What is a gas engineer?
First things first, before discussing how to become a gas engineer you need to know what a gas engineer is. To put it plainly, gas engineers are qualified personnel who work on gas appliances. You will be familiar with these tradesmen if you’ve ever rented a property or leased one, as they should visit the property annually to perform a gas safety inspection. Another time you would have encountered a gas engineer is if you have ever had issues with your central heating system such as: a leaking boiler, unusual noises or a sudden lack of hot water. A gas engineer is the professional that you would call out to your property to address any of these issues. Even though this is where gas engineers are most commonly seen it still doesn’t do the role of a gas engineer any justice, as the work they carry out is broad and is not simply explained in a few words. Gas engineers work on a variety of appliances in a range of environments spanning from commercial to domestic settings and working on appliances from gas cookers to commercial boiler plant rooms, to name just a few.
Why become a gas engineer?
Normally, the main reason anyone decides to become a gas engineer is the lucrative earning potential that the role entails. The starting wage for a gas engineer is around £30,000 a year, going up to £60,000+ a year depending on the experience and specialty of the engineer in question. The average salary is around £25,000 a year so it isn’t hard to imagine how a starting wage £5,000 above the national average, with the potential for it to more than double is seen as a major incentive.
Despite this incredibly attractive wage bracket there are also other benefits that make this career path seem even more alluring, the foremost is that of flexibility. Although flexibility isn’t nearly as enticing as money, it still allows you the freedom to take control of your future in many different ways. To start, you can choose to work for yourself as self-employed which in turn gives you the freedom to choose your own hours, deciding when and where you would like to work. If the idea of having to generate your own workflow seems daunting, you then have the option of working for a company. This allows you to rest easy knowing you have your schedule planned for you alongside promised job security. In addition to this aspect of flexibility, gas engineers will also have the freedom to choose the area of work they want to specify in as gas engineers require training and certification for the different types of gas equipment they are legally permitted to work on. This allows engineers to become qualified specifically on their favoured appliances, as such the work they then take on will then be with gas appliances they prefer to work on.
Finally, another advantage to becoming a gas engineer is the increasing demand for engineers. According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) there has been a 43% shortage in regard to skilled professionals in the trades industry, and obviously this then includes gas engineers. With most jobs being scarce and hard to come by due to the current political and economical climate within the UK, having such a large demand for a specific profession goes a long way in persuading people in choosing this career for themselves.
How to become a gas engineer:
The first step you can take in becoming a gas engineer involves deciding whether the role is right for you. The reason behind this self-reflection is that it may seem amazing working in a role with high wages, a large amount of flexibility and increasing demand, but if the job isn’t suitable for your character then chances are the negatives will outweigh the positives leading to increased stress and unhappiness. Gas engineers in general need to love learning and be excellent at dynamic problem solving as no appointment will ever be the same. Upon arriving on site you will often have to diagnose what the problem is and think of the most applicable solution to the issue. The problems that can occur with gas appliances are vast and will regularly require you to use your intuition to decide on the appropriate option to implicate and may even lead to you self-educating on something not previously thought of. You also need to be comfortable with getting your hands dirty due to the practicality of the field, leading to a combination of practical characteristics as well as an academic nature. The final thing you would need to consider is your communication capabilities. As an engineer you will need to talk to clients who don’t know the industry jargon and explain to them what is wrong with their gas appliances, the options they have available and the justification behind this. All of this will need to be done in easy-to-understand layman terms as the clients most likely will not have previous knowledge of gas appliances especially to the standard of a qualified gas engineer. If communication isn’t your strong suit and you don’t enjoy interacting with customers then you may want to focus on larger development or site projects as this will involve a manager who delegates work and deals with clients. Alternatively, if these aspects don’t seem appealing then you may want to reconsider a different choice of career.
After you have decided that becoming a gas engineer is the right fit for your personality and lifestyle, you can then proceed with the training. Becoming a gas engineer used to be a journey that would take years, nowadays it can be done much quicker by using fast-tracked managed learning programmes now available from a multitude of online providers. There are two ways to complete this training: the fast-tracked managed learning programmes previously mentioned and the traditional route of an NVQ apprenticeship. As expected, there are upsides and pitfalls to each of these choices with the participation being fairly equal on both sides. Traditional NVQ apprenticeships involve working alongside a company as you study. The benefit of this is that it allows you to earn a wage whilst you learn the tools of the trade, as you can imagine this is hugely convenient for those who simply can’t afford time off work and need an income to maintain their lifestyle whilst learning. The hefty downside of an NVQ apprenticeship is that it takes much longer to complete in comparison to its counterpart. Apprenticeships will regularly take a minimum of 3 years to complete whereas the fast-track programmes can take just weeks. Other negatives are the fact you need a minimum of 4 GCSEs graded between A* – C and the availability of these apprenticeships is incredibly low with a waiting list often attached to the position.
Fast tracked managed learning programmes are slowly becoming the favoured approach to becoming a gas engineer, with the main factor that is putting off applicants being instead of being paid for the work you will have to pay for the course yourself. This is the nail in the coffin for many would-be applicants as they just can’t afford to participate in a course that takes weeks whilst not gaining any income. Despite the lack of income, the advantages are clear as there is no GCSE minimum requirement, they’re much quicker to complete and the availability is in abundance from many different providers that are easy to find by a brief online search.
How do I get my gas engineer certification?
Once you have completed your training you will then need to take ACS (Accredited Certification Scheme) exams relevant to the gas appliances you will be working on. You will need to complete the relevant assessments to become Gas Safe Registered which in turn is a legal requirement to work on any gas appliances. The ACS exams need to be retaken every 5 years due to the gas appliance industry constantly evolving with new technology, processes and regulations being updated all the time. Retaking the exams every 5 years also gives engineers the opportunity to expand their resume and add other appliances and systems to their portfolio of what they are legally allowed to work on. If you don’t renew your ACS qualifications every 5 years you will get suspended from the Gas Safe Register until you have renewed and therefore you won’t be able to legally work on any gas fired apparatus.
There is a great deal of different ACS courses all relating to specific systems, environments and appliances; the main core qualifications included on most basic ACS applications are:
- Core Domestic Gas Safety (CCN1)
- Combustion Performance Analysis (CPA1)
- Domestic Gas Central Heating, Boilers, and Water Heaters (CENWAT)
- Domestic Gas Cookers (CKR1)
- Domestic Gas Fires and Wall Heaters (HTR1).
As mentioned previously you can gain additional ACS qualifications to increase your work capabilities and appliances you can legally work on, doing so can lead to a growth in your earning potential and improve your employability. The majority of these qualifications are as follows (this list isn’t exhaustive and there may be other available assessments:
- Ducted Air Heaters (DAH1)
- Core commercial gas work (COCN1)
- Commercial pipe work (COCN1PILS & ICPN1)
- Commercial radiant & tube heaters (CORT1)
- Commercial indirect fired natural gas appliances (CIGA1)
- Commercial direct fired natural gas appliances (CDGA1)
- Gas boosters (BMP1)
- Testing and purging commercial pipe work (TPCP1 & TPCP1A)
- Core commercial catering appliances (CCCN1)
- Commercial catering appliances (COMCAT1, COMCAT2, COMCAT3, COMCAT4 & COMCAT5)
- Commercial mobile catering appliances (CMC1)
- Core domestic & non-domestic natural gas metres safety (CMA1, CMA2 L/S)
- Metres installation and removal (MET1, MET2, MET 3 L/S, MET4)
- Domestic medium pressure metre regulator and controls (REGT1)
- Core emergency service provider (CESP1)
- Protective equipotential bonding (PEB1)
- Carbon monoxide testing (CMDDA1)
- Gas fuelled engines (CGFE1)
- Domestic natural gas laundry appliances (LAU1)
- Commercial natural gas laundry appliances (CLE1)
In addition to this abundance of assessments available from ACS, they also offer what is known as “change-over” courses. These are less demanding assessments taken by engineers with previous experience wanting to learn another system or appliance that has similarities to their existing ACS qualifications e.g. switching from domestic natural gas to commercial. Taking these change-over courses offers an easier and less demanding route as opposed to taking the full course which would assume the person taking the assessment doesn’t have prior relevant knowledge. Some of these change-over exams are:
- Change-over from core domestic natural gas to commercial (CODNCO1)
- Change-over from domestic natural gas to catering appliances (CODC1, COCATA1)
- Change-over from domestic natural gas to emergency service provider (CODNESP1)
- Change-over from domestic natural gas to commercial laundry (COCCLNG1)
- Change-over from domestic natural gas to LPG (CONGLP1)
- Change-over from domestic natural gas to LPG boats (CONGLP1B)
- Change-over from domestic natural gas to LPG mobile catering (CONGLP1CMC)
- Change-over from domestic natural gas to LPG permanent dwellings (CONGLP1PD)
- Change-over from domestic natural gas to LPG residential park homes (CONGLP1RPH)
- Change-over from domestic natural gas to LPG leisure accommodation vehicles (CONGLP1LAV)
When the desired ACS qualifications have been taken and passed proving your competence you can then apply for the Gas Safe Register. The Gas Safe Register is the legal regulatory body for all gas engineers, they ensure gas engineers are qualified for the appliances they are working on and investigate any unsafe work or work carried out by unregistered engineers then providing evidence to courts when necessary. After applying to the Gas Safe Register, you will spend 3 months on probation, having to keep a record and evidence of all work conducted, then notifying the Gas Safe Register of all work completed as a result.