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According to the 2015 statistics of the US Department of Labor, the electrical field has a promising job outlook, with a projected growth of 14% through 2024.
In particular, commercial electricians will have even better job prospects due to the rise of civil projects and new commercial development.
So it’s no wonder that USA Today’s IndyStar ranked commercial electricians in the top 10 hottest technical trades in America.
Read on below to learn more about this area of specialization of electricians.
Roles and Duties of Commercial Electricians
In general, commercial electricians install, maintain, troubleshoot, upgrade, and fix electrical systems in all non-residential structures.
Their tasks will depend on their work setting and the type of work they do, but most will perform the following common electrical tasks:
- Installation of cable trays
- Termination of large conductors
- Installation of commercial switchgear
- Commercial wiring and lighting
- Electrical work on raceways
- Installation of commercial outlet boxes
- Electrical work on commercial transformers and generators
- Installation of bus ducts
- System wiring which involves significantly more electricity than residential sites
If they are to work as on-site electricians, their duties will include the following:
- Use schematics to troubleshoot fuses, circuits, switches, fixtures, and ballasts
- Repair, install, and maintain electrical systems that include motors, transformers, internal/exterior conduits, generators, switchboards, and power circuits
- Perform preventative maintenance and repairs
- Replace circuits, fluorescent tubes, ballasts, fuses, switches, and receptacles
Unlike industrial electricians, commercial electricians’ work won’t involve handling high-voltage systems or industrial machinery.
As such, you won’t see them working in industrial settings, such as foundries, refineries, factories, power plants, or oil and gas fields.
Instead, they will render electrical services to the following groups:
- Recreation facilities
- Government agencies
- Commercial construction sites
- Businesses and retail establishments
Competencies of a Highly-Qualified Commercial Electrician
Commercial electricians need to ensure that they can efficiently perform the work for clients.
So the National Electrical Code (NEC) has set the areas and competencies they should be proficient in:
- Surge arresters
- Identification of grounded conductors
- Overhead service conductors
- Branch circuits, including outside circuits and feeders
- Overcurrent protection
- Busways and auxiliary gutters
- Air conditioning and refrigeration equipment
- Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems
- Types of cables and conduits suitable for commercial wiring
- Hospital commercial electrical systems and equipment
- Commercial control panels
- Capacitors – under 1,000 volts and over 1,000 volts
- Elevators, escalators, moving walks, platform lifts, stairway chairlifts, and dumbwaiters
- Commercial garages
- Conduit bodies, fittings, and handhole enclosures.
- Generators and transformers
- Manufactured wiring systems
- Commercial storage batteries
- Electric signs and outline lighting
- Integrated electrical systems
Licensing for Commercial Electricians
Licensing varies by jurisdiction, whether it’s at the municipal, county, or state levels.
As such, licensing requirements for commercial electricians will be different.
Some may consider commercial and industrial electricians in the same category, while others identify them as separate professions.
Some may also place commercial electricians under common licensure with residential electricians.
Regardless of their requirements, all jurisdictions will commonly license electricians at three levels:
Some jurisdictions may license an apprentice electrician, while others may not.
An apprentice will take an apprenticeship program that takes four to six years to complete.
The apprenticeship will comprise on-the-job training and classroom instruction on commercial electrical work.
Generally, jurisdictions will require the following for you to become a journeyman:
- Complete the apprenticeship program
- Successfully pass the journeyman licensure exam
Only then can you receive your license and can work more independently.
In terms of work, some jurisdictions won’t expose you to direct task-specific oversight requirements.
To become a licensed master (commercial) electrician, most jurisdictions will require the following:
- At least two to four years of journeyman experience
- Successfully pass the master electrician licensure exam
Once you’ve obtained the license, you can now perform commercial electrical work with near-total autonomy.
Also, holding this license can qualify you for an independent electrical contractor license.
National Certification for Commercial Electricians
Unlike jurisdictional licensing, national certification is a voluntary certification held by independent associations.
You can choose to obtain this for the following reasons:
Some employers will give hiring preference to those with national certifications
It secures your chances of promotion or career advancement
One national certification you can obtain is the Commercial Electrical Inspector Certification by the International Code Council (ICC).
With it, you have proof of your high level of expertise in the code and the safety protocols of commercial electrical work.
The following certifications are meant for industrial electricians, but they can overlap with commercial electricians’ activities:
- Industrial Association of Electrical Inspectors
- Certified Electrical Inspector
- SGS Certification
- SGS Electrical Installations Certification
- AVO Training Institute
- Industrial Electrical Safety Inspector
- National Fire Protection Association
- Certified Electrical Safety Worker
- ISA Certification Programs
- ISA Certified Control Systems Technician
- Certified Automation Professional
- NTT Certification
- Electrical Safety
- Electrical Maintenance
- Electrical Code and Standards
Commercial Electrician Salaries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for commercial electricians as of 2015 was $56,670.
The top 10% of specialists made $79,030 on average.
The highest-paying states for commercial electricians were as follows:
- Average – $79,600
- Top 10% – $95,480
- Average – $70,050
- Top 10% – $98,040
- Average – $66,910
- Top 10% – $93,330
- Average – $65,070
- Top 10% – $88,050
- North Dakota
- Average – $64,830
- Top 10% – $91,640
Major Employers of Commercial Electricians
The major employers of commercial electricians in the U.S. include the following:
- Federal, state, and local government agencies
- Commercial construction companies
- Building equipment contractors
- Employment services
- Nonresidential building construction
In major metropolitan markets, the following employers provide the most opportunities to commercial electricians:
- San Antonio
- CLP Resource
- Trade Management Inc.
- Critical Electric Systems Group (CESG)
- Facility Solutions Group
- Bexar County
- Trillium Construction
- Rogers Electric
- USG Corporation
- Tradesmen International
- Staybright Electric.
- Commercial Trade Source, Inc. (CTS)
- MGA Employee Services, Inc.
- Tradesmen International
- Gaylor Electric
- San Francisco
- Parsons Corporation
- Romanoff Group
- Construction Labor Contractors
- Gaylor Electric
- Mowhawk Careers
- Owens Corning
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