverse field to work in, and there is always something that is of interest to someone.
What kind of work is available?
As well as domestic there is also commercial and industrial work. Electricians can be trained to work on high voltage transmission and distribution lines, substation installations, panel building, generators and many other specialist areas. Anything you can think of that involves electricity in some way almost certainly has an electrician that specialises in that area.
If physical work doesn’t sound like your ideal career, an office job may be more appealing: you can become an electrical supervisor, authorising engineer, electrical design engineer, manage your own electrical company or, once you have gained experience, you can move into consultancy, teaching, or standards development. This is only a handful of the different career paths you can pursue.
I’ve been trained; what now?
Students generally start an apprenticeship at around the age of 16. The level 3 qualification usually runs for around three to four years, possibly extending to five. Any electrical company can employ an apprentice whether it is small or large. Apprentices will gain valuable on-site experience as well as learning the essential science and fundamental principles of electricity while on day release at a college or learning provider. Some larger companies provide in-house training that, in most cases, award nationally recognised qualifications.
Note: When applying for an apprenticeship, students are normally expected to pass a colour deficiency test before being accepted. Students who sign up for full time courses may not necessarily be asked to take the test and may face some difficulty when attempting to transfer their full time course to an apprenticeship.
Part time courses
These are good if you already have a little knowledge of the electrical industry. Part time courses can be intense as the student will have one day or two evening classes as opposed to three full days, so it’s essential that the student can commit to self-studying out of college.
Availability of certain qualifications vary throughout the UK and it is always worth checking what options are available in your area.
Once someone has reached the status of electrician they have really just begun their career. The next logical steps are to gain qualifications and experience in inspection and testing, initial verification, electrical installation design, project management as well as taking a specific route to specialise in a particular area of the industry.
This is a truncated and revised version of the article that was published in the March 2016 issue of Wiring Matters magazine.
For further information, including information about how to train as an electrician, read the full article.
Wiring Matters is a magazine specifically for electricians and aims to provide guidance on complying with BS 7671.
Steven Devine is the author of the acclaimed Student’s Guide to the IET Wiring Regulations.