How to become an electrical engineer: Ciaran's story

Meet Ciaran, 20, from Belfast. He is doing a degree apprenticeship in London with Schneider Electric to become an electrical engineer. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

"A degree apprenticeship gives you the salary, the job, and the degree."

What is your job?

My company are a huge global electrical automation company and we provide products and solutions that make buildings more efficient and eco-friendly through automation and digitisation.

My job as part of this is very technical most of the time. It's very similar to an electrician as we are on sites all across the UK, commissioning our electrical products and maintaining the automation system of a building.

Most of my day-to-day tasks involve terminating (wiring) our products and connecting them to the building management system through our smart 'internet-of-things' solution that is in most of our products.

What skills do you use in your job?

Many skills are used in my job, mainly problem solving and communication. I am constantly learning from experts all across the business as I am quite new. Communication and teamwork are definitely the most important. When some products aren't working properly, we have to problem solve, fault find and come up with a solution to fix it.

What subjects did you study at school?

I studied Chemistry, Physics, and Maths at A-level. The main subject that comes into play with electrical engineering is Physics. There is Maths in there too, because there are spreadsheets involved. I am now doing a degree apprenticeship, so I work full-time and study part-time. I am doing a degree in Integrated Engineering at the University of Lincoln.

Ciaran works full-time for 10 weeks, then spends one week studying on the university campus.

Top tips

  • Repeating a year in school gave me time to think. Think about what you want for yourself. Don't just follow the status quo of ' You need to go to uni to become successful.'

  • If you're a hands-on learner and like to get straight into things, a degree apprenticeship will most likely suit you. Five years experience, a salary and a degree? No brainer.

What to expect if you want to be an electrical engineer

When Ciaran finishes his degree apprenticeship, he will be qualified as an electrical engineer. Electrical engineers design, build, and maintain electrical systems, machinery, and equipment.

  • Electrical engineer salary: £20,000 to £60,000 per year
  • Electrical engineer hours: 35 to 40 hours per week

What qualifications do you need to be an electrical engineer?

  • Typical entry requirements: You can get into this job through a university course, a college course, an apprenticeship, or applying directly. You can do a degree in Electrical or Electronic Engineering. You may also be able to get into this career with a degree in Electromechanical Engineering, Building Services Engineering, Applied Physics, Aeronautical Engineering, or Mechatronics. You'll usually need two to three A-levels (or equivalent) for a degree. You could do a Level 4 and 5 Higher National Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at college before looking for work. You'll usually need one or two A-levels (or equivalent), a Level 3 diploma, or relevant experience for a Level 4 or Level 5 course. You could do an electrical and electronic technical support engineer higher apprenticeship. You'll usually need four or five GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and college qualifications like A-levels (or equivalent) for a higher or a degree apprenticeship.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

Ciaran found his apprenticeship on Not Going to Uni

Find out more on the Prospects website about the role of an electrical engineer.

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

Work experience in your area
Find work experience placements with Workfinder.

Tips and advice
Help with interviews, writing a CV and all things work experience related.

Work experience can help you make informed decisions about your future career.
Aine: junior simulation engineer
Manish: solar farm manager
Zoe: apprentice site engineer