For other uses, see Journeyman (disambiguation).

A "journeyman" is a skilled worker who has successfully completed an official apprenticeship qualification in a building trade or craft. They are considered competent and authorized to work in that field as a fully qualified employee. A journeyman earns their license through education, supervised experience, and examination. [1] Although a journeyman has completed a trade certificate and is able to work as an employee, they are not yet able to work as a self-employed master craftsman.[2] The term journeyman was originally used in the medieval trade guilds. Journeymen were paid each day, and this is where the word ‘journey’ derived from- journée meaning ‘a day’ in French. Each individual guild generally recognized three ranks of workers; apprentices, journeymen, and masters. A journeyman, as a qualified tradesman could become a master, running their own business although 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 an evaluation. Only after evaluation can a journeyman be admitted to the guild as a master.[4] Sometimes, a journeyman is required to accomplish a three-year working trip, which may be called the journeyman years.

Origin of the title

German journeymen in traditional uniform during journeyman years

The word journeyman comes from the French word journée, which means a day's work or a day's travel; journée in turn comes from Vulgar Latin, diurnum meaning day.[5] The title refers to the journeyman's right to charge a fee for each day's work. A journeyman has completed an apprenticeship but is employed by another[6] such as a master craftsman, but would live apart and might have a family of his 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.

In parts of Europe, as in later medieval Germany, spending time as a wandering journeyman (Wandergeselle),[7] moving from one town to another to gain experience of different workshops, was an important part of the training of an aspirant master. Carpenters in Germany have retained the tradition of traveling journeymen even today, although only a few still practice it. In France, wandering journeymen were known as compagnons.

Industrial era and later

Main article: Apprenticeship

In modern apprenticeship systems, a journeyman is a person who has a trades certificate that shows the required completion of an apprenticeship. In many countries this is the highest formal rank (that of master having been eliminated) and allows them to perform all the tasks of the trade within the area where they are certified, to supervise apprentices and to become self-employed. The modern apprenticeship system aims to build skills through on the job training. An apprentice is able to earn a living while learning these 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 their particular requirements. Quite often a strong working relationship is built between employee and employer.[8]

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


A person who has completed the traditional live-in apprenticeship could be considered a journeyman, as could someone who is educated in their field and has passed a board-certified test.

In the United States, employment in some building trades, such as an electrician, plumber, machinist, and HVAC contractor usually requires that a person holds a state or local (city or county) license as a journeyman or master. The journeyman 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, in addition to having 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 his trade. For example, a non journeyman worker of some 20 or 30 years' experience may have most or all of his experience in only residential, commercial or industrial applications. 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 although is not permitted to contract for work using this particular registration. A journeyman level qualification is obtained through completion of a formal apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is the time spent learning a skilled trade under the supervision of an advanced tradesperson.[9] 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 and on completion of the training the apprentice will receive a nationally recognized qualification, known as a ‘Trade Certificate’. Practical ‘on the job’ learning makes up the majority of an apprenticeship although it does incorporate a mix of classroom and workshop learning. Apprenticeships offer real life experience in the workplace and a regular income whilst learning new skills.[10] Examples of licensed trades in Australia include: Plumbers and Gas-fitters, Electricians, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Mechanics and Carpenters and Joiners.[11]

Modern Journeyman

The ‘modern journeyman’ is a term, which captures the many varied paths of adult education. It can be used to describe life’s process of continual learning. Although the term journeyman is typically traditional, a ‘modern journeyman’ is used with reference to current concepts of adult education including: ‘life long learning’, ‘up-skilling’, ‘the knowledge wave’, and 'modern apprenticeships'.[12]

See also


  1. Journeyman. (2006). In C. Harris (Ed.), Dictionary of architecture and construction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from =
  2. Journeyman. (2013). In G. Kurian, The AMA Dictionary of business and management. New York, NY: AMACOM, Publishing Division of the American Management Association. Retrieved from
  3. Journeyman. (2015). In The Hutchinson unabridged encyclopedia with atlas and weather guide. Abington, United Kingdom: Helicon. Retrieved from
  4. Salt, L. E., & Sinclair, R. (Eds.). (1957). Oxford junior encyclodaedia: Industry and commerce (Vol. VII). London: Oxford University Press.
  5. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2015-03-12.
  6. "Journeyman" def. 1. Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0), Oxford University Press, 2009
  7. Dicke, Hugo, and Hans H. Glismann. Vocational Training in Germany. Kiel: Institut für Weltwirtschaft, 1994. page 34. Print.
  8. Cassels, J. (2001). Modern Apprenticeships: the way to work, The Report of the Modern Apprenticeship Advisory Committee. Retrieved from
  9. Northern Territory Government. (2016). Journeyman registration. Retrieved from
  10. Work Ready. (2016). What is an apprenticeship or traineeship? Retrieved from
  11. Commonwealth of Australia. (2016). Licence recognition. Retrieved from
  12. Emms, M. (2005). The modern journeyman: Influences and controls of apprentice style learning in culinary education. Retrieved from
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