How to Become an Electrician

So, you’re considering becoming an electrician?

If you’re considering a career as an electrician, this simple ‘How To’ Guide will complement the journey towards your objective. This article provides a breakdown of the pathways available for entering the electrical industry.

Within trade circles, it’s widely acknowledged that roles in this sector purvey the most challenging disciplines to master. However, electrical work is not only the most financially rewarding trade, it is at the forefront of innovative renewable energy and sustainability concepts.

What this document provides

This guide offers an insight into the available training programmes routes for prospective students of the electrical sector. It also considers the range of alternate opportunities available within the wider jobs market, facilitated through the learning of transferrable skills in training environments. If you can successfully digest the information below, you’ll feel fully equipped to plot your next move towards becoming a fully-fledged electrician. Furthermore, you’ll also acquire a grasp on the compulsory accreditations required to enter into the electrical trade.

Routes available

There are two main recognised industry routes that will aid your journey towards becoming a qualified electrician. Each pathway offers benefits dependent on candidate circumstance, and it’s therefore worth conducting analysis on which is personally most appropriate.

Unsurprisingly, there is considerable cross-over between the two. Each demands a high volume of training and experience, and culminates in the same AM2 assessment at course conclusion.

The two routes are outlined below:

  1. Electrical Apprenticeship Scheme. Timeframe: roughly 3-4 years.
  2. Diploma/Technical Certificate Scheme. Timeframe: roughly 2-3 years.

As referenced, each holds certain advantages dependent on personal situation.

Electrical Apprenticeship Scheme

This approach has been traditionally linked to school leavers or those changing careers at an early age. However, in recent times, this has also been embraced by older age groups.

The programme’s duration is roughly four years, and involves building a portfolio of evidence. This is gained through the vehicle of ‘on the job’ experience, operating as a trainee for a local electrician company. Candidates must contact companies in order to secure employment, before shadowing qualified electricians to gain industry skills and expertise.

Benefits & watch-outs

The major advantage of this route is that apprenticeship schemes are either part or fully funded by the government. Businesses taking on apprentices often receive financial incentives, which subsequently drives uptake and recruitment volumes. Great news for prospective apprentices! Opportunities tend to be readily available, but candidates should not assume that securing a work placement is a formality. It’s advisable to send off numerous applications to strengthen the likelihood of obtaining an apprenticeship. Unfortunately, it’s very much down to the law of averages. Ultimately, the more businesses you reach out to, the more likely you are to locate a position.

Familiarise yourself with the documentation

If you decide to explore this route, then the certificate gained will be the industry-recognised C&G (5357) Level 3 Electrotechnical Qualification. Towards the end of your training tenure, there will be an AM2 Assessment Centre. This is a standardised, two-day testing event that will hopefully augment your application for the ‘Gold Card’. A well-known approval stamp for those qualified as a certified electrician. To get started, all you need is a front-loaded training ECS card, which is organisable through your new employer. As part of this process, you will be required to pass a routine Health & Safety test for assurance purposes.

Diploma and NVQ

Alternatively, candidates can become electricians through a staged diploma course that eventually finishes with a NVQ Level 3 accreditation. In this instance, you will also need to sit the mandatory AM2 Assessment to ‘unlock’ the Gold Card.

Given the personal funding requirement, participants tend to be adult learners who have the ability to financially commit to training. It also provides an alternative route for those experiencing issues securing a apprenticeship-supportive employer .

Diplomas open doors

Levels 1, 2 & 3 diplomas will allow candidates to either press onto the NVQ stage, or access job opportunities in related fields. Such is the depth of training involved within the programme, candidates who have already acquired diploma certification may find themselves in a strong position to pursue other work avenues. Skills are gained in health & safety proficiency, electrical science and utilizing inspection frameworks aligned to industry-standard regulations. It’s therefore not uncommon for some to temporarily discard their formal learning, and seise an appropriate job opportunity.

Flexible career paths

The vast majority of learning institutions offer a high degree of flexibility. Candidates can enter workplace environments and then return at a later stage to fully complete studies. Judgements on next moves can therefore be determined without feeling the pressure of taking a long-term, irreversible decision. In this way, experiencing new, professional landscapes and sampling different ways of working can be encouraged. After all, they often serve to expedite self-development and performance level. However, candidates will not be able to attain a Gold Card and operate as a validated electrician until all relevant training milestones are complete.

Diploma and NVQ timeframes

The Level 2 Diploma in Domestical Electrical Skills, the Level 2 (2365) Commercial Diploma and the Level 3 (2365) Advanced Diploma are often referred to as ‘the Technical Certificates’. They are the hallmark for employers looking to attain the services of trusted, appropriately trained professionals. The Level 2 (2365) Commercial Diploma and Level 3 (2365) Advanced Diploma are conducted in adjacent three-month spells. Students work for periods of two weeks on, two weeks off, throughout this training section. The Level 2 Diploma in Domestical Electrical Skills is an introductory programme that is accommodated within the first month.

The NVQ stage takes a little longer to complete. However, once successfully navigated (in conjunction with the passing of the AM2 Assessment), you’ll become a Gold Card-owning certified electrician.

The Diploma and NVQ route is a less structured, slightly swifter pathway to gaining the required level of qualifications. It’s substantially costlier, and may see some candidates veering off on tangents before returning to close-off studies. The course is usually a wholly more attractive proposition to mature students and those who already have industry experience.

Diploma Programme or Apprenticeship? Pick wisely

The key to selecting the right approach is to not be overly influenced by others. ‘Perceived’ routes have been constructed through historical trends, whereby individuals of a similar age, academic background or employment status would follow the same pathway for learning.

A young learner may ‘traditionally’ be more aligned to entering an apprenticeship programme, but a privately funded course may ideally suit their personal circumstance. Conversely, an older candidate may opt to work as an apprentice with a local employer due to their own specific push and pull factors.

Be selfish – think about you

Whichever choice you opt for, make sure it’s absolutely the right one for you. It’s essential to be honest, transparent and genuine about which path meets your specific requirements. This will enable you to have productive conversations with course conveners, local employers, academic stakeholders, and friends & family.

Consider the course differentials when conducting your decision-making process. Although both will see you ultimately arrive at the same destination, the characteristics of the journey differ hugely.

The main difference is their respective relationships towards employment. The apprenticeship scheme is centred around ‘on the job’ learnings, is lengthy in duration, and is funded by central government. The Diploma programme is more classroom based, is generally a quicker process and often financed exclusively by the course-taker.

Never forget flexibility!

Remember, there is a degree of flexibility in either option. In theory, you could complete both Level 3 Diplomas, focus on self-development in employment for a couple of years, before then returning to complete your final sign-off. Similarly, you could disengage from an apprenticeship programme and take up studies privately should lifestyle conditions change. The ball really is in your court.

Both routes are recognised as equally plausible ways of breaking into the industry. Each pathway will result in receiving a like-for-like accreditation that will comply with standardised City & Guilds charters. There is no right or wrong option.

Subsidiary Routes

There are two, currently lesser-pursued routes available that may prove favourable in certain circumstances. These have been perhaps been less well-travelled in the past, but the recent September 2021 alterations to the Competent Persons Scheme (CPS) may increase usage moving forward.

The CPS amendments mean that anyone who is either currently or planning to operate as a Qualified Supervisor (QS) will need to obtain at least an NVQ Level 3 qualification to legally perform their duties.

Impact

This will not directly effect those seeking work experience whilst studying (in theory, these individuals would be under the stewardship of a QS whilst in the workplace). However, those who look to take shorter ‘evidence-based’ routes into the industry will no longer be accredited without completing the NVQ process.

Some longer-term workers will also have inevitably slipped through the net. Therefore, there is now a necessity for them to return to study should they wish to undertake Qualified Supervisor positions.

Regardless, if you’re a relative novice in the trade, the most logical course of action is to ensure that you ascertain all relevant accreditations via an Apprenticeship or Diploma/NVQ- based programme. By doing this, candidates will be able to competently undertake all electrical tasks in compliance with external regulator standards.

Subsidiary Options

The Experienced Workers NVQ Course

This course is specifically targeted at individuals who have five years or more experience within the electrical industry. It provides a platform to finalise any missed/previously vacated studies and attain the required NVQ Level 3 qualification. This programme also concludes with the AM2 Assessment Centre.

NVQ Level 3 Course

Privately funded institutions may also offer a stand-alone NVQ Level 3 course for those with less than five years industry experience. Again, for those who prematurely ended their learning journey after Advanced Diploma Level 3, this offers a re-entry route into training. Candidates who complete will accordingly become fully validated with the correct, approved documentation.

Why become an electrician?

To press, we’ve discussed what steps need to be taken in order to become a certified electrician. However, it’s also worth considering the fundamental advantages of opting for a career in the electrical sector.

There are various opportunities available to those who study in this field. Perhaps the most pioneering sector for prospective electrical workers is that of renewable energy. Electricians take a leading role in the development and implementation of a number of environmentally sustainable concepts.

Whether it’s delivering EV pod point technology to domestic and commercial properties, becoming involved in wind farming processes, or installing heat pump systems to reduce energy wastage, electricians play a key role in promoting green processes and workstreams. Therefore your training will enable you to lend your weight to the cause for a healthier planet.

Reap the rewards

As referenced, the role’s demanding nature often invites people to suggest that electrical work is the most challenging of trades.

Although studying to become an electrician initially requires a more intensive training schedule, you will accordingly reap the financial rewards. Electricians are compensated with the highest salary out of all trade disciplines, receiving an impressive average wage of £33,495 per annum. However, should individuals gravitate towards self-employment or contracted work, their earnings opportunity will most likely rise exponentially.

Useful info

Registering solid grades in Science (physics), Maths & English GCSEs is preferable, as there are certain formulas which will require some mastery. However, the development of trade supporting Smartphone applications has majorly helped, and reduces the necessity to have a complete working grasp of all relevant algorithms. Therefore, even if subject knowledge is relatively modest, you should still be able to carve out a successful career in the trade.

Candidates, particularly of an older age, should consider the physical demands of the occupation. Although heavy lifting is not a significant part of the role, one should be braced for extended periods of hard work and concentration. Most electricians operate in the field until their late fifties/early sixties, but can prolong employment by moving onto less physical positions if necessary.

Work should never be far away

Given the growth of the renewable energy sector and constant requirement for electrical services in corporate settings, electricians are a group consistently in demand. If you decide that this is the right industry for you, then you can feel assured that there will be ample opportunity for work.

Next steps

In summary, this guide encourages prospective electrician students to:

  • Select a study route that is tailored around personal circumstance.
  • Ensure they have a full grasp on required accreditations for desired future occupation.
  • If undertaking a course at a private provider, make sure financial aspects are viable before commencing studies.
  • If searching for a local firm to facilitate work experience opportunities, take time to send out a high volume of applications.
  • Undertake research into the industry. Check to see whether general working conditions, industry salary levels and daily activities are aligned to workplace expectations.