Calling all bright sparks with a career in electrics

If you are interested in electrics and like the idea of diverse work, a career as an electrician could be right up your street..

Electricians work on a very wide range of projects, from bringing power to homes to taking part in major engineering projects.

Their tasks can range from transporting data along fibre optic cables to programming computer-controlled ‘intelligent’ buildings and factories.

They can also work with renewable technology, such as wind turbines or photovoltaic systems that turn the sun’s energy into electricity.

As an electrician, you would install, inspect and test equipment, ensure that electrotechnical systems work, and spot and fix faults.

Electrotechnical careers are divided into different areas:

l Installation electrician - Installing power systems, lighting, fire protection, security and data-network systems in all different types of buildings.

l Maintenance electrician - Checking systems regularly to ensure that they keep on working efficiently and safely.

l Electrotechnical panel builders - Having responsibility for the building and installing control panels that operate the electrical systems inside buildings.

l Machine repair and rewind electrician - Repairing and maintaining electrical motors and other machinery such as transformers to make sure that they work correctly.

lHighway systems electrician - Installing and maintaining street lighting and traffic management systems that tell the public what they need to know when they’re on the roads and motorways.

You might have to work in cramped and uncomfortable spaces to reach the electrical cabling and equipment, and you may sometimes work at heights using a variety of equipment such as scaffolding.

You would normally work a basic 37-hour week, Monday to Friday, with the possibility of overtime. You may work shifts, or you may be on call where 24-hour cover is provided.

First year apprentices may start on around £8,000 a year.

Newly-qualified electricians may earn over £17,000 a year, and experienced electricians may earn over £30,000 a year.

Entry requirements

To work as a qualified electrician, you will need to gain an NVQ Diploma or Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) at Level 3. You may also need additional training if you want to do specialist work such as installing environmental technology systems.

You could start as an apprentice straight from school or college. You would combine training on the job with going to a college or training centre. It normally takes between three and a half and four years to complete training and an apprenticeship.

If you’re not able to do an apprenticeship straight away, there are programmes around the UK that can help you to progress to an apprenticeship, further learning or a job. Speak to your local careers adviser to find out more.

Some apprenticeship schemes are open to people over 25, although the number of places might be limited. If you are over 25 and employed, or you could be assessed on site, you could work towards the NVQ Diploma/SVQ without doing an apprenticeship.