Journeyman Electrician: Stepping Stone to a Career

The first post-apprenticeship step for someone on the path towards becoming an electrician is most times to work as a Journeyman. To qualify as a Journeyman Electrician could mean passing through several different hoops, depending upon which state you live in. Some states may require you to acquire a Journeyman license, and this could mean passing an exam or series of exams, or demonstrating that you have successfully completed an apprenticeship and have acquired the necessary hands-on experience to advance. This apprenticeship may last as many as five years, and as a result most electricians who reach Journeyman status may have a great deal of practical job experience.

It is clear that getting to the Journeyman level does entail a significant amount of investment. To begin with, the amount of time required before you can reach this stage in your career is directly related to the length of the program offered by the electrician school you are attending, combined with the length of your apprenticeship. You may also need to account for the costs of tuition, any union dues or fees for which you may be responsible, as well as the cost of any preparatory materials for the exams that you might have to take.

What is looked for in particular in a Journeyman? Specifically, a decent grasp of math, including algebra and geometry, is helpful to being able to understand the principles employed in the electrical trade. This is all in addition to the general electrical knowledge that you acquired in school and as an apprentice. Familiarity with the National Electrical Code is also required as well as the physical ability to work in a number of different situations ranging from outdoors to wet climates to even snowy winter work. Ladders, heights, and cramped spaces are also part of a Journeyman Electrician's daily schedule, and as such it is a difficult job for anyone who is mobility-impaired. 

Journeymen Electricians may play a variety of different roles in the trade, largely depending upon the needs of the company or contractor they are working for. Most of the time, Journeymen will be called upon to install wiring and lighting in residences and places of business, along with conduit installations. They are also required to be able to diagnose and repair faults in a wiring system as well as service electrical equipment. More specialized work for Journeymen may include security system installation, communications and data systems installation, and sometimes even overhead line work.

Journeymen also often serve as both supervisors and on the job instructors for apprentices who are working under the umbrella of a Master Electrician. This means that in addition to performing the workload that is expected of them, they must ensure that those in their charge are also doing a good job. Journeymen Electricians are usually only called upon to do this if the Master Electrician is not able to directly supervise on a job site.

Journeymen themselves do not require the oversight of a Master Electrician, giving them a certain amount of autonomy when working. However, they must defer to a Master when designing an electrical system for a residence or business, or when it comes to applying for permits. This means that they are not able to work on their own as contractors, and must be employed by Master Electricians.