October 24, 2023
Britain is suffering a severe shortage of qualified tradespeople, despite the fact that the level of demand means that there are potentially excellent earnings on offer. As well as builders and plumbers, good-quality electricians are extremely sought after right now. And with technology, electric cars, smart homes and domestic appliances all playing increasingly large roles in our everyday lives, the need for electrical installation and repair work isn’t likely to subside any time soon.
If you’re a young person evaluating your career choices, or you’re looking for a change in profession, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we’ve created this guide, so that you can understand what qualifications you need to be an electrician. We’ll cover why qualifications are important, how they vary across the different routes into the industry, and the other key considerations to make as you become an electrical professional.
We’ve all heard of cowboy tradespeople and bodge-jobs at one time or another, and this kind of poor-quality work, often done on the cheap, doesn’t do anybody any good. Taking the appropriate qualifications for electrical work is vital for a number of reasons to ensure everyone gets the work and service they expect. Let’s break it down into five key areas:
This is perhaps the most important thing to remember when looking at what qualifications you need to be an electrician. Work that is not done safely can cause serious injury or worse, not only to whoever is doing the work, but to whoever is using the electrics afterwards. Good-quality training will ensure the right attitude and approaches towards safe work.
Electrical work is such a broad church that there is a wide range of different works, which can vary depending on the work involved. For example, Domestic Installers don’t necessarily require all the qualifications and legal commitments that other electricians might need (more on that later). Different types of qualifications ensure that an electrician’s skill set is suitable for the type of work that they’re doing.
Qualifications ensure that an electrician is capable of doing the jobs they’re hired or contracted to do to the best possible standard. The training involved will guarantee that the right techniques and approaches have been learned along the way, instead of relying on second-hand advice or guesswork.
All three of the points above are important for giving customers confidence that their project is in good hands. Everyone remembers a good electrician, but they’re just as likely to remember a bad one. If a customer feels positive about work before, during and afterwards, they’re far more likely to become a repeat customer for months and even years to come.
Different types of work come with different types of rules and regulations, many of them to ensure all the points listed above are adhered to. Qualifications help ensure work that takes place is legal, and that the importance of legal work is understood. In many cases, having these qualifications will be a legal requirement to get certain work and jobs.
There are several different ways to get into the electrical industry, and which ones are right for you depend on a number of different factors. These include (and are not necessarily limited to): your age, any pre-existing experience you have, any qualifications you’ve gained in other industries, and how much of your own money you’re able to spend on training. In this section, we’ll cover the main options in turn, and highlight some of the qualifications to work towards:
Getting an apprenticeship is probably the most common way to get a foothold in the industry, and in many ways, it can be considered the most traditional. You’ll be able to work on-site part-time, and spend the rest of your time learning in a college of specialist training centre.
Generally speaking, electrician apprenticeships last around three or four years. To be eligible, you’ll normally be expected to have GCSEs at grade C or better in English, Maths and Information Communication Technology. At the end of the apprenticeship, you’ll have either a technical certificate, NVQ or diploma at Level 3, which will enable you to pursue a long-term career in most types of electrical work.
If you work as an electrician’s mate, then you have the chance to gain some working knowledge of electrical installations by shadowing and assisting a qualified professional. There are no formal requirements for qualifications to become an electrician’s mate, although gaining some of the basic credentials at levels 1 and 2 is desirable. Generally speaking, mates will not be able to carry out work unsupervised, which is why they’re generally better suited to larger businesses and sites where there are more people able to assist and provide advice.
It is possible to take qualifications in a formal college-based setting, in particular the Diploma in Electrical Installation at levels 2 and 3, or the T Level in Building Services Engineering for Construction. However, these should not be considered everything that is needed to become a fully qualified electrician: practical experience working in the electrical industry (normally around three years) is also required. This is why the apprenticeship (as highlighted above) or company-specific training and development schemes should be considered in tandem with any course.
The Joint Industry Board (JIB) awards the status of Approved Electrician to anyone who meets their exacting criteria. For starters, you’ll need to have completed an apprenticeship or equivalent; but you’ll also need at least two years’ further experience after that; and a level 3 qualification in inspecting, testing and initial verification.
Approved Electricians are able to design and install electrical projects in a high-quality, efficient and safe manner. They’ll also be able to manage projects and understand requirements from drawings and specifications. Therefore, while it may take a long time to get Approved status, it can significantly increase your earning power in the long-term.
In the eyes of the law – specifically Part P of the Building Regulations (Electrical Safety – Dwellings) – Domestic Installers are not electricians, strictly speaking. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t professionals in their own right.
Domestic Installers do not necessarily have to go through all the qualifications that electricians need to. Instead, you can get up to speed through gaining a level 3 award that confirms their knowledge of electrical installations. This should also ensure that you are conversant with the British Standard BS 7671 on Requirements for Electrical Installations (also known informally as ‘The Regs’). These awards can be completed in around 100 hours, meaning it’s possible to get what you need in as little as three weeks, as long as you can demonstrate an example installation to an assessor.
Many electricians come into the industry from other trades, especially related areas like building or electrical engineering. In this case, some of the qualifications gained to work in these industries can be transferred into working as an electrician. You may find that through your existing credentials, you’re able to get a job at an employer that will then help you gain all the skills and specific qualifications that you’re missing.
If you’ve already been working in the industry for some time and you haven’t reached at least a level 3 qualification, you may be able to get that level of accreditation without going through training. You can take an Experienced Worker Assessment that takes a look at your capabilities and expertise, and works out if you’re already operating at a sufficient level.
Electrical work is vitally important, and it can also be highly dangerous if not done correctly. It’s for that reason that there are a wide range of requirements and legislation in place to make sure that work is always done safely and to a good, professional standard. If something goes wrong, the financial implications can be severe, which is why having the correct insurance is essential.
If you’re working for an employer, then you’ll normally be covered by whatever insurance provision they have in place. But if you’re working on a self-employed basis, or running your own electrician business where you’re employing other people, then having your own cover in place is a must.
At Protectivity, we specialise in providing electricians insurance to professionals and entrepreneurs just like you. Our cover includes up to £5 million of public liability cover, employers’ liability if you hire other people, and the option for commercial legal protection in case you need support in this area. Find out more about our affordable policies, excellent claims handling, and monthly payment options for our electricians insurance today.
This blog has been created as general information and should not be taken as advice. Make sure you have the correct level of insurance for your requirements and always review policy documentation.