Commercial Electrician vs. Industrial Electrician: Key Differences

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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.

Related: How to Become an Electrician in 4 Steps

Commercial electrician vs. an industrial electrician

The following sections outline the similarities and differences between a commercial electrician vs. an industrial electrician:

Work environment

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.

Daily duties

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:

Commercial electrician

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

Industrial electrician

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

Average salary

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.

Related: 18 Highest Paying Trades in Australia (Plus Primary Duties)

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.

Related: Mature Age Apprenticeship Wage: A Helpful Guide

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, the entry-level jobs, 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.

Problem-solving skills

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.

Teamwork

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.

Time management

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 skills

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:

Commercial electrician

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.

Key duties:

  • 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)

Requirements:

  • Possess a full Electrical Licence (ESV) and first aid certificate

  • Hae a full clean drivers licence

  • Possess outstanding mathematics skills

  • Have the ability to troubleshoot electrical faults, cuts and fuses

Industrial electrician

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.

Key duties:

  • Operate, repair and improve fillers

  • Maintain logs and record labour, materials and equipment used

  • Calibrate and check instruments

Requirements:

  • 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

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.

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