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If you’re embarking on a career in the trades, it’s important to know what a journeyman is. Basically, becoming a journeyman is an essential stage on your path to becoming a master craftsman or craftswoman. Whether you’re thinking about becoming an electrician, plumber, or carpenter, follow along as we explain what a journeyman is and the requirements for becoming one.
What is a journeyman?
By definition, a journeyman is a skilled worker trained in a building trade or craft who has successfully completed an apprenticeship and certification program. The term “journeyman” dates back to Medieval times when workers’ guilds were just starting to form.
There were three recognized ranks of tradespeople in these guilds: apprentices, journeymen, and masters.1 Trade organizations still use these classifications today. While a journeyman blacksmith may have been a common designation in previous centuries, today the term is more commonly applied to trades that include journeyman electricians, plumbers, or carpenters.
Journeymen pass through the ranks based on a combination of training programs, exams, hours worked, and licenses awarded by each state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation. Licensure requirements will vary by state and trade.
Journeymen are licensed to work as employees under a master tradesperson. While journeymen have the qualifications to work independently, they cannot own their own businesses in most states until they reach master status.2 Many individuals who become journeymen look to earn the hours and experience necessary to become a master tradesperson and start their own businesses.
Types of journeymen
Journeymen typically work in trades related to construction. Here are a few examples of the different types of journeymen:
- Journeyman electrician (lineman/outside electrician or wireman/inside electrician)
- Journeyman plumber
- Journeyman carpenter
- Journeyman welder
- Journeyman painter
- Journeyman roofer
What is a journeyman vs. an apprentice?
Both apprentice and journeyman roles are stepping stones to becoming a master tradesperson. However, these two career stages come with different expectations, responsibilities, and compensations.
The role of the apprentice
An apprentice is a person learning the skills of a trade from a licensed mentor. Because apprentices are learning on the job, they typically work for lower wages. Apprentices usually have not completed their licensing examinations, certifications, or schooling. Their on-the-job training is accompanied by certification classes from an accredited trade school or training program.
The journey to journeyman
A journeyman has graduated from the apprentice position and moved on to employee status. Most journeymen will have a license, union representation, and the ability to work anywhere within their state as long as they are employed by a master tradesperson. Journeymen also have the level of experience and training necessary to train apprentices.
The path to becoming the master
The journeyman’s path leads to becoming a master of the trade. A master craftsperson possesses years of experience and has an exceptional skill level. Masters can form their own businesses, employ journeymen, and train apprentices. While journeymen can work without direct supervision, they still operate under the guidance of a master.3
How do you reach the end of the journey and become a master tradesperson? Here is a roadmap to help you navigate the way there.
Begin an apprenticeship
To embark on your journey to journeyman, you need to first start your apprenticeship. There are apprenticeship programs for almost every trade career, including electricians, plumbers, carpenters, painters, and HVAC technicians. Select an apprenticeship registered through the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure it meets all of the necessary requirements.
Many individuals choose to begin their apprenticeship programs after high school. However, there is no right or wrong time to embark on a new career journey. Make sure to complete any prerequisites required by your apprenticeship program. Most apprenticeships last two years and require that you are 18 years or older and have a high school diploma or GED.
Apprenticeships vary depending on the state, profession, and program. To find one, begin your search at Apprenticeship.gov.
Complete the apprenticeship
Once you have selected your chosen trade and secured an apprenticeship, you need to complete the requirements to move onto the journeyman role. Every apprenticeship will be different.
For example, an electrician apprenticeship in California requires that you meet 4,800 hours of supervised work and pass a licensure exam before becoming a journeyman. From there, journeyman electricians in California need to accumulate 8,000 hours of work to become a master.4
On the other hand, to become a journeyman plumber in Texas, you need a plumbing apprenticeship, 8,000 hours of supervised work, and an additional 48-hour training program.
Journeyman requirements can drastically differ by state and trade, so ensure you know what’s required for your journey.5
Step into the journeyman role
After completing the apprenticeship, you earn your title of journeyman — congrats! The journeyman role represents hours of practice, training, and skill-building. Those who make it to this middle tier of the tradesperson hierarchy are one step closer to becoming a master of the craft.
Once you become a journeyman, you can work under a master tradesperson with little supervision and join a union. Journeymen are well-paid, respected, and looked to as experts in their chosen field. In many cases, journeymen take on their own apprentices to help others on the same path.
Thimble protects you along the journey
Any journey worth taking presents some risks along the way. Tradespeople working in the construction industry are faced with precarious job sites, dangerous power tools, and occupational hazards on a daily basis. Things can and do go wrong, even if you are a master tradesperson!
That’s why we’re here. At Thimble, we offer general liability insurance for journeymen who want to protect their professional interests from the risks of third-party personal injury and property damage claims. For journeymen just starting out, it doesn’t always make sense to have a 24/7 insurance policy. Of course, you need coverage, but only when you’re on the job. Thimble’s flexible business insurance works for your schedule and can be purchased for same-day coverage. Pause, cancel, or modify at any time.
Just click “get a quote” or download the Thimble mobile app, answer a quick set of questions, receive your quote, click to purchase — and get coverage within minutes.
- Brittanica. Guild | Trade Association.
- iTap. What is a Journeyman Electrician and How Do You Become One?
- ProTool. The Difference Between Master and Journeyman Electricians.
- California Department of Industrial Relations. Electrician Certification Program.
- Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners. Journeyman Plumber.