A journeyman is a tradesperson who has successfully completed an apprenticeship, but is not yet qualified to own a business and manage employees. While this term technically refers specifically to men, some people refer to men or women as journeymen. Journeymen are considered fully trained, but their level of experience is only intermediate, because they have not worked on their own and they lack the skills which come with years of practice in a particular trade. This term may also be used more generally to refer to a worker with intermediate skills.
Many trades which retain an apprenticeship system are regulated by law to ensure that people receive sufficient training to practice safely before they are allowed to start advertising their services and working independently. When an apprentice starts work, he or she must register, and may be obliged to pass a basic skills test which allows him or her to work as an apprentice. After an apprenticeship is complete after two to four years, the apprentice can apply to take the exam which offers journeyman qualification. Exams may be administered by professional organizations or government regulatory agencies, depending on the trade.
Once an apprentice passes a journeyman test, he or she can work in another tradesperson's business. Journeymen do not have employees or apprentices under their employ and they may not be allowed to own their own businesses, but they can work independently, acquiring skills which allow them to obtain master status. Once someone is a master of a trade, it is possible to own a shop, hire journeymen, and work with apprentices.
Working as a journeyman allows a former apprentice numerous opportunities to work in the real world, acquiring useful experience with a mentor handy. The journeyman's employer can provide advice or suggestions when a journeyman encounters a new challenge or a situation which is unfamiliar. By contrast, once someone is a master of a trade, it is assumed that he or she will not need to consult a mentor for assistance.
Some types of journeymen include journeyman plumbers, electricians, linemen, metalworkers, carpenters, and roofers. Journeymen are part of a very old tradition of apprenticeship which dates back centuries; in many trades, the only way to learn skills is to practice them, and apprenticeships create a structured way to practice safely and effectively. Eventually, apprentices and journeymen can become masters who are able to train the next generation of tradespeople.