Skilled Trades

Differences Among Commercial, Industrial & Residential Electricians

Skilled TradesFebruary 23, 2016

An electrician is an electrician – right? Not exactly.


There are residential electricians, commercial and industrial electricians. Their wiring work will be very different in terms of equipment used, load demands, and energy needs. They also follow different procedures and use dissimilar materials.

The Difference Between Commercial, Industrial & Residential Electricians

As their name implies, residential electricians work in homes. They use single phase power supplies – 120 or 240 volts – run romex cable, and wrap their wiring in sheathed insulation that generally is hidden from view. This wiring approach helps minimize exposure and damage to the wires, as well as protect homeowners from electrical shock.


Commercial electricians work in stores and offices, usually installing power outlets and lighting. Their wiring typically follows a three-phase approach, with two smaller “legs” running one voltage and a larger “leg” running a higher voltage. Depending upon a business’ power needs that could be 120 volts/208–240 volts, or 277/480 volts.


Commercially, the three-wire system is used so each wire carries an overall lighter workload. Commercial wiring also ends to remain exposed, although it usually is run inside conduit for protection. In other words, unlike residential wiring that runs in rafters and behind walls, commercial cables may run along the exposed sides of ceilings and walls.


Industrial electricians are basically commercial electricians who primarily work in factories, chemical plants, and mines, etc. Like commercial electricians, they use a three-phase power set-up; however, instead of running MTC or MC cable, they mostly work with RMC conduit that powers motors and instrumentation or control circuitry.

Read how Mike Rowe strives to close the skills gap in America with skilled trade education

Which Electrician Field is Best For You?

While each works with electricity, the training for the various types of electrician will follow slightly different paths. If you’re looking into the electrical trades for a career choice, make sure the school you choose prepares you for the specialization you want.


Electrical Trade students at Fortis are instructed in the professional skills and knowledge they’ll need to enter the workforce as residential, commercial or industrial electricians, trained in safe work habits as well as OSHA and National Electric Code compliance standards. To get started on becoming an electrician, contact Fortis today.