Automotive Electrician

Automotive electricians manufacture, install, repair and maintain electrical systems and equipment in motor vehicles. 

Automotive electricians repair and maintain the electrical  systems in vehicles, and they need to have a thorough knowledge of starter mechanisms, lights, windscreen wipers, hooters and indicators, as well as accessories such as electrically controlled windows and car music systems.  Although the work is fairly routine on the whole, an electrician with ambition will find opportunities to progress to more specialised training to be able to diagnose electrical defects using the efficient modern equipment.

Motor vehicles have two electrical systems, namely an ignition system and an accessory system. The ignition system consists mainly of the battery, distributor, induction coil, high-tension wires and spark plugs. The starter motor, alternator or generator, voltage regulators, lights, windscreen-wipers, hooters, indicators, electrically operated windows, aerials, radios, tape players, revolution counters and fuel gauges are part of the second system.

They also need to have a thorough knowledge of ignition systems since defects in accessory systems may have a detrimental effect upon vehicles’ electrical systems as a whole. Automotive electricians are trained as tune-up specialists who can therefore understand the influence of the accessory system on the ignition and carburetor system.  They do a fair amount of routine work such as replacing bulbs and setting regulators. Specialised work includes tracing faults with special equipment.

Because of the modern equipment now in use, the dirty greasy conditions which used to be part of the job, are a thing of the past.  They work in motor assembly plants, or workshops of garages or car dealers. 

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 10 Certificate
  • Some employers demand higher qualifications

What to Study

Automotive electricians receive their training by entering into a learnership with any approved employer in the automotive industry.

There are three ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) Colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools.

They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • motor vehicle manufacturers and garages
  • electrical equipment repair shops
  • shops specialising in fitting audio car and speed control systems
  • self-employment, with capital, start own business

Further Information

MerSETA (Manufacturing, Engineering and
Related Services)
P O Box 6848
Marshaltown, 2107
3 Metropolitan Park
Hillside Rd
Parktown, 2193
Tel: (011) 544-1316 Fax: (011) 484-8620

Getting Started

  • make an appointment to speak to an automotive electrician about this type of career and ask to observe them at work.
  • try to obtain vacation work in an automotive electrical shop or garage

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations