Skilled Trades

Electrical Careers: Commercial, Industrial, and Residential

Skilled TradesDecember 23, 2023

Electricians are an important part of any developed society, because electricity is so critical to its proper daily functioning. An electrician’s ability to build, maintain, and fix complex electrical systems directly impacts a society’s business operations, home life, commerce, entertainment, and even personal safety. Without them, life would be radically different.

While all electricians’ tasks involve electrical power, not all electricians perform the same duties. This is best demonstrated by the differences among the three main types of electrical careers: commercial, industrial, and residential. The wiring work of the electricians employed in each of these areas will be very different in terms of the equipment they use, the load demands of the properties they work on, and those properties’ energy needs. They also follow different procedures and use different materials. Individuals considering becoming electricians should understand the different electrician job responsibilities and the educational pathway for electrical trade professions.

Commercial, Industrial, and Residential Electrical Careers 

Commercial, industrial, and residential electricians all share a primary goal: to keep electrical power, lighting, communications, and control systems running effectively. A broad range of factors, ranging from environment to equipment, dictate the approach to this goal for each type of electrical career.

Commercial Electricians

Commercial electricians apply their work in large-scale structures, such as retail stores and office buildings. This means they work on large, complex wiring systems with unique equipment such as tube conduits. They also tend to work with high-voltage systems, which are needed to provide sufficient power to big structures. These systems can often go beyond 240 volts, and can sometimes go up to 480 volts. 

Because they work with large structures, commercial electricians may also need to develop backup power sources. This is particularly important for facilities that operate around the clock like hospitals and law enforcement centers. 

Due to the complexity and potential safety hazards of dealing with high-voltage wiring, commercial electricians commonly need to gain more experience to enter the field than residential electricians. This can often include on-the-job training to further reinforce safe practices.

Industrial Electricians

Industrial electricians primarily work in large industrial facilities such as factories, chemical plants, and mines. Their work concentrates on the installation and maintenance of industrial equipment and electrical controls. 

Because these components are tied to plant production and operational performance, industrial electricians perform diagnostic tests to spot and repair system vulnerabilities before they become a problem. Their work also must be in compliance with industry standards, which requires them to stay abreast of any regulatory changes as they happen. 

Another key component of the industrial electrician’s role is documentation. Creating and utilizing reports or logs for diagnostic checkups and repairs allows industrial electricians to effectively track their work, which can help them relay key maintenance information to plant managers. 

Residential Electricians

Residential electricians install and maintain electrical systems for new and existing single-family homes, town houses, condominiums, and apartment buildings and complexes. They work on small projects, partially due to the size of the buildings, and they typically use single-phase power supplies between 120 and 240 volts. 

Because a residential electrician’s work concentrates on residential properties, their electrical wiring work needs to be discreet, with minimal exposure, for both aesthetic and resident safety purposes. Residential electricians may be tasked with electrical projects for homes that are occupied; in such cases, they must be mindful of the residents’ personal property.

Which Electrical Career Is Right for You?

While commercial, industrial, and residential electricians all work with electricity, the training for each of these electrical careers will follow slightly different paths. Some of the components of this training may look similar. For instance, all three specializations typically require the completion of an apprenticeship program in order to fully develop the individual’s skill set. Yet the requirements within these programs may differ based on the scope of the projects and equipment associated with the role. 

If you’re looking to pursue a career as an electrician, make sure the school you choose prepares you for the specialization you want.

Bring Functionality to Society

Regardless of what specialization you choose, an electrical career will place you in a uniquely important profession. Your work will be crucial to keeping a part of the community functioning properly, whether that’s families in their homes, factories producing goods for the public, or hospitals treating patients. The results of your work can provide you with a sense of satisfaction that you may not find in other careers.

Fortis can help you embark on this career path. Our electrical trade training program offered at the Fortis Institute Birmingham campus in AL is designed to cultivate the professional skills and knowledge to help you enter the field fully trained in safe work habits, as well as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Electrical Code (NEC) compliance standards. To get started on becoming an electrician, contact Fortis today.

Recommended Readings
Career Options for Electricians
4 Reasons Your Life Is Better Because of Skilled Trades Workers
We Need Women in the Skilled Trades

Hilman Electric, The Significance of Electricians at Industries
Indeed, “Residential vs. Commercial Electrician: Key Differences”
Indeed, “What Is an Industrial Electrician?”
Lake Electric Co., What Is the Difference Between a Commercial Electrician and a Residential Electrician?
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Electricians