Journeyman Electrician License Requirements

What is a journeyman electrician? “Journeyman” is a trade-specific term for an electrician who has completed an apprenticeship and gained the qualifications of a fully qualified electrician. A journeyman may also be referred to as a “journeyperson” or “journey-level tradesperson.”

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Journeyman electricians install, maintain and repair electrical systems in both residential and commercial environments. These qualified professionals are competent to perform their job duties with minimal supervision and often provide oversight to apprentice electricians. In fact, journey-level electricians are considered to be in the middle part of their careers, as they will still need to be under the management of a master electrician.

The Journey to Becoming a Journeyman

So, how long does it take to become a journeyman electrician, and what are the specific journeyman electrician requirements? Although the legalities can vary by location, in general you will need to have completed a four- to five-year apprenticeship, taken a qualifying exam and acquired a journeyman electrician license to qualify for journeyman electrician jobs. In short, you will need to put in a lot of time and effort to be considered a journeyperson.

Your apprenticeship is an exciting time in your life, where you are continuously building your knowledge and expertise. Apprenticeships can vary depending on what type of program you attend and in which area of the country you plan to work. However, in general, apprentices will need to have completed 500 to 1,000 hours of classroom training, along with over 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. 

Entering an apprenticeship can be accomplished in a number of ways. For some, completing a training program through a local trade school or community college helps them connect to an apprenticeship, either as a part of the program or upon graduation. In addition, it is possible to improve your chances of landing a highly rated apprenticeship by earning a certificate or two-year degree before applying. Apprenticeships can also be found through a union or non-union trade organization. 

When deciding which route you will take to earn the credentials of a journeyperson, you will need to make a definitive choice between training in a union or non-union, merit-based program. Union apprenticeships generally offer better pay and are more competitive to enter. Apprentices who participate in these programs will need to pay dues and follow union guidelines at all times, including a strict definition of job duties and division of labor. Union apprenticeships are coordinated through Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees (JATCs), which are sponsored through a partnership of two unions: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).

Non-union apprenticeships are organized through local contractors and can be applied for like any other job. Although they usually offer lower rates of pay, there are no dues to pay and the on-the-job duties may include more than just electrical work. Non-union apprenticeships can be found with a local contractor or through one of two popular non-union trade organizations: the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) or the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). 

Requirements for Journeyman Licensing

Journeymen are not required to be licensed in some places, but most states do have a specific licensing requirement. In addition, you should be aware that even in states with no requirement for licensure, journey-level electricians may need to seek licensing locally. In some states, journeymen are licensed under contractors’ licenses, while in others, those who work as contractors will have to apply for a separate contractor’s license. Also, if you are planning to do specialized work, such as become a lineman, you may need to seek additional licensing through your state. 

Most places will require candidates for journey-level credentials to take and pass an examination based on building codes. The most prominent code in testing is the National Electrical Code (NEC), which is regulated by the National Fire Protection Association, upon which many local building codes are built. Prior to sitting for your examination, it is recommended that you research the local requirements in your area and purchase a study guide or participate in an exam preparation course. 

Working as a Journeyman: What to Expect

What do journey-level electricians do all day? Journeymen electricians benefit from the experience they have gained through many years of apprenticing under the tutelage of other journey- and master-level electricians. By the time you are ready to work as a journeyperson, you should be familiar with the ins and outs of the trade.

Journeyman electricians are expected to be proficient in using trade-specific tools such as pliers (including side-cutting and needle-nose), voltage testers, claw hammers, screwdrivers, channel locks, pipe reamers, stripping tools, tape measures and voltage meters. Electricians use these tools to perform their regular job duties. These include inspecting and testing wiring systems,  installing feeders, troubleshooting motors and controls, connecting circuit breakers, reading blueprints, installing wires, connecting transformers and terminating cables. As you perform these job duties, you may have the assistance of an apprentice electrician, who you will need to supervise and mentor in turn.

Although a journeyperson can work with minimal supervision, they are still unable to work with complete independence. Journey-level electricians will still fall under the oversight of the master electrician who supervises their work. In addition, only a master electrician can design electrical systems, deal with permit agents and own a contracting company.  

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Beyond Working as a Journeyman: Taking the Next Step

Once you have completed the required period as a journeyperson, you may want to consider becoming a master electrician. Moving from journeyperson to master electrician is the next logical step in your career, although if you do not feel ready to move to the next level, you may choose to wait a little longer. When you do feel prepared to progress, there are many advantages to acquiring master-level credentials. These benefits include increased pay, more freedom and the ability to work with complete independence.

In most places, the required experience for master electricians is the completion of four to five years of an apprenticeship, plus two years as a journeyperson. Once you have met these basic requirements, you will usually need to take an exam prior to obtaining your license. Like the journey-level examination, master electrician exams are given either as written or oral exams, are based on local building codes and usually draw heavily from NEC guidelines. As with the journeyperson exam, you will likely benefit from study guides, practice exams or an exam prep training course.

If eventually becoming a master electrician is among your goals, you should use your time as a journeyperson to engage in continuous learning. Working under the continued supervision of master electricians during this time will allow you to have access to their knowledge and expertise in the field. Particularly, you may want to focus on learning how to design electrical systems, supervise a larger crew, work with permitting agents and manage a business.

Regardless of your career goals, you will want to gain as much experience as possible in your journeyperson years to prepare for your best possible future. Perhaps you hope to manage your own small business where you work by yourself, find a regular maintenance job, work for a contractor or begin a large contracting company. If any of these are on your list of potential futures, earning your journeyman credential is a necessary first step on your way to becoming a master electrician.