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Steeplejack or Lightning Conductor Engineer

Source of Information: Next Step / DirectGov / Careers Advice Service

Steeplejack or Lightning Conductor Engineer

The Work

As a steeplejack or lightning conductor engineer, you would fit lightning protection systems and carry out building, repair, maintenance and renovation work at heights. You would work on industrial chimneys, power station cooling towers, church spires, high-rise buildings and bridges. You might also work on restoration projects of old monuments like castles.

Your duties could include:

  • installing lightning conductors on buildings
  • fitting aircraft warning lights on tall structures
  • replacing roof glass
  • repairing masonry
  • painting structures, for instance bridges
  • dismantling or demolishing tall chimneys or buildings
  • inspecting structures for damage, for example after high winds.

You would reach high work areas in the following ways:

  • access ladders and scaffolding
  • mobile work platforms (cradles)
  • traditional bosun's seats (harnesses)
  • industrial rope access (abseiling).

Once a job is complete, you would dismantle equipment and rigging and return it to ground level.

Hours and Environment

You would normally work around 40 hours a week, but your hours may vary with the demands of the job. Shifts and overtime, including evenings and weekends, are often required.

You would mainly work outdoors, at heights and in all weather conditions. You could get very dusty, for example when working inside industrial chimneys. You would use protective equipment and headgear on all jobs.

You would be expected to travel from job to job and some contracts may require overnight stays away from home.

Skills and Interests

  • a good head for heights
  • a sense of balance
  • a good level of fitness
  • the ability to follow strict safe working practices
  • good practical skills for using tools and equipment
  • excellent organisational and teamworking skills
  • an awareness of health and safety issues.


You may not need qualifications for this job, although some employers prefer you to have GCSEs or equivalent, in subjects like maths, English, science or design and technology. If you want to work as a lightning conductor engineer, you will need a flair for maths to help with basic electrical theory. You may also need a driving licence.

You could have an advantage when looking for work if you have some experience in general construction, for example, as a labourer or tradesperson, such as a bricklayer.

You might also be able to apply for sponsored apprenticeship training through the Steeplejack and Lightning Protection Training Group and ConstructionSkills. To get on to the scheme, you would have to pass aptitude tests for maths, problem solving and English. See the training and development section for more details.

See the ConstructionSkills website for more details about careers in this field.


Each year there are 12 places for trainee steeplejacks and 12 places for trainee lightning conductor engineers on courses organised by the Steeplejack and Lightning Protection Training Group and ConstructionSkills.

As a trainee, you would work towards NVQ levels 1 to 3 in Accessing Operations and Rigging. You take one of two options depending on your specialism:

  • Steeplejacking a two year course on erecting and dismantling scaffolds; rigging and setting up safety systems; installing cladding, ducting and flues; and demolishing/dismantling brick, masonry and concrete structures
  • Lightning Conductor Engineering a two year course on installing lightning conductors; site measurements and evaluations, installing earthing systems to buildings and rope access.

Your training would also include a safety passport (CSCS card), first aid and firefighting.

The Association of Technical Lightning and Access Specialists (ATLAS) offers a membership scheme for existing workers, and provides guidance on technical matters and current issues within the industry. See the ATLAS website for more details.


Most jobs are with specialist firms of steeplejacks/lightning conductor engineers. You may also find a small number of openings with building or civil engineering companies. You can find companies listed in your local telephone directory and on the ATLAS website.

With experience you could be promoted to supervisor or manager. You may also be able to set up as a self-employed steeplejack.


Annual Income

  • Trainees over 21 can earn between 15,000 and 17,000 a year.
  • Qualified operatives can earn up to 20,000 a year.
  • With experience and advanced skills, this can rise to 25,000 a year.

Overtime payments and shift allowances can significantly increase these amounts.

Figures are intended as a guideline only.

Further information

If you would like to discuss your career options with a learning advisor at the Careers Advice Service advice line, call 0800 100 900 or use our online enquiry form.


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