The Difference Between an Industrial and Commercial Electrician

Figure out what kind of electrician career sounds the most appealing to you!


If you’ve been looking into becoming an electrician, 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.

Go: Find a local electrician school.

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’s degree route will help 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’s 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.

How Much Do Electricians Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that an electrician’s median annual salary is $52,720. This is including both industrial and commercial electricians. The top 10 percent of electricians will earn an annual pay of $90,420. And while you are apprenticing, you can expect to receive between 40-50 percent of what a fully trained electrician makes.

Job growth through 2024 is at 14 percent, which is faster than most other occupations. As more buildings and homes are becoming “smart,” more wiring is required, which creates more job openings in the field. Also, due to reported difficulties in finding qualified electricians, those who are entering electrician careers may find it easier to get a job. The more well-rounded you are as an electrician, the better the job prospects.

Study help: Electrical Practice Exams

More reading: Find Out How to Become an Electrician

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River Town Electric is the premier provider for residential and commercial electrical service in West Virginia and Ohio. From Minor repairs to major electrical renovations, we employ an experienced team of expert technicians to meet all your commercial and residential needs.