How to become an electrician in the UK and the qualifications you will need

There are two ways to become a qualified electrician in the UK.

  • Studying part time at at a building college or on a fast track course
  • Electrical Apprenticeship
  • Experienced worker assessment

Part time or fast track electrician course

The easiest way to become a qualified electrician is by enrolling on a part time course at a building college or a fast track learning provider. This is the route most adult trainee electricians take and is the route I took.

Courses are usually split into three or four parts. You will need all of them:

1. Level 1 diploma in electrical installation

This is effectively a foundation year for the Level 2 diploma in electrical installation. In my case I was able to skip the level 1 diploma as I had sufficient GCSE’s and achieved a good enough result in the college’s entry exam. I believe most colleges do the same so make sure you swat up on your basic maths if you also have to sit an entry exam. Check with your local college how they run this course, it’s usually two evenings a week for one year.

2. Level 2 diploma in electrical installation

The level 2 diploma in electrical installation is where you learn the core maths, science and practical skills needed to start your journey to becoming a fully qualified electrician. The course is typically 50/50 classroom and workshop based. The theory isn’t too difficult however the maths can be a little scary at first. With some hard work and extra hours put in at home you’ll soon get your head round it. 

Exams are spread throughout the year, most are multiple choice.  There is a workshop based practical exam at the end of the academic year commonly known as the AM1. If you have good practical skills you will be fine.

I believe everyone in my class passed the Level 2 diploma in electrical installation first time. All went on to study the Level 3 diploma in electrical installation.

3. Level 3 diploma in electrical installation

The level 3 diploma in electrical installation further builds on the knowledge and skills you gained on the Level 2. Its largely theory based with the workshop time focused on inspection, testing and fault finding. Most of the assessments are assignment based.

Many building colleges don’t list the specifics of this course on their websites however do offer it so check before enrolling on the level 2. I believe it’s to do with student numbers after completion of the Level 2.

4. Level 3 NVQ in electrical installation

This is the most important step to becoming a fully qualified electrician. You must be working in the trade inorder to enrol on the course. 

The bulk of your time is spent on site gathering evidence for your portfolio. This involves taking photos of and writing up work you have been carrying out. There are set units you have to cover so will need to be working in a role which involves a variety of electrical installation work. You normally also have 3-4 site visits from your college tutor

As an adult trainee electrician studying the Level 3 NVQ you’ll typically attend college once a week during term time, usually on a Friday. Some learning providers are also offering this course remotely with no need to attend college or have tutor site visits.

On completion of the NVQ you will have to sit the AM2 or AM2-S exam. This is a practical and theory based exam which takes 3 days to complete. Some learning providers do not include the AM2 in the NVQ course fee so check before enroling.

The electrical NVQ typically takes 1 year to complete.

Electrical apprenticeship

An electrical apprenticeship is widely regarded as the best way to go about training as an Electrician. As an electrical apprentice you will work with experienced electricians, learning on the job whilst obtaining the theory and basic skills needed at a building college. The qualification is a Level 3 NVQ in Electrical installation.

Apprenticeships are often associated with school leavers and young people only, however this is not the case. You just have to be over 16 years old, there is no upper age limit and no age limit to the government funding. The only difference is in the pay scales which are as follows:

– Apprentices aged 16 to 18 the minimum wage is £4.91 per hour

–  Apprentices aged 19 or over in their first year of employment the minimum wage is £4.91

– Apprentices over the age of 19 and after their first year of employment are entitled to the national minimum wage or national living wage.

Electrical apprentices attend college during term time once a week or in week blocks once a month. An electrical apprenticeship takes around 4 years to complete.

On successful completion of an electrical apprenticeship and AM2 exam you will be able to apply for your ECS gold card. As you have completed an apprenticeship this will have ‘Completed apprenticeship’ on the back. This is quite desirable to many employers.

Experienced worker assessment

If you have been working in the Electrical trade for 5 years or more in the UK or have electrical qualifications overseas and wish to be recognized as an electrician in the UK, you can apply for a place on an experienced worker assessment course.

You’ll be assessed much like a Level 3 NVQ Electrical student, having to complete a portfolio demonstrating your ability and competence and will also have to sit an AM2E examination. You will also need the up to date BS7671 qualification (currently 18th edition amendment 2) and have passed 2391 inspection and test.

In order to apply for an experience worker assessment course you must be able to provide evidence of your prior experience.

If you meet all criteria and on successful completion of the course and AM2E exam you will be able to apply for a JIB ECS Installation Electrician Gold card.