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. 

Personal Requirements

  • 16 years old and older
  • mechanically and practically minded
  • able to think logically and clearly
  • able to work accurately and have self-discipline
  • good health and manual dexterity
  • good vision and colour discrimination
  • reliable and punctual
  • safety conscious, to avoid unnecessary accidents such as electrical shocks
  • business sense and good judgement
  • care about the quality of work and customer satisfaction

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 10 Certificate
  • Some employers demand higher qualifications

What to Study

There are four ways to qualify as an Automotive Electrician:

1. Apprenticeship

An apprentice is employed by a company for a fixed contract of between 18 months and 4 years under the supervision of a qualified artisan. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test in order to qualify as an automotive electrician. 

2. Learnership

A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from 1 to 3 years and includes theoretical and practical training. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test in order to qualify as an automotive electrician. 

3. Certificate

A National Certificate in Engineering can be completed at a TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) College 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.

4. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

RPL provides an opportunity for workers with experience in plumbing to have their experience formally recognised to become qualified. RPL is conducted at specific training centres and TVET Colleges with the expertise to offer this services. 

Skills programmes:

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)
merSETA House
95 7th Avenue, 
Corner Rustenburg Road, Melville, 
Johannesburg, 2109
Tel: (010) 219-3000

Electrical Contractors Association of South Africa

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

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