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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 been curious about the difference. Two titles in particular sound like they would be for the same job: industrial and commercial electricians.

Why do both these positions exist?

It comes down to where you work: The main difference between industrial electricians and commercial electricians is the kind of building or worksite you perform your tasks in. However, training for both positions is similar, with industrial requiring a more extensive education of the two.

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 complete 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 can 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 a licensing exam is required.

Industrial electricians work on all things electric within the industrial setting. Your job is focused primarily on 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 work in environments such as offices, restaurants, and retail stores—basically, anything 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. So, be familiar with all the tools of the trade and know the proper usage of them.

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