What does an electrician do?

Electricians install, connect, test and maintain electrical systems for a variety of purposes, including lighting, climate control, security, communications and electronic controls for machines. They work in homes, businesses, factories, sports stadiums, skyscrapers and power stations. When installing electrical systems, electricians work with blueprints, which indicate where circuit boards, power outlets and load centres need to be placed.

Their tasks can range from transporting data along fibre-optic cables to programming computer-controlled ‘intelligent’ buildings and factories. They can also work with renewable technology, such as wind turbines or photovoltaic systems that turn the sun’s energy into electricity. Depending on the electrician’s area of specialisation, tasks might include:

  • reviewing current systems
  • installing power systems, lighting, fire protection, security and data-network systems
  • checking systems regularly to make sure that they are working efficiently and safely
  • building and installing control panels that operate the electrical systems inside buildings
  • repairing and maintaining electrical motors and other machinery like transformers
  • installing and maintaining street lighting and traffic management systems.

Interview with an electrician

Shravan Singh | ELECTRONIC ENGINEER | SANSA Space Operations

What’s your job all about?  
The type of work I do varies: from working as a stage manager at public events, to coordinating photo shoots, to taking photos of events, people or products.

Why did you choose this profession?  
I chose to do photography as I have been passionate about it from the age of 17, and had the good fortune of being asked to do a photo essay for a magazine called Design Indaba. This made me realise that I could do what I love to earn money.

Did you undergo training?  
I got my first camera when I was 17, and instantly fell in love with photography, so I just kept on taking photos until my friends helped me to see that I needed to take my photography to a more serious level. Two years ago I got a bursary to study documentary photography in Berlin. I had a really fantastic time exploring and photographing the city and its diverse people.

What makes a ‘successful’ photographer?  
Photographers differ in so many ways, but when one goes slightly deeper, one realises that what all the really good ones have in common is that they are very skilled at their craft, and they are good at listening, so they can translate their clients needs into visual images. It doesn’t hurt if one happens to be friendly, though it is important to be able to deal with people professionally.

Describe your typical day  
It all depends on what one is shooting. Here’s an example of shooting models on location: The day usually starts early, depending on what kind of light is required, with meeting the clients to reconfirm the brief. Everyone gathers, then moves to the location together. The models are made up, and the lighting set up. The models are directed to assume different poses and the actual photography starts. Sometimes there is more than one location, which means that the whole process takes place again.

Another type of shoot is one where I have to document an event, or an area with its people. This is my favourite kind of shoot, which basically involves being ‘submerged’ in a community, area or event, and watching for a moment that will tell the story.

What do you love the most about your work?  
The opportunity to meet new and different people, as well as getting to see things that I would not normally see. For example, one job had me taking a helicopter ride at 4am to a rig out at sea, then photographing the workers from the bottom to the top of this amazing structure. I like doing different things.

What advice would you give to someone starting off?  
Work hard, take lots of pictures, and be excited and inspired.

Your job in three words  
Exciting • Inspiring • Rewarding

Interview with an electrician

Ilunga Jean Paul Muambayi | ELECTRICIAN | Electro Surgeon

Why did you choose this profession?
I enjoy working with people and prefer being on the road than in an office. There is always work available for electricians because it’s one of the most common trades, and there is always a lot of growth potential when you work for a well-known company.

What training did you undergo and where did you do it?
I did an apprenticeship section 28 with ECA and Train All training centre in Cape Town.

Describe a typical day on the job
We mainly work on maintenance on electrical work in houses and small buildings – like plug points, light fittings, earth leakages, etc. Every day there is something different and we are always needed.

What are the best parts?
I enjoy a good team spirit, and when a client is happy with my work.

What don’t you like?
I don’t like it when sometimes a client thinks they know what is wrong and overrun my decisions when I’m fixing a problem, in the end realising that I did intend to do the right thing. This is why you need lots of patience and good social skills!

Have there been hurdles to overcome?
I have found that in this industry you have to keep your focus and be positive because when I started it was not easy. I did not get a lot of help and not many companies wanted to hire me because I hardly had any experience.

Career highlights?
When I resolve the problem by giving satisfaction to the ones in need and I can look back and be proud of how much experience I have gained.

Your future goals are…
To find myself managing a big electrical company.

How does experience weigh up against formal training?
The more experience you get, the better equipped you are mentally and physically.

What makes a ‘good’ electrician?
An electrician needs dedication, passion and a hard-working ethos.

Any advice for someone starting out in your career?
Always be willing to learn and take on new opportunities. Never give up.


Preconditions for becoming a certified electrical contractor include completing an electrical contractor apprenticeship and passing a Trade Test. There are many TVET Colleges, as well as learnership and apprenticeship programmes, that offer qualifications as an electrician. Another option is to complete a Bachelor of Science: Electrical Engineering degree, plus an additional master’s degree, followed by a training programme within a specific company. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite for many courses. Registration with the Electrical Contracting Board of South Africa, which is a requirement prior to operating as a contractor, can only be completed once registration as an accredited person through the Department of Labour has been finalised and a certificate of registration issued.


Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Mathematics
• Physical Sciences
• Information Technology
• Electrical Technology


<Protech Training
Learnership and Apprenticeship

Learnership and Apprenticeship

MCD Training Centre
Learnership and Apprenticeship

AA Technical College

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Science: Electrical Engineering

University of Cape Town
Bachelor of Science: Electrical Engineering

North-West University
Bachelor of Engineering: Electrical Engineering

University of Johannesburg
National Diploma: Electrical Engineering

University of Pretoria
National Diploma: Electrical Engineering

University of Stellenbosch
Electrical and Electronic Engineering Degree

National Diploma and Degree: Engineering

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
National Diploma: Electrical Engineering

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma: Electrical Engineering


South African Institute of Electrical Engineers – www.saiee.org.za
Electrical Contractors’ Association of South Africa – www.ecasa.co.za