Electrician Qualifications

The road to becoming an electrician can be a tricky one to navigate. There are various available avenues, which largely depend on experience, skillset, and personal circumstance. Regardless of your career path or current situation, the industry will always find ways to support individuals looking to qualify as fully-fledged electricians. So, whether you approach learning in a full or part-time capacity, you can feel rest assured that appropriate electrical courses, and their resultant certification, are well within your grasp. Given the duration of the training period, and the considerable work involved, it’s advisable to do some research into the sector first. You’ll need a good level of application, enthusiasm, and industry knowledge to get through all learning modules.

This article intends to offer a comprehensive overview of what electrician qualifications are needed to become a certified electrical installer. It’s of critical importance that candidates select the right pathway for learning, as it may directly impact on their future career direction. The industry offers an extensive list of courses, merits, and advanced training. Therefore, whichever occupation within the electrotechnical sector you’d like to pursue, you should be able to find an appropriate qualification programme for you.

In 2012, the qualification scoring structure was adjusted, with certification now aligning to the new, Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF). Under this new regime, all approved learning courses are now given the same stature. Therefore, for example, whether your qualification comes from the EAL (a professional skills and training agency) or the City & Guilds (highly reputable course provider across a number of industries), they’ll be held in the same esteem.

Routes to success

Although, as referenced, there are various different routes available in the quest to become an electrician. These can be loosely organised into two over-arching pathways:

  1. Electrical apprenticeship, undertaken over 3-4 years.
  2. Study for diploma/NVQs, before completing sign-off component within employment. The initial ‘study’ element of this route takes 2-3 years.

As the electrical apprenticeship will subject to the individual to Level 2 & 3 NVQ studies (or equivalent), and the second ‘route’ targets on-the-job experience after the same course-based element has been completed, the content of each pathway is extremely interchangeable. The real difference is in the structure. The diploma route front loads classroom-based learning, whereas the apprenticeship merges on-site and off-site training throughout.

There is a third option available, however, this doesn’t quite provide the individual with fully-fledged electrician status. The Domestic Electrician course is available to anyone over the age of 18, regardless of current industry association or experience. This training is designed to supply individuals with a fast-track knowledge of electrical instalment, and is usually conducted over a two-week period. Although this incorporates some of the key electrotechnical elements, critics suggest the timeframe is far too quick to facilitate a proper understanding of the electrician’s job role.

In terms of structure, Domestic Electrician courses usually give a brief overview of the industry, touch on the wiring regulations, review inspection and testing, and also offer information on the Part P scheme. This culminates in a four-part examination schedule. Three of these assessments are multiple-choice, and one will test the delegates practical application of items learned.

Selecting your route

In most cases, those undertaking the first route will be school leavers, who applied for apprenticeships as part of their educational endeavours. However, in theory, anyone can undertake this option. Nevertheless, they would have to ensure they secure some form of employment within the industry.

The second route is often favoured by adult learners and those looking to career change. This is because these individuals can usually afford to sink a larger financial and time investment into their studies. Remember, the ‘up-front’ NVQ/Diploma option is quicker, but will also be costlier. Apprenticeships schemes are either part or fully funded by the government, so therefore training is substantially cheaper. Also, if working as an apprentice, your employer will also most likely have received a monetary incentive to take you on. This may result in them looking to re-invest some of this financial reward back into your learning & development.

Ultimately, a decision should be made on how urgently you’re looking to qualify, what resources you have at your disposal, and which learning format suits you best. The only caveat to this is that not everyone will be able to acquire a role in the industry, and therefore may need to take the second option by default.

Additional Considerations

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that for those entering the industry entirely from scratch, it may be advisable to undertake an introductory electrical course. All of the listed electrician qualifications will demand a base knowledge of electrotechnical theory. Therefore, if this has not been accumulated already, then even the most rudimentary training modules may become quite challenging. The City and Guilds do a fantastic ground-level knowledge programme, which allows students to slowly ingratiate themselves with the sector and its terminology. This is called the Level 1 C&G 2000-12 qualification. The EAL also offer a similar alternative.

Lastly, before you even consider enrolling onto a course, apprenticeship, or educational programme, it may be worth reflecting on the core skills required to work in the electrotechnical industry. Prospective students should have a proclivity towards Science, Technology and Mathematics. Communication skills will need to be strong, given the importance of cascading key safety messages whilst on-site. Individuals will have to be competent in using computers and their associated key software platforms, as designers will often need to comp up and share plans using digital methods.

And, perhaps most importantly, candidates should have a procedural approach to problem solving, and always pay close attention to detail. This will allow them to address issues methodically in what can be a complex and sometimes highly-pressurised environment.

Apprenticeship Path

A course recognised as one of the fundamental parts of any learning journey in the electrotechnical space is the NVQ Level 3 Diploma. Although there are numerous providers of this qualification, the most frequently used in the industry is the course provided by City and Guilds. Or, to give its associated code and full course title, the C&G 2357 NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and Equipment (Buildings and Structures). This certification is awarded by tackling a mixture of technical and classroom-based activities. This hybrid learning format is perfect for apprentices, as they have access to both construction sites and learning facilities. At the end of this course, the AM2 Assessment will be undertaken. This will determine whether the candidate has the right skill set and knowledge to be signed-off as a fully competent electrician.

To further complement knowledge, apprenticeship candidates may want to also undertake the C&G 2357-23. This serves to enhance knowledge of electrical system maintenance. However, this is not seen as an obligatory qualification towards full certification.

Front-loaded Diploma/NVQ Route

If you select to pursue this avenue, you’ll need to initially gain both a relevant Level 2 and Level 3 Diploma. This occurs prior to completing the final stage of your studies in a real-world industry role. It is vital that you acquire employment at some stage during this course, as the all-important NVQ cannot be attained without conducting some hands-on time, out in the field. This pathway is often referred to as a ‘front-loaded’ training endeavour, as diploma courses are usually taken before any workplace experience occurs.

Again, for the sake of ease, we’ll advertise the two C&G courses that correspond to these electrical qualifications: C&G 2365 Level 2 and C&G 2365 Level 3 Diploma in Electrical Installations. Successfully passing these two courses will give you a ‘launchpad’ towards achieving the full NVQ, as detailed in the apprenticeship route.

There is one other, associated course which delegates could select to do. The C&G 5357 Electrotechnical Technology qualification serves as a Level 3 certificate, and therefore would prepare individuals well for their onwards pursuit of an NVQ by directly working in the trade. However, there is no ‘paired’ Level 2 course for this module. It is advisable that a Level 2 and Level 3 Diploma is completed to enable candidates to gain a holistic understanding of electrotechnical practice and theory. Therefore, it is advised that individuals either stick to the C&G 2365 path, or couple the C&G 5357 Diploma with an appropriate Level 2 course.

The final stages of initial learning

The C&G 2357 NVQ course is the crystallization of the work completed in the C&G 2365 Level 2 and Level 3 Diplomas. As referenced, this is a compulsory part of your learning journey if you’re looking to achieve fully-fledged status as an electrician. This is not different for those committed to a ‘front-loaded’ training programme. As referenced, for this element, candidates must be in some form of employment with an electrical contractor, due to the practical nature of the course structure.

On successful completion of the C&G 2357 learning modules, these individuals will also sit the AM2 Assessment. This is, as we’ve already seen, the last hurdle to navigate. Once this has been passed, you’ll be fully qualified as an industry-approved electrician.

As referenced, it might be that candidates have joined this route due to a lack of success in attaining an apprenticeship scheme. The C&G 8202 Technical in Building Services Engineering is a bridging course, which may support applications towards finding an electrical apprentice programme. This may suit individuals who are keen to switch their approach from ‘front-loaded’ training, to an apprenticeship. Employers will review relevant electrician qualifications and experience when selecting candidates for work placements. Therefore, the more appropriate qualification taken, the better.

Considerations aligned to both routes

As a cursory note, it should be also explained that in order to participate in a Level 2 or Level 3 course, certain educational merits must have been attained. For a Level 2 course, this corresponds to at least 2 G.C.S.Es at grades 9 to 3 (or A* to D on previous scales). A Level 3 programme demands either 4 or 5 G.C.S.Es (dependent on course provider/content) at grades 9 to 4 (or A* to C). Please ensure that these minimum results have been secured in order to avoid disappointment during the application process.

There are also programmes available outside of the NVQ format. Equivalent qualification courses hosted by reputable training providers such as Certsure or the ECA, are popular across both the electrotechnical industry and others. As referenced at the top of the article, all courses of a comparable complexity are registered as equal. Therefore, candidates should feel comfortable in opting for non-NVQ based courses should the opportunity arise, provided they’re graded on an equal footing.

Experienced Worker NVQ

Lastly, there is one final option that hasn’t been disclosed to press. The C&G 2346 Experienced Worker Level 3 NVQ (or the JIB Mature Candidate Assessment, if using a different learning provider), is an equivalent course to the C&G 2357. However, this training programme is reserved for those who have spent longer than five years in the industry. This is targeted at individuals who are perhaps relatively competent in electrotechnical disciplines, but havn’t undertaken any formal training. These candidates are excused from the preliminary of Level 2 and Level 3 Diploma modules, as their experience and capability will supersede course content. In similarity to the apprenticeship and front-loaded training routes, C&G 2346 candidates will also need to pass the AM2 Assessment.

Milestones along the learning journey

Irrespective of the route chosen, there a number of obligatory electrician qualifications that must be achieved if candidates are to become signed-off electrical professionals. The following paragraphs detail the course names, content involved, and some additional, recommended courses.

The 18th Edition of the Wiring Regulations bs7671: 2018 (Requirements of Electrical Installations – City & Guilds 2382-18 Level 3)

The IET and BSI wiring regulations guides are seen as a cornerstone piece of documentation in the electro-technical industry. Although they have non-statutory status, these regulations are the benchmark compliance level for electrical instalment throughout the UK.

Produced in collaboration between the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) and the BSI (British Standards Institution), this book gives thorough guidance on each stage of the installation process. This guide enables students to grasp a practical understanding of the latest wiring regulations. It is also a great tool to gain knowledge on sector terminology, as it comes equipped with definition and appendix sections. These elements offer a full explanation on all electro-technical language, and present information in industry-recognised tables and charts.

Course duration is approximately five days. The assessment is a two-hour, 60 question examination, and is in multiple-choice format. Students will be expected to have a solid knowledge on a range of topics linked to the electrical installation process. Within the 18th Edition guide, content is divided into seven ‘parts’, and these are covered in chronological order in the exam. However, the subjects covered do not have an equal weighting, so delegates should ensure they split revision proportionately.

The topics (or ‘parts’) are as follows:

  • Part 1: Scope and Fundamental Principles
  • Part 2: Definitions
  • Part 3: Assessment of General Characteristics
  • Part 4: Protection and Safety
  • Part 5: Selection & Erection of Equipment
  • Part 6: Inspection & Testing
  • Part 7: Special Installations or Locations

N.B. There will be a small quantity of questions based on the Appendix section at the back of the guide. Please ensure you review this unit to your exam.

To pass this critical assessment, delegates must register a score of 36 out of 60 (60%). Although success rates are relatively high, please be aware that C&G occasionally alter pass levels based on national averages. So, aim for a high score to make sure!

The C&G 2391 ‘series,’ relating to the Initial and Periodic Inspection and Testing of Electrical Installations

The 2391 qualification has been referred to as a ‘series,’ as the course is positioned in a rather odd format. Content covered in C&G 2391-50, and 2931-51, is summarily handled in a combination course, C&G 2391-52. Therefore, candidates are encouraged to simply opt for the combined qualification, which is by far the more efficient method.

The C&G 2391-50 component relates to the verification of new installations. It is essential to be competent in this, as it ultimately permits the electrician to ‘sign-off’ new works delivered.

The C&G 2391-51 element corresponds to the periodic inspection and testing of current electrical installations. This is a key, routine task that the vast majority of electrical professionals will regularly undertake.

The amalgamation of both, or the C&G 2391-52 to give its official title, will review both activities in detail. This qualification requires just one examination to be sat, as opposed to two if picking up the C&G 2391-50 and C&G 2391-51 individually. It’s a no brainer!

If, for whatever reason, an individual decides to specifically target knowledge on verification, inspection, and testing early on in their career, then the C&G does provide a basic introductory course on these subjects. This is entitled the C&G 2392 Level 2 Fundamental Inspection and Testing. However, if you’ve already grasped a rudimentary understanding of theoretical knowledge, then this course may well be a wasted endeavour.

Additional, desirable courses

Although not compulsory, a library of supplementary courses exist which serve to expand knowledge and consolidate skill sets. These may be worth considering in the context of your career, as some offer specifics on niche electrotechnical disciplines. If setting up a business, these may provide an opportunity to establish a competitive advantage over rival firms.  Whilst it would be impossible to offer detail on every qualification available, it’s worth articulating some ‘headline’ courses which may be of interest.

The C&G In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment (2377)

This course relates to the systematic testing of existing electrical equipment. In the industry, this is referred to as Portable Appliance Testing (or PAT testing). Candidates should note that there is a substantial level of crossover here with the C&G 2391-51, and C&G 2391-52 electrician qualifications. The course-length is usually two days.

Emergency Lighting Course

Unsurprisingly, this qualification relates to the safe and competent instalment of emergency lights. Candidates will be given guidance on the design, install, commission, testing and certification stages of emergency lighting.

CompEx Full EX01-04

Warning! This course should only be undertaken by those comfortable operating in a potentially hazardous or explosive environment. Given the complexity of the qualification, it is encouraged that only experienced, and already qualified electrical professionals apply. This is an essential learning programme for those keen on pursuing a career in the gas or oil industry.

The C&G 2397 Installing, Testing and Ensuring Compliance of Electrical Installation Work in Dwellings

This qualification pays particular focus to the processes around electrical instalments in domestic and residential settings. Successfully earning this certification would see individuals hit the required, minimum level to become a qualified supervisor.

This is important, as this title allows individuals to apply for governmental Part P schemes. A Part P license allows specific work due to take place in domestic dwellings, that would otherwise have to be administrated through the LABC (Local Authority Building Control department), to be co-ordinated through an independent electrician. In this way, gaining membership onto a Part P programme can significantly reduce waiting time for clients. It allows the registered electrician to scope, install and self-certify the works in question. The LABC would only need to be notified at the conclusion of the task. It’s worth noting that not all electrical works conducted in domestic dwellings need to be funnelled through the LABC. However, any work that will considerably impact upon building architecture will most likely need either authority approval, or a Part P self-certification sign-off.

The C&G 2919 Electrical Vehicle Charging

This qualification provides training and guidance in the installation of electrical vehicle charging points. The popularity of electric vehicles has exponentially grown in recent times, so training in this field could significantly boost earnings potential.

It’s likely that the next edition of the wiring regulations, i.e. the 19th, will have a full ‘part’ dedicated to environmental electrical practice. The first draft of the 18th edition included a specific section dedicated to this topic, but was removed last minute. Given the industry’s renewed focus in this sector, its advisable to get ahead of the curve, and undertake any available additional training at this stage. Remember, regardless of whether you’re qualified or not, learning this information will become compulsory if included in the 19th edition. This is because industry workers must sit the accompany wiring regulations assessment, every time new guidelines are released. This will test delegates on all aspects contained in the latest edition.

Level 4 & Advanced courses

For those wanting to target senior positions within the industry, it may be worth considering a Level 4 or advanced qualification. In educational terms, these have parallel significance to earning an undergraduate degree, or HND. Clearly, candidates should accumulate all necessary Level 3 certification, and possess a wealth of industry experience, before looking to pursue an advanced course. Some potential certification programmes are articulated below:

C&G 4467 Building Services Engineering

In order to successfully navigate this course, individuals need to be at a Project Manager capability level. This means that you’ll have a strong, all-round understanding of various disciplines relevant to the sector. You’ll be able to not only diligently perform complex works, but also be able to effectively communicate to a range of key stakeholders. Think carefully as to whether you feel experienced enough to take this course on, as it will be extremely challenging from the offset.

C&G 2396 Design, Erection and Verification

This is a more technical qualification than the C&G 4467. Individuals keen to complete this course must be competent in detailed circuit design. They should also be able to confidently work through intricate electrical equations for safety and assurance purposes.

Advanced – NET (AM2) Electrotechnical Assessment of Occupational Competence

This course is not, in reality, an ‘advanced’ course in the same context as those included on this list. The AM2 Assessment is a compulsory part of the NVQ journey, and must be passed to fully complete your training. The assessment is broken down into five sections, and tests your practical and theoretical knowledge in the sector.

Advanced – NET (AAC) Advanced Assessment of Competence

Building on the AM2 qualification, this course demands further skills, knowledge and experience levels. The assessment is also more challenging. It is generally seen as the most advanced certificate available in the electrotechnical sector. Only a small proportion of electrical professionals achieve this accolade.

C&G 2372 Installing and Testing Domestic Photovoltaic Systems

Slightly less advanced than the previous two courses, but nonetheless still demanding of solid technical expertise. This course is designed to provide candidates with a full understanding on how to install solar panels, and therefore successfully convert solar radiation into energy.

For those who have studied abroad, and are keen to transfer qualifications gained over to these shores, there is a support service available. The NARIC provide advice and guidance on equivalent grading levels, and how to navigate entering the industry in the UK. Candidates can also reach out to awarding bodies, such as the City and Guilds or EAL. They will also be positioned to offer guidance and advice.

The ECS Card scheme

The final piece in the puzzle is your application for an ECS Card. The ECS, or Electrotechnical Certification Scheme, allows individuals to demonstrate their competency level within the electrical industry. It also acts as an essential pass for gaining access onto a construction site.

The ECS run a range of schemes. These start at ‘entry-point’ cards, and progress all the way through to more advanced card gradings. Therefore, an individual, within their career journey, may move from Apprentice, to Gold, to Black, to Professionally Qualified Persons Card. Each serves its purpose, which is to indicate experience and competency level. Criteria for cards are tweaked regularly, so its worth keeping tabs on what’s required.

The card which is perhaps best renowned in the industry, as briefly touched upon, is the ECS Gold Card. This indicates the card bearer holds status as a fully-trained electrical installer. Therefore, as we know, candidates must pass either an NVQ or equivalent graded course, with any accredited learning provider. Coupled with this, delegates must complete the critical ECS Health, Safety & Environmental Test. This assesses an individuals understanding of appropriate health and safety practices on a construction site or relevant works area. Once these two elements have been achieved, candidates can apply for their ECS Gold Card using the MyECS account portal. For more information, please visit ecscard.org.uk for support.

CSCS Card

Lastly, there is a similar card in operation entitled the CSCS card. However, its important not to confuse this with the ECS card, despite some industry workers  discussing the two schemes as in alignment. In simple terms, the CSCS Card, will, like the ECS Card, facilitate entry onto a construction site. However, whilst the CSCS Card demonstrates your electrical skills competency level, it doesn’t permit you to carry out specific electrical tasks. This is the function of the ECS Card Scheme. Indeed, the type of ECS card you successfully acquire, will determine which activities you’ll be authorised to perform.

Summary

This article has hopefully allowed you to further understand the various electrician qualifications available. Remember, the essential part of becoming an electrician is firstly studying through the appropriate Level 2 & 3 workstreams, before rubber stamping that through practical completion of an NVQ/AM2 whilst out in the trade. There are also some key supplementary certifications, such as the most recent edition wiring regulations assessment, and courses relating to verification, testing and inspection. Whether you decide to attend any of the additional courses is entirely down to personal preference. However, please consider your future career path, as these may present new earnings opportunities further down the line.

Brace yourself!

Finally, please make sure, whichever path you select, you’re fully braced for an extremely intensive training period. The electrician role demands a high practical skill-level, strong understanding of the theoretical and regulatory components, and solid all-round knowledge of a range of electrotechnical disciplines. It takes time, energy and practice.

If you require any more information on any of the electrician qualifications articulated, please visit the websites of the bodies discussed. This includes organisations such as the City and Guilds, EAL, and Certsure. It may be also worth discussing available options with your course convenor, or an industry professional. Either way, please ensure you’re fully equipped to make the right decision on your training pathway- you might be committed to it for quite some time!

Best of luck in your next steps to becoming a fully-qualified electrician!