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A journeyman is a worker, skilled in a given building trade or craft, who has successfully completed an official apprenticeship qualification. Journeymen are considered competent and authorized to work in that field as a fully qualified employee. They earn their license by education, supervised experience and examination. [1] Although journeymen have completed a trade certificate and are allowed to work as employees, they may not yet work as self-employed master craftsmen. [2]


The term "journeyman" was originally used in the medieval trade guilds. Journeymen were paid daily and the word "journey" is derived from journée, meaning "whole day" in French. Each individual guild generally recognised three ranks of workers: apprentices, journeymen, and masters. A journeyman, as a qualified tradesman could become a master and run their own business, but most continued working as employees. [3]

Guidelines were put in place to promote responsible tradesmen, who were held accountable for their own work and to protect the individual trade and the general public from unskilled workers. To become a master, a journeyman has to submit a master piece of work to a guild for evaluation. Only after evaluation can a journeyman be admitted to the guild as a master. [4] Sometimes, a journeyman was required to accomplish a three-year working trip, which may be called the journeyman years.


German journeymen in traditional uniform during journeyman years Zwei wandernde Gesellen, 2006.jpg
German journeymen in traditional uniform during journeyman years

The word journey comes from the French journée (day), which in turn comes from the Latin diurnus (pertaining to a day, daily). The title "journeyman" refers to the right to charge a fee for each day's work. A journeyman has completed an apprenticeship but is employed by another [5] such as a master craftsman, but they would live apart and might have a family of their own. A journeyman could not employ others. In contrast, an apprentice would be bound to a master, usually for a fixed term of seven years, and lived with the master as a member of the household, receiving most or all compensation in the form of food, lodging, and training.[ citation needed ]

In parts of Europe, as in Late Medieval Germany, spending time as a wandering journeyman (Wandergeselle), [6] moving from one town to another to gain experience of different workshops, was an important part of the training of an aspirant master. Carpenters and other artisans in German-speaking countries have retained the tradition of traveling journeymen even today, [7] but only a few still practice it. In France, journeymen were known as compagnons.

Modern era

In modern apprenticeship systems, a journeyman has a trades certificate to show the required completion of an apprenticeship. In many countries, it is the highest formal rank, as that of master has been eliminated, and they may perform all tasks of the trade in the area certified as well as supervise apprentices and become self-employed.

The modern apprenticeship system aims to build skills by on-the-job training. An apprentice is able to earn a living while learning new skills. The working environment is closely linked to the employer giving the individual company the opportunity to shape the apprentice, within the guidelines, to suit particular requirements. Quite often, a strong working relationship is built between employee and employer. [8]

In Germany, however, master craftsmen, after they complete their apprenticeships, are required to take part-time courses that last three to four years or full-time courses that last one year.

United States

In the United States, employment in some building trades, such as an electrician, carpenter, plumber, machinist, and HVAC contractor, usually requires holding state or local (city or county) license as a journeyman or master. [9] The license certifies that the craftsman has met the requirements of time in the field (usually a minimum of 8,000 hours) and time in an approved classroom setting (usually 700 hours). A journeyman has the responsibility of supervising workers of lesser experience and training them and has the qualifications (knowledge and skills) to work unsupervised himself. A journeyman is commonly expected to have a wide range of experience, covering most fields of their trade. For example, a non-journeyman worker of some 20 or 30 years' experience may have most or all of their experience in only residential, commercial, or industrial applications.[ citation needed ] A journeyman, however, has a broad field of experience in residential, commercial, and industrial applications.


In Australia, a journeyman registration allows the permit holder to work under the general direction of an advanced tradesman. A journeyman may oversee the work of apprentices and trades assistants but may not contract for work using that particular registration. A journeyman level qualification is obtained by completing a formal apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is learning a skilled trade under the supervision of an advanced tradesperson. [10] An apprentice is a trainee who is becoming formally trained and qualified in a particular type of trade. The duration of an apprenticeship is usually three to four years, depending on the individual trade. On completion of the training the apprentice will receive a nationally recognised qualification, a trade certificate. Practical on-the-job learning makes up the majority of an apprenticeship, but it also incorporates some classroom learning. Apprenticeships offer real-life experience in the workplace, a regular income and new skills. [11] Examples of licensed trades are plumbers and gas-fitters, electricians, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and carpenters and joiners. [12]


In Canada, in addition to completion of Apprenticeship in a Skilled Trade, the worker may also choose to write an exam to be recognized throughout the country via the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. [13]

Modern journeyman

The modern journeyman is a term for the many paths of adult education and can be used to describe life's process of continual learning. Although the term journeyman is typically traditional, modern journeyman is also used to refer to current concepts of adult education: life-long learning, up-skilling, the knowledge wave and modern apprenticeships. [14]

In American English, a journeyman is an athlete or employee in general who is technically competent but unable to excel. [15] The term is used elsewhere (such as in British and Australian contexts) to refer to a professional sportsman who plays for numerous clubs during their career. [16]

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guild</span> Association of artisans or merchants

A guild is an association of artisans and merchants who oversee the practice of their craft/trade in a particular territory. The earliest types of guild formed as organizations of tradespeople belonging to a professional association. They sometimes depended on grants of letters patent from a monarch or other ruler to enforce the flow of trade to their self-employed members, and to retain ownership of tools and the supply of materials, but most were regulated by the city government. Guild members found guilty of cheating the public would be fined or banned from the guild. A lasting legacy of traditional guilds are the guildhalls constructed and used as guild meeting-places.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vocational education</span> Studies that prepares a person for a specific occupation

Vocational education is education that prepares people to a skilled craft as an artisan, trade as a tradesperson, or work as a technician. Vocational Education can also be seen as that type of education given to an individual to prepare that individual to be gainfully employed or self employed with requisite skill. Vocational education is known by a variety of names, depending on the country concerned, including career and technical education, or acronyms such as TVET and TAFE.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Apprenticeship</span> System for training new crafts-people

Apprenticeship is a system for training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study. Apprenticeships can also enable practitioners to gain a license to practice in a regulated occupation. Most of their training is done while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade or profession, in exchange for their continued labor for an agreed period after they have achieved measurable competencies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carpentry</span> Skilled trade

Carpentry is a skilled trade and a craft in which the primary work performed is the cutting, shaping and installation of building materials during the construction of buildings, ships, timber bridges, concrete formwork, etc. Carpenters traditionally worked with natural wood and did rougher work such as framing, but today many other materials are also used and sometimes the finer trades of cabinetmaking and furniture building are considered carpentry. In the United States, 98.5% of carpenters are male, and it was the fourth most male-dominated occupation in the country in 1999. In 2006 in the United States, there were about 1.5 million carpentry positions. Carpenters are usually the first tradesmen on a job and the last to leave. Carpenters normally framed post-and-beam buildings until the end of the 19th century; now this old-fashioned carpentry is called timber framing. Carpenters learn this trade by being employed through an apprenticeship training—normally 4 years—and qualify by successfully completing that country's competence test in places such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Australia and South Africa. It is also common that the skill can be learned by gaining work experience other than a formal training program, which may be the case in many places.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Electrician</span> Tradesperson specializing in electrical wiring

An electrician is a tradesperson specializing in electrical wiring of buildings, transmission lines, stationary machines, and related equipment. Electricians may be employed in the installation of new electrical components or the maintenance and repair of existing electrical infrastructure. Electricians may also specialize in wiring ships, airplanes, and other mobile platforms, as well as data and cable lines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tradesman</span> Skilled specialist

A tradesman is a skilled worker that specializes in a particular trade. Tradesmen usually have work experience, on-the-job training, an apprenticeship program or formal education.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plumber</span> Tradesperson specializing in water and sewage systems

A plumber is a tradesperson who specializes in installing and maintaining systems used for potable (drinking) water, and for sewage and drainage in plumbing systems.

The Compagnons du Devoir, full name Compagnons du Devoir et du Tour de France, is a French organization of craftsmen and artisans dating from the Middle Ages. Their traditional, technical education includes taking a tour, the Tour de France, around France and doing apprenticeships with masters. For a young man or young woman today, the Compagnonnage is a traditional mentoring network through which to learn a trade while developing character by experiencing community life and traveling. The community lives in a Compagnon house known as a cayenne and managed by a mère (mother) or maîtresse (mistress), a woman who looks after the well-being of the residents, of which there are more than 80 in France. The houses vary in size from a small house for five people to a larger one with more than 100 people living together.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tailor</span> A person who makes, repairs, or alters clothing professionally

A tailor is a person who makes or alters clothing, particularly in men's clothing. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the term to the thirteenth century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Master craftsman</span> Occupational rank

Historically, a master craftsman or master tradesman was a member of a guild. The title survives as the highest professional qualification in craft industries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House painter and decorator</span> Tradesman responsible for the painting and decorating of buildings

A house painter and decorator is a tradesman responsible for the painting and decorating of buildings, and is also known as a decorator or house painter. The purpose of painting is to improve the appearance of a building and to protect it from damage by water, corrosion, insects and mould. House painting can also be a form of artistic and/or cultural expression such as Ndebele house painting.

A dual education system combines apprenticeships in a company and vocational education at a vocational school in one course. This system is practiced in several countries, notably Germany, Austria, Switzerland and in the German-speaking Community of Belgium, but also for some years now in South Korea.

Instrument mechanics in engineering are tradesmen who specialize in installing, troubleshooting, and repairing instrumentation, automation and control systems. The term "Instrument Mechanic" came about because it was a combination of light mechanical and specialised instrumentation skills. The term is still is used in certain industries; predominantly in industrial process control.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Journeyman years</span>

In a certain tradition, the journeyman years are a time of travel for several years after completing apprenticeship as a craftsman. The tradition dates back to medieval times and is still alive in France, Scandinavia and the German-speaking countries. Normally three years and one day is the minimum period of journeyman/woman. Crafts include roofing, metalworking, woodcarving, carpentry and joinery, and even millinery and musical instrument making/organ building.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Work and labour organization in Upper Canada</span>

The cultural and legal framework within which tradesmen contracted for work, and hired men was similar to that of Great Britain. These immigrants quickly sought to establish and regulate the basic institutions of the trades: Friendly societies, the house of call and apprenticeship. Friendly societies were worker controlled mutual insurance organizations. They provided an income in the case of strike, injury or economic downturn. Their association with specific trades also made them useful vehicles for trade union organization.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Australian Industry Trade College</span> School in Queensland, Australia

Australian Industry Trade College (AITC) - RTO 31775, is an independent, senior school for Young People located in Robina, Cleveland and the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Students in Years 10, 11 and 12 undertake school-based apprenticeships or traineeships which include paid work placements and the opportunity to complete vocational education training in the student's chosen area.

Apprenticeships have a long tradition in the United Kingdom, dating back to around the 12th century. They flourished in the 14th century and were expanded during the industrial revolution. In modern times, apprenticeships were formalised in 1964 by act of parliament and they continue to be in widespread use to this day.

Apprenticeship programs in the United States are regulated by the Smith–Hughes Act (1917), The National Industrial Recovery Act (1933), and National Apprenticeship Act, also known as the "Fitzgerald Act."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Apprenticeship in Germany</span>

Apprenticeships are part of Germany's dual education system, and as such form an integral part of many people's working life. Finding employment without having completed an apprenticeship is almost impossible. For some particular technical university professions, such as food technology, a completed apprenticeship is often recommended; for some, such as marine engineering it may even be mandatory.


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