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The Difference Between Industrial & Commercial Electricians

If you’ve been looking into becoming an electrician, then you may have seen or heard different job titles tossed around, and have been curious about what differentiates each. Two titles in particular sound like they would be for the same job: industrial and commercial electricians. 

Why do both positions exist?

It comes down to where you work. The main difference between industrial electricians and commercial electricians you'll find will be in the type of building or worksite you operate in. However, training for both positions is similar, with industrial just requiring a more extensive education. 

What is an Industrial Electrician?

Industrial electricians get their education either by becoming an apprentice or going to trade school. As an apprentice, you will spend four years in the classroom, as well as completing on-the-job training. Classroom hours will run about 144 per year, and on-the-job training is around 2,000 hours per year.

Going the associate degree route will help you earn credits that may transfer toward the apprenticeship program. Since it is illegal to do any electrical work without a license — unless it’s on your personal property — passing the licensing exam is required.

Industrial electricians work on all things electric within the industrial setting. Your job is focused primarily on the maintenance and installation of electricity for manufacturing and production.

Duties will vary depending on who your employer is, but most industrial electricians have a similar job description. You will run tests and inspections on the building’s electronics, work on the building’s circuit board by either cleaning or repairing it, and install outlets and fixtures, making sure everything is grounded correctly. You are also responsible for repairing systems that have completely shut down.

What is a Commercial Electrician?

Just like industrial electricians, commercial electricians are required to have either an associate degree, apprenticeship, or a combination of the two. You will need to be licensed as well. You may work in environments such as offices, restaurants, and retail stores — basically, any buildings the public can readily access. Neither you nor an industrial electrician do residential work in people’s homes.

On the job, you will either work from or create a blueprint of the building’s electrical system. You will install the conduit or run the electrical wiring according to the plan and make sure it’s up to code. The commercial electrician is the one who makes the power, heating, and lighting work within a building.

Typically, you use standard tools such as screwdrivers, drills, and pliers to complete your tasks. However, you may use varied power tools, as well. You should be familiar with all the tools of the trade and know the proper usage of them.

Which is Best for Me?

Your decision to become either an industrial or commercial electrician comes down to your personal preference. Both subsects require great skill and thorough knowledge of the trade. You just may want to begin in some general electrician courses to find which path might suit you best.

Find a local electrician school now.

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