Commercial Electrician vs Industrial Electrician: Key Differences
Updated 18 July 2023
Electrical work is a growing trade that caters to residential, commercial or industrial needs. These experienced professionals can repair and maintain electrical equipment and meet the job's physical demands. If you want to pursue a career as an electrician, understanding the difference between a commercial and industrial electrician can help you make an informed decision. In this article, we describe the difference between a commercial electrician vs. an industrial electrician, explain their educational requirements and explore what makes a good electrician.
Commercial electrician vs an industrial electrician
The following sections outline the similarities and differences between a commercial electrician vs. an industrial electrician:
Commercial electricians work with lower-scale electric systems in commercial spaces, office buildings and stores to install power outlets and lighting. They operate primarily in commercial facilities such as retail stores and restaurants to ensure wiring and electrical components are operating efficiently. Conversely, industrial electricians primarily work in factories, mines and chemical plants. They usually perform in manufacturing plants and production facilities with complex electrical systems, including high voltage components.
Although commercial and industrial electricians both operate in the electrical field, their work can be different. Both professionals may handle electrical components such as wiring, lighting fixtures, conduits, circuit boards, outlets and switches. Here are the key responsibilities for each profession:
A commercial electrician's daily duties can vary depending on their client or work environment. Some commercial electricians may work in-house with one company or provide an independent one-time service for various clients.
Their common tasks include:
installing, diagnosing and repairing electrical resources like lighting and power outlets for a client or workplace
using knowledge of piping, tubing and codes
utilising tools such as screwdrivers, pliers, wire strippers and nut drivers
completing testing on existing and new power sources
inspecting and attaching the correct wires
providing training to apprentices
understanding government regulations on electrical safety at commercial locations
drawing and analysing technical drawings.
An industrial electrician's everyday schedule depends on the company's needs. They may work with a range of equipment to complete their tasks.
Common duties include the following:
installing and repairing electrical equipment at their workplace
using electrical tools safely
overseeing regular testing to ensure electrical equipment is safe to use and running at its optimum capacity
analysing electrical cuts or problems and implementing a resolution
applying knowledge of robotics, circuits and manufacturing tools, such as hydraulic systems and factory machines to complete repairs
completing scheduled checks on electrical resources throughout the company
keeping a log of faulty equipment, issues and repairs
upholding electrical safety standards at industrial locations
preparing for changing weather conditions when working outside.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
According to Indeed salaries, the average salary of a commercial electrician is $42.09 per hour. Meanwhile, the average income of an industrial electrician is $44.24 per hour. Industrial electricians may earn slightly more than commercial electricians as they handle more complex work. Geographic location, experience and workplace can also influence salary figures.
How to become a commercial electrician
Commercial electricians hold a highly knowledgeable role. Potential employers often seek candidates with specific certifications and experience in the field. The following steps can help you plan your career path to become a commercial electrician:
1. Earn certification
Commercial electrician jobs require extensive knowledge of electrical components and electrical safety codes. A Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician and a Certificate of Proficiency as an Electrician can help you gain the correct licence to work in the field. You can obtain the certificate from educational providers such as TAFE.
2. Complete work experience
Vocational experience is often essential to enter this profession. Aim to gain at least 12 months of experience working as an electrician or as an assistant. During this time you can develop technical skills handling tools and working with wires.
3. Gain an electrician's licence
Once you have gained the correct certification, sufficient experience, you can apply for a licence. Ensure you obtain the proper authorisation for your state and renew it when necessary. For example, you can renew Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) licences every five years.
How to become an industrial electrician
Industrial electricians work with advanced electrical systems, meaning practical experience is valuable. Hiring managers often require candidates to have certification or tertiary education that displays their technical skills with electrical systems. The following steps can help you become an industrial electrician:
1. Apply for an apprenticeship
You can also take an apprenticeship that takes four years to complete. This includes Certificate III in Engineering for an Industrial Electrician. Completing an apprenticeship allows you to walk out as an experienced professional, ready for full-time employment. You learn and earn simultaneously and obtain a nationally recognised qualification.
2. Obtain an electrician's licence
Complete a series of licensing assessments to be granted an electrician's licence to work in Australia. The three assessments are the Licence Electricians Theory (LET), Licensed Electricians Practice (LEP) and the Safe Working Practice (SWP). It allows you to begin your career as an electrician.
3. Look for entry-level roles
If you want to become an electrician, get some experience in areas such as service entrance, power distribution, facility power and facility lighting. For an industrial electrician, consider entry-level jobs where you can learn about instrumentation, controls and automation related to process machinery installation. Ensure your resume outlines your qualifications, hard skills and experience in the field.
Which skills do commercial electricians and industrial electricians need?
Commercial and industrial electricians may have a similar skill set as they complete comparable duties. Electricians of all variations rely on hard skills to complete highly technical tasks safely. They may use soft skills to collaborate with a team of electricians and communicate with clients or team leads. The following skills can be beneficial to this profession:
Mathematics, physics and algebra
A vital skill for an electrician is mathematics and physics. These skills are most beneficial when taking measurements or calculating power and voltages. For example, an industrial electrician may use specific formulas to determine an electrical system's voltage current and resistance.
Electrician professionals may regularly use problem-solving skills to diagnose an electrical fault and apply a solution. Many electricians keep a log of previous issues and resolutions to help them complete repairs efficiently. As an example, commercial electricians employ this skill when reviewing fuses, rewiring or power cuts.
An electrician in the commercial or industrial sector works with a whole range of people. For instance, electricians work with project managers and estimators to determine labour costs. Excellent interpersonal skills can help electricians work more productively, which may leave clients satisfied.
Commercial and industrial electricians are usually adept at managing their time efficiently. They may sometimes work with speed to resolve unexpected power cuts or faults to ensure the business can continue as normal. They may also work to deadlines. For example, commercial electricians may fix some lighting fixtures before a store opens or closes. Commercial electricians that provide a one-time service may work to a fixed rate. In this case, they may aim to complete a job promptly to ensure it's profitable.
Communication is often key to electricians as they usually complete high-risk tasks. For instance, industrial electricians repairing complex robotics may communicate their actions to an apprentice. They may also use technical language to discuss tools, formulas or electrical systems. Some electricians may use concise verbal and written skills to oversee a team to fulfil the client's needs.
Commercial electrician and industrial electrician job description samples
The following sections provide an example job description for commercial and industrial electricians to help you differentiate the roles:
Here's a sample job description for a commercial electrician:
We are looking for a motivated individual to join our team as a commercial electrician at Electricity and Go. We work with various retail stores across Melbourne to complete maintenance and installation of electrical and lighting systems. The ideal candidate will thoroughly understand lighting fixtures such as recessed downlights and surface mounted lights.
install and repair commercial lights
perform inspections on core electrical systems
respond to urgent requests from our clients
use specialist tools (wire strippers, insulted screwdrivers, voltage tester).
possess a full Electrical Licence (ESV) and first aid certificate
have a full clean drivers licence
possess excellent mathematics skills
have the ability to troubleshoot electrical faults, cuts and fuses.
Here's a sample job description for an industrial electrician:
We are looking for a motivated individual to join our team as an industrial electrician at Malbo Power. We work with retail stores to ensure the continued functioning of electrical equipment by its proper installation, maintenance and repair. The ideal candidate will perform routine maintenance on production equipment and perform repairs on them when necessary.
operate, repair and improve fillers
maintain logs and record labour, materials and equipment used
calibrate and check instruments.
possess a full Electrical Licence (ESV) and first aid certificate
must have up to 3 years experience as an electrician working in an industrial environment
be familiar with industrial and electrical laws
be knowledgeable of PLC controls
possess mechanical, analytical and solution drivel skills
possess excellent communication ability.
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