What is a Journeyman?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 December 2019
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A journeyman is a tradesperson who has successfully completed an apprenticeship, but is not yet qualified to own a business and manage employees. While this term technically refers specifically to men, some people refer to men or women as journeymen. Journeymen are considered fully trained, but their level of experience is only intermediate, because they have not worked on their own and they lack the skills which come with years of practice in a particular trade. This term may also be used more generally to refer to a worker with intermediate skills.

Many trades which retain an apprenticeship system are regulated by law to ensure that people receive sufficient training to practice safely before they are allowed to start advertising their services and working independently. When an apprentice starts work, he or she must register, and may be obliged to pass a basic skills test which allows him or her to work as an apprentice. After an apprenticeship is complete after two to four years, the apprentice can apply to take the exam which offers journeyman qualification. Exams may be administered by professional organizations or government regulatory agencies, depending on the trade.


Once an apprentice passes a journeyman test, he or she can work in another tradesperson's business. Journeymen do not have employees or apprentices under their employ and they may not be allowed to own their own businesses, but they can work independently, acquiring skills which allow them to obtain master status. Once someone is a master of a trade, it is possible to own a shop, hire journeymen, and work with apprentices.

Working as a journeyman allows a former apprentice numerous opportunities to work in the real world, acquiring useful experience with a mentor handy. The journeyman's employer can provide advice or suggestions when a journeyman encounters a new challenge or a situation which is unfamiliar. By contrast, once someone is a master of a trade, it is assumed that he or she will not need to consult a mentor for assistance.

Some types of journeymen include journeyman plumbers, electricians, linemen, metalworkers, carpenters, and roofers. Journeymen are part of a very old tradition of apprenticeship which dates back centuries; in many trades, the only way to learn skills is to practice them, and apprenticeships create a structured way to practice safely and effectively. Eventually, apprentices and journeymen can become masters who are able to train the next generation of tradespeople.


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Post 6

I live in Connecticut, and I am currently an apprentice training to be a journeyman in the Plumber and Steamfitters Apprenticeship Program. This five-year training program lets me earn while I learn. I work on the job with journeymen. I also attend technical instruction classes.

This program requires that a person be at least 18 and have a high school diploma or a G.E.D. We work 40 hours a week.

Apprentices like me earn just a percentage of the journeyman wage. The current journeyman wage is $36.32 hourly. The wage for a first-year apprentice is $16.34.

What is great is that we also receive benefits. We get health and dental insurance, a pension, life insurance, and reimbursement for prescription drugs.

At the end of the program, I will receive journeyman status. I also will get a certificate from the State of Connecticut.

Post 5

During my recent unemployment, I became interested in the history of different types of employers and employees. Since I had plenty of time to read, I discovered some information about the history of journeymen.

Long ago, journeymen were paid daily. The craft guilds of late medieval times imposed no limit on the number of apprentices that a limited number of masters could take on, and because of this, they created a bunch of upset and unemployed journeymen at times.

However, in the 16th century, Parliament passed legislation requiring masters who had apprentices to hire journeymen. By the 18th century, though, they no longer enforced this legislation. The Industrial Revolution let unskilled laborers find work easily, and journeymen felt kind of unnecessary.

Post 4

My uncle has been an electrician for many years and he went through a period where he was classified as a journeyman. For him it was a good opportunity to learn from him peers and pick up the skills he needed to progress to having his own business.

Nowadays he takes apprentices and helps those with journeyman status to learn all they can in the field.

You can actually hire electricians more cheaply by finding those listed as journeyman. What you will notice right off is that the salary for those in training is much less than for the masters and often if you need simple work done, it is a much better idea to hire a journeyman as they are still in the stages of doing quality work for an affordable price.

Post 3

If you are into role playing gaming that uses systems that offer trade skills it is interesting to note that most games have adopted the use of the journeyman label to show that you are in the process of learning the skill.

I enjoy World of Warcraft and they use the journeyman title to show they you have reached the second level of achievement in given professions such as tailoring. I find it interesting that a modern game has adopted such old terms to categorize such an important part of the leveling system online. For many reaching even this tier is an important step to 'mastering' your profession.

Post 2

@Kat919 - I wondered the same thing! (And I remember that show, too. I thought it had potential. Nothing I like ever gets picked up!)

I've heard the term "journeyman" used to refer to baseball players who play with a lot of teams and to actors like Robert DuVall. I think there it's being used in the sense of someone who does good work but never does quite attain master status.

Anyway, I looked it up and apparently it has nothing to do with a journey as we know it. It comes from the French word for "day." A journeyman was paid for his day's work but he could have his own home life, whereas an apprentice usually lived in the master's family and I don't think was paid at all. The master was in charge of him all the time, not just for the day.

Post 1

So why are they called journeymen? The name suggests that there's travel involved (like the Journeyman TV show, which was about a guy who moved around in time--I liked that show). In what sense does an electrical journeyman, for instance, travel?

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