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How to become an electrician

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A career as an electrician promises regular work and an attractive salary for those willing to develop their technical skills and meet the demands of regular assessment to keep on top of regulations...

Electricians are one of the most technically skilled trades on site because of the work they carry out; they have to have a lot of knowledge and must pass strict assessments to work.

Being technically skilled has its advantages - in return for constant learning you’ll be in high demand, so the earning potential is significant.

Electrical work is something that even the bravest DIY’er should give a wide berth as getting it wrong can have disastrous consequences; after all, changing a consumer unit is not the same as changing the lino in the downstairs loo. It’s scary stuff for the uninitiated and the majority of the work needs a certificate to sign it off as meeting the required standards.

With a serious shortage of qualified electricians now could be the perfect time to consider this particular trade.

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A day in the life of a electrician 

There are lots of different areas of electrical work. Domestic work in houses involves installing lights and sockets, carrying our rewires or meeting the growing demand for internet connectivity and power points for charging vehicles.

This offers variety and is a great way to meet different people every day - you could be heading to lots of jobs, so organisation is crucial. The job also tends to involve moving furniture and getting into dusty spaces to chase in cables, though it’s not as messy as some trades.

Alternatively, you could specialise in commercial work in shops, cinemas, supermarkets, schools and so on. Again, there is high demand and due to the nature of the work, you may find yourself working unsociable hours to coincide with closing times.

There are also industrial electricians who work in factories and on rail and power plants dealing with higher voltages.

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Electrician training and experience

Like any trade, one of the best ways to learn is by doing an apprenticeship. Most apprenticeships take four years and involve plenty of classroom theory as well as practical training. The beauty of apprenticeships is you work alongside time-served electricians and gain a lot of working experience before you’re let loose on your own.

If an apprenticeship isn’t open to you, you can take a Level 2 and 3 Diploma in Electrical Installation which could lead to a trainee position with a company where you would work with electricians on-site too. For this you’ll usually need 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for the level 2 course and 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, for level 3.

Another option is to take an intensive training course. They cost around £4,000 and can be achieved over a matter of weeks. Whilst this option will give you the qualifications required, it won’t give you the important experience on the job.

Electricians must keep their qualifications up to date which means going back to college every few years. Also, if you work for yourself, you’ll need to be accredited to an organisation like the NICEIC who will inspect your work once a year to ensure it’s up to standard.

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Electrician salaries

A first-year electrical apprentice earns £4.83 per an hour, an adult trainee £10-£12 per hour and approved electrician £15-£17 per hour. These are rates for an employed role and are slightly more for London. Working for yourself you could earn anywhere between £25-£60 per hour depending on your skill set and location.

All in all, being an electrician is an excellent career choice if you’re prepared to put the work in and keep on top of the latest regulations. It’s a great way to meet lots of people and have a skill for life that is in great demand along with the opportunity to earn great money too.

A career in the trades