Explaining technician careers to students

There are many great resources out there to inspire students about a range of careers. However, there are at least a couple of million people in this country doing well-paid, interesting and valuable jobs that too many young-people never get to hear about. Technicians work on everything from software development to medical research, and their jobs are ideal for people who are inquisitive, practical and great problem-solvers. Technical education pathways like apprenticeships or the upcoming T-levels are ideal routes to becoming a technician – read more below to find out what you should tell your students about technician careers.

Interactive game

We've developed a new interactive way for young people to explore the full range of technician careers.

Case Studies

Inspire students with real-life technician stories. Downloadable versions are available for use in class or in career sessions.

What's happening

We regularly post articles, stories, and employer profiles to provide you with even further inspiration and materials.

Got a question?

We've tried to answer as many FAQs from teachers and careers advisors as possible. Visit regularly for new and updated answers!

Our real-life stories of technicians show just how broad and interesting their jobs are. Inspire your students with our case studies that reveal the wide range of roles in which technicians make things happen.

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Useful information

Average Salary of a Research Laboratory Technician£30,680
Average Salary of a Network Engineer£34,320
Average Salary of a Mechanical Fitter£35,360
Average salary of a job in the UK*£26,260

Data powered by LMI for all
*according to ONS

Got a question?

What is a technician?

Different reports suggest that there is anything between 1.5 and 2.2 million people working in the UK whose jobs fit the criteria of technician. Only some of them will have the word technician in their job title, and they are found across a wide variety of sectors and industries; but they do have a few keys things in common. They will have specific scientific, technological or engineering knowledge (this will depend on where they work) that they combine with a set of skills and attributes that are common to most technicians, regardless of the industry they are in. You can read more about these skills and attributes in our Prospectus.

When we hear the word technician, many of us first think of those technicians based in our school or college’s science or D&T departments. These people play a key role in the education workforce. However, in terms of overall numbers, they are a very small percentage (less than 1%) of the total number of people in the country who could be defined as technicians.

Not everyone would make a great technician, but for those that have a natural flair for most of the typical technician skills and attributes, it could be the perfect career path.

Where do technicians work?

There is no such thing as a typical technician employer. In fact, from the smallest SMEs, to some of the biggest brands in the country, technicians are the linchpins of the economy, driving innovation, productivity and generally keeping things running smoothly for businesses up and down the land. Take a look at some of our real-life technicians to get a flavour of the huge variety of technician roles and their often surprising places of work.

What is the Technicians Make it Happen campaign and what does it offer teachers and careers advisors?

Technicians Make it Happen is geared towards inspiring young people and explaining to the adults in their lives, such as parents and teachers, that the career of a technician can have boundless opportunities. Our aim is to reveal how technicians work in virtually every sector and industry in the country – and if you are naturally analytical, practical and a real problem-solver, it’s very likely that a technician career could be ideal.

As you know, all schools and colleges are now asked by government to publish what their career guidance plan is and how it is fit-for-purpose for each-and-every student.

Teachers and careers advisors may find the case studies and other resources on our site useful in lesson planning when thinking about linking careers to the curriculum or devising particular CEIAG activities.

The campaign is driven by the Gatsby Foundation’s Education Team. Gatsby has long championed technical education and skills in this country. We recognise that not only are these technician roles vital to our economy and growth, they offer a career pathway with autonomy, practicality and plenty of opportunity for growth for those that thrive best following a technical rather than an academic route post-GCSEs. 

What grades/qualifications/subjects would a student need to become a technician?

Depending on the particular technician role; technical education pathways like apprenticeships or the upcoming T-levels would be the best route to becoming a technician. However, going through our real-life technician stories, you will quickly see that people have taken varied paths to their technician role.

As a general rule, most people who are doing a technician role (and everyone featured on this site) will have formal qualifications at least at Level 3 as a minimum. As you are likely aware these could include; A-levels, Advanced Apprenticeships, Level 3 NVQ, Tech Level, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma for example.

A large number of technicians have qualifications much beyond this (from degrees right up to PhDs). However, it’s rarely the case that they need this level of qualification to be able do their job – they simply may have enjoyed their subject or studying their area of expertise.

Like almost all jobs advertised in this country, virtually all technicians will be expected to have passed Maths and English GCSEs (or their equivalent).

If a student has a question for you regarding a particular technician role that they find interesting, recommend that they visit the National Careers Service where they will find typical entry requirements for that role.

If an apprenticeship is an ideal route to a technician job, where should I tell a student to find more information about one?

Apprenticeships are offered by a wide range of employers and are advertised in many places. The Government’s Apprenticeships website is a great place to start and includes many nationally available apprenticeships, information on the different levels of apprenticeships, and tips on how to apply for them.

However, many employers, colleges, and training providers advertise apprenticeships on their websites and do not always use the Government’s site.

Finding an apprenticeship can be a bit like finding a job – encourage your student to do some searching online or even contacting other local colleges or employers directly to get some more information about what is available.

I have heard a little about the new T-levels – are they a good option for a student if they want to be a technician of some sort?

T-levels are currently being designed and are hoped to be an ideal route to many great technician roles. They are set at Level 3 (equivalent to 3 A-levels) and so will be an option available after GCSEs. They combine classroom learning with a three-month industry placement. Their purpose is to give young people the technical skills, knowledge and experience to commence a career in an area that they are particularly interested in or passionate about.

T-levels are being rolled out in phases; with the first set being offered in some schools and colleges from September 2020. It’s hoped that the full range of options will be offered across the country from September 2023. The Government has created a useful overview of T-levels on its website.

Where is a good place to find information about specific technician roles?

If a student knows what kind of technician role they would like, the National Careers Service provides tailored information on the education and skills needed to get into the profession, what their typical working day would look like and relevant training or  apprenticeships.

If a student likes the idea of being a technician but isn’t sure of what sector or industry would be right for them, why not use some of the stories of the real-life technicians featured on our website for inspiration.

Does the Technicians Make it Happen campaign offer things like work experience/placements/apprenticeships/talks/careers fair visits? If not, what other resources do you offer?

Technicians Make it Happen gets many requests from schools and colleges every year to attend fairs or to identify work experience opportunities. Unfortunately, we can only attend a select number of events – you can find our events schedule here. We would encourage you to make use of the resources available on this site. If there is anything additional in hard copy that you would find useful, please contact us and we can arrange a pack to be sent to you or your school/college.

Technicians Make it Happen gets many requests regarding work experience and apprenticeships. Unfortunately, we have very limited capacity to offer work experience and it would be within a communications and marketing setting, with no technician experience offered. We do not offer technician apprenticeships, but many of the employers that we feature do.

The Government’s Apprenticeships website is a great place to start and includes many nationally available apprenticeships, information on the different levels of apprenticeships, and tips on how to apply for them.

My student has special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – would any technician roles be suitable for them?

If your student has SEND, or if you work in an educational setting that caters specifically for students with SEND, you will know that it is crucially important for them to receive high-quality, tailored careers advice and information. The Gatsby Foundation, which manages the Technicians Make it Happen campaign, offers some information on what good career guidance looks like, including for those students with SEND.

As you read our real-life technician stories you will see that we don’t always mention if they are someone with SEND, unless they have asked us for that to be included as part of their story. However, we know many technicians with a range of SEND – as there are in all professions and walks of life.

What are the progression opportunities of a technician career?

As you will see through our real-life stories, like most professions, technician careers come in all shapes and sizes. Some have started off in an entry level role or as an apprentice technician, and now are in senior management positions heading up huge teams. Some are working on ground-breaking projects around the world, while others ensure that the broadband service is up to scratch in their local community.

The career trajectory of a technician is influenced by as many factors as most other jobs. However, by going through some of our real-life stories, you will see that passion and enthusiasm for what they do is a common trait for those who have enjoyed careers with plenty of progression.

I have heard of the Gatsby Foundation because of the Gatsby Career Benchmarks. Is Technicians Make it Happen linked to that?

The Gatsby Foundation has long championed technical education and skills in this country. We recognise that not only are technician roles vital to our economy and growth, they offer a career pathway with autonomy, practicality and plenty of opportunity for growth for those that thrive best following a technical rather than an academic route post-GCSE. 

While most of our interest in education has been focused on improving technical skills, we also have a strong interest in improving the quality of career guidance for all young people, regardless of subject interests, educational route or ability. The Gatsby Career Benchmarks, devised by Sir John Holman, are now the standard careers framework for all schools and colleges as set out in the government’s statutory guidance.

Technicians Make it Happen and our work in improving career guidance are therefore separate. However, as our campaign offers case studies and resources that teachers and careers advisors may find useful when talking about a specific range of careers, we ensure that we clearly signpost any relevance to the Gatsby Career Benchmarks. Most of what Technicians Make it Happen offers to teachers and careers advisors is particularly helpful in working towards Careers Benchmark 4 – Linking curriculum learning to careers.

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