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Becoming a domestic vs commercial electrician

If you’re looking into becoming an electrician, then you’ll need to know more about the various sectors you can specialise in. Find out more about the differences between commercial vs domestic electrician roles in this article.

Specialising as an electrician

Electricians are well-known for installing and maintaining a wide range of different electrical systems in a variety of environments and projects. It’s just one of the factors that make such a skilled job so appealing.

However, if you are thinking of pursuing this kind of career path, or looking to expand your current business, then you might be wondering what the difference between the commercial vs domestic electrician sectors are. Surely, they’re largely the same?

Well, while these two trade areas share a lot of similarities with one another, there are also some clear distinctions that separate the two. All of which you need to be aware of before you begin offering such services.

Electrician Trade Association

What is a domestic electrician?

As you’ve no doubt guessed already, a domestic electrician denotes any qualified individual who carries out electrical work inside residential flats and houses. This often involves running cables, installing lighting, and repairing electrical parts around the home.

However, domestic electrical work is not nearly as simple as these tasks imply. For one thing, different rooms have different electrical requirements. For example, a bathroom’s electrics can’t be set up in the same way as a kitchen.

This means that domestic electricians have the freedom to specialise in different areas of the home. It means learning the crucial and required technical know-how that comes with these spaces. Also for understanding and complying with the necessary building regulations.

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Domestic electrician qualifications

Despite what you might first assume, learning to become a fully qualified domestic electrician is one of the most demanding career paths in the sector. Qualifications are typically being followed by an apprenticeship or some form of long-term shadowed work.

As for becoming a fully qualified domestic electrician, you will have to partake in a thorough training scheme. You’ll need a Level 2 or Level 3 Diploma in Electrical Installation at the end. But the learning doesn’t finish there.

Those who have completed the classroom and workshop levels will then need to be assessed at their place of work. That is before taking the AM2 exam at a local test centre.

However, despite the high level of skill required in this specific job sector, a large number of domestic electricians still operate in this field of work without having gone through the extensive qualification program laid out above.

It is advisable to be a member of the Competent Persons Scheme, which includes a register of people that have demonstrated the skills and experience necessary to offer basic installation work.

Regardless of which of these two paths you decide to go down, if you are thinking of becoming a domestic electrician, then we recommend reading our article on training to become an electrician to find out more.

What is a commercial electrician?

Unlike those electricians working in the domestic sector, commercial electricians are professionals that complete electrical work for other businesses, both public-facing and private.

This often includes working in offices, schools, restaurants, shops, and data centres, though they may even extend their work to industrial environments, such as factories, provided they have the required engineering expertise.

As with domestic jobs, commercial electricians have certain standards and regulations they must follow for compliance purposes, as work in commercial properties often includes dealing with server rooms, backup generators, and industrial control panels.

Commercial electrician qualifications

Commercial electricians have to be fully qualified. This means they need to hold a Level 3 Diploma in Electrical Installation and another technical qualification. This can be either a Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Electrotechnical Services or a Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems & Equipment.

Can a commercial electrician do domestic work?

As commercial electricians have the same diploma in electrical installation as domestic electricians. As well as further training on top of this, they should be fully able to carry out domestic work if needed. Though the same cannot be said for domestic electricians doing work in the commercial sector.

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how much do electricians earn

What is the difference between a domestic vs commercial electrician?

By now, you may already have an inkling as to what some of the specific differences are between those looking to become a domestic electrician vs commercial electrician. But for the sake of clarity, let’s look at these in more detail.

1. Installations

It goes without saying that there is a big difference between the installations required for domestic and commercial electrical work.

For one thing, commercial electricians regularly have to deal with high-voltage power supplies that may produce upwards of 480 volts. Residential electricians rarely deal with systems that output more than 240.

As a result, due to the high voltage in commercial settings, the wiring setup for electrical work is very different to what’s found in the home. It requires a three-phase wiring design instead of a single-phase option.

Commercial buildings also usually have more wires involved than residential properties. These come with the need for added protection in order to be contained in conduits or ceiling rafters. Domestic wires, on the other hand, only require plastic sheathing.

Naturally, there are plenty of other nuances to installation that can affect the complexity of a job. Such as the type of electrician tools you may need to use. However, commercial electricians are generally considered to have a more difficult time of it.

2. Services

As we’ve mentioned, the types of work that commercial and residential electricians carry out will often at times overlap, but even these seemingly similar tasks may require very different knowledge.

For example, while both roles may include installing lighting, completing wiring, and carrying out electrical repairs, commercial electricians will often have to work on various systems and appliances you simply won’t find in a standard home.

Plus, these units and systems will need to be professionally tested, which isn’t always a requirement for residences, and a domestic electrician like won’t have the knowledge needed to carry these tests out.

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3. Clients

Based on the kind of work required by both roles, domestic electricians are far more likely to be hired for smaller-scale, local jobs, typically those required by the average homeowner, and these jobs can often be completed in a single day.

Commercial electricians, on the other hand, could be contracted by companies for larger projects within their offices or shops. These projects tend to be much bigger in scope and could last several weeks.

4. Regulations

Although all electricians require a detailed knowledge of the building regulations in their particular field, domestic and commercial properties themselves often have different regulations that set them apart.

As a result, not all tradespeople in this sector will necessarily have the same knowledge of building legislation and safety standards in their specialised separate fields. For example, commercial electricians will have to follow The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 if they hope to complete any work.

5. Wages

Despite the potential for larger projects presented by the work in a commercial electrician role, when it comes to the average wage of these two fields, there is very little difference between their yearly earnings.

When looking at the average electrician’s salary, a commercial electrician earns roughly £37,000 a year, while a domestic electrician earns slightly more at about £37,500. Of course, these are just averages, and the amount you could make as a successful self-employed tradesperson could be much higher.

For more information on electrician salaries, why not read our article on how much electricians can earn?

6. Work-life balance

Unlike salary, when it comes to work-life balance, domestic electricians have a clear advantage. Many tradespeople in this field run their own businesses, giving them the freedom to work the hours they choose. Commercial electricians are often locked into the hour requirements of their current contract.

For a greater insight into how becoming an electrician, or picking up any trade, can provide you with more flexibility, take a look at our article on becoming your own boss.

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How to decide between becoming a commercial vs domestic electrician

The choice of which type of electrical field you ultimately choose to specialise in is up to you. But we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t leave you with a few tips to hopefully make your choice easier.

So, when considering your specialisation, bear in mind the following points:

  • Work environment – domestic electrical work tends to be seen as more social and varied, as you’ll be working in new homes and meeting new people every day
  • Skill level – commercial electrical work requires a greater degree of skill and training to qualify, so consider how much time you can put into your training
  • Earnings – although domestic electricians earn more on average, as a commercial electrician, you don’t need to worry about the overheads that come with running your own business
  • Work-life balance – if freedom in your work is what you’re after, then you will likely find that domestic work is better suited for you than a commercial environment

At the end of the day, whether you decide to go commercial or domestic with your electrical work, know that both are valuable. Well-respected electrical jobs are always in demand, so you’ll never be short of work.

For more information on getting into the electrician world, you can visit our trades advice centre where we have articles on how to start your own electrician business as well as how to market your services.

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