Apprentice vs. Journeyman Workers: What's the Difference?

Updated June 24, 2022

If you're considering a career as a tradesperson in construction, plumbing or electrical work, it's important to understand experience levels for apprentices and a journeymen. While apprentices are entry-level roles, journey-level workers, historically known as journeymen, have additional training to make them more qualified for work. If you're considering a career as a tradesperson, there are several differences between these two roles that can help you outline your career path.

In this article, we discuss the role of an apprentice versus a journeyman so you can understand what the requirements are for your career path. They are two of the three levels of skill and experience—apprentice, journeyman and master for tradespeople.

What is an apprentice?

An apprentice is an entry-level employee who takes part in a specialized training program to acquire trade skills. Apprentices earn wages while working under the supervision of a licensed employee to learn skills and competencies required in a particular field. Some may complete educational training and studies alongside their apprenticeships, which can help them prepare for professional licensing in regulated occupations.

When pursuing an apprenticeship, many entry-level tradespeople focus on key vocations like electrical trades, carpentry, stonemasonry, engineering, plumbing, metalworking and mechanics. Depending on your specific career interests, you can usually find opportunities to apprentice within these primary trades.

Related: What Is an Apprenticeship?

What is a journeyman?

A journeyman is an employee who develops the skills and qualifications necessary to advance from an apprenticeship to higher-level responsibilities in their trade. They perform work projects across a variety of vocations that require specific licensing. In some instances, journey-level tradespeople may also help train apprentices, especially if they work in a leadership role. While journeymen continue gaining skills, credentials and knowledge to perform major construction and trade jobs, they still work under the supervision of trade masters, executives, directors and production supervisors.

Just like an apprenticeship, you can advance to a journey-level role in many vocational industries, including engineering, construction and carpentry, electrical work, metalworking, welding, plumbing, pipefitting and stonemasonry. The availability of job opportunities across trades and vocations makes pursuing a career as a journeyman a beneficial consideration for advancing your career.

Read more: What Is a Journeyman?

Apprentice vs. journeyman

Apprentices and journeymen share several key differences, including:

Primary job responsibilities

Apprentices and journeymen have different duties, mostly because of their level of employment. For instance, apprentices who work in most trades often perform entry-level duties that support their skill development and trade knowledge. Much of an apprenticeship focuses on duties like attending workshops and trade shows to develop industry knowledge, incorporate supervisor feedback into their work projects and complete projects that journeymen and supervisors assign.

Journeymen, conversely, are responsible for many on-the-job projects and tasks and often mentor and guide apprentices to learn the industry and vocation. They also coordinate with vocational managers and supervisors to develop project plans and implement blueprints. Depending on their specific trade, journeymen may often complete project inspections, operate heavy machinery and equipment and collaborate with other tradespeople to connect project elements and complete their work.

Related: How To Find an Apprenticeship Program

Education and training

Both apprentices and journeymen undergo on-the-job training. However, apprenticeships usually entry-level employees who may still be completing diplomas or degrees in their trades. Additionally, many apprentices may often complete on-the-job training alongside their vocational studies to better apply the skills they learn both in the classroom and from working in an apprenticeship. This differs from journal-level workers who have already completed their vocational studies.

Licensing requirements

Both journeymen and apprentices need a high school diploma or equivalent before working in the field. While professionals undergo an apprenticeship to learn the various skills they need in order to advance in their career, journeymen must complete their apprenticeships and earn specialized licenses specific to their field of work. Many journeymen complete a certification program and take a state exam from the National Inspection Testing and Certification Corporation (NITC).

Related: How To Become an Electrician Journeyman

Income potential

The salary levels between an apprentice and a journeyman also differ. Because apprenticeships serve much the same purpose as internships, the income for these entry-level employees is often less than the income for a licensed journeyman. On average, apprentices in carpentry and other trades may expect an earning potential of $25,182 per year.

This differs substantially from the average income for a licensed journey-level worker in carpentry, which is a potential $58,032 per year. While the difference between these two income averages is substantial, there are several factors that can affect both salary levels. For instance, your specific credentials, location, level of experience and employer can all be influential when negotiating your salary.

Job outlook

The career outlook for both positions can also differ slightly. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook and expected career availability for apprentices, laborers and helpers in construction should increase by 5% over the next decade. This growth projection is also similar to journeymen who work in the same trades and vocations, resulting from apprentices who complete on-the-job training and advance into journeymen roles within their field.

Tips for pursuing your vocational career

No matter the field or trade you choose to pursue, you can expect to complete an apprenticeship before advancing into higher-level roles, like a journeyman. Consider the following helpful tips as you determine the career path for you:

  • Think about your interests. Consider which fields you're passionate about and research the requirements you need to qualify for an apprenticeship in your trade.

  • Seek additional opportunities to build your skills. Employers often like to see apprentices who take initiative to apply new skills and improve on weaker areas.

  • Test your knowledge. Evaluate yourself as you learn and apply new skills to your work projects so you understand what concepts you're mastering and which you still need to improve.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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