What does a Journeyman Electrician do?
A journeyman electrician is a individual who performs work on electrical systems, including lighting installation, mechanical connections, power supplies, communications, and security systems. He or she may perform electrical work on residences or commercial structures, or may even work on overhead lines and power distribution. While the majority of people who enter this field work in construction, a journeyman electrician can also find employment with a manufacturing plant or utility company.
The path to becoming a journeyman electrician starts when an individual enters an apprenticeship program. As an apprentice, the individual will work during the day and attend an apprentice training program at night. After four years, he or she is eligible to take the Journeyman's Electrical Exam, which is administered by individual states based on principles in the National Electric Code. Upon successful completion of the exam, the individual is certified as a journeyman electrician.
After receiving certification, a journeyman is permitted to work unsupervised on any type of electrical system. He or she may install and repair wiring and conduit, install fixtures and equipment, or run power lines for municipal organizations. More advanced tasks may include wiring fire alarm systems or installing control wiring for the building's mechanical system. On the residential side, a journeyman electrician is permitted to perform all aspects of creating a complete electrical system in a home. The journeyman electrician may also train others, typically apprentices working towards their own certification.
While the journeyman is permitted to perform a broad range of tasks, he or she is not permitted to obtain electrical permits or complete design work for electrical systems. In order to perform these tasks, the journeyman electrician must gain two additional years or work experience, then sit for the Master's Certification Exam. Upon successful completion of the Master's exam, an individual may design systems and even open his or her own business.
In the electrical field, an individual will face a variety of obstacles when it comes to working conditions. First, there is the inherent risk involved in working on electrical systems, especially high voltage power lines. Those working on municipal power systems will also face dangers when climbing poles or installing overhead lines. The journeyman electrician working on a construction site must be prepared to deal with changing weather conditions, climbing ladders and scaffolds, and being aware of dangers from falling objects and the work of other trades.
Journeyman electrician here. Let me address a few questions.
@jcraig : A journeyman electrician can work by him or herself. However, they must be working under the "guidance" of a master electrician (who's license is on file with the state for the company they are working for). Its a legal thing. The master electrician is "responsible" for the work being performed under his/her license.
Master electricians can own their own businesses. States regulate specific requirements for starting an electrical company. Typically there a few hurdles to clear.
"For example, could a journeyman electrician do "freelance" work where they were self employed and advertised for their services only?" No. It is illegal and considered "side work". Contractors must meet the residing state's guidelines to perform electrical work. Jail, fines, and losing a license is typical punishment.
@TreeMan : Your post is on point.
@ matthewc23 : Exactly right.
@ cardsfan27 : Training is key. Trade schools are good - apprenticeships are even better. Blowing up equipment is a no-no, and blowing yourself up is an even bigger no-no.
@ anon316460 : "Since the journeyman process is specific to be certified to each state then how does one relocate? Would they have to start all over again with the training and apprenticeship?"
In short, no. If the states do not reciprocate licenses with each other, then the individual will have to retake the licensing exam - not go through training again.
"Second, since it is about the same as four years, then another four for a masters, then why not get an electrical engineering degree which can be more universal? Other than the obvious costs for a B.A or M.S. in Electrical Engineering, I just wonder if that would be a better route?"
Engineers design electrical systems; electricians install them. It’s a matter of preference. Engineers typically make more than electricians in a normal 40 hour work week. But electricians can make a good living. Average base salary is around $53,000 and that's without working overtime (1.5 x hourly rate).
The math is tough in engineering school so if it’s not your thing, maybe consider being an electrician. You get to build stuff. It’s kind of cool.
Interesting questions here, but here are a couple more.
Since the journeyman process is specific to be certified to each state then how does one relocate? Would they have to start all over again with the training and apprenticeship?
Second, since it is about the same as four years, then another four for a masters, then why not get an electrical engineering degree which can be more universal? Other than the obvious costs for a B.A or M.S. in Electrical Engineering, I just wonder if that would be a better route?
Don't a lot of community and technical colleges now offer some type of program to train students for electrician jobs? I don't know exactly how it works, but I think what they try to do is set students up with local electricians so that they can complete their apprenticeship period while they are in college. By the time they graduate from college, they will have a good chunk of their training out of the way and will be well-prepared to take the journeyman electrician exam when the time comes.
I think being an electrician would be very demanding job. I have done a few small electrical projects like replacing light switches and outlets and such, and I'm always worried about mixing up the wires. Obviously, a real electrician shouldn't have a problem figuring those things out, but if you are installing something like a fuse box or electric wires on a large scale, I am guessing you would have a lot of the same worries about mixing up wires.
@TreeMan - Very good points. I had an uncle who is a master electrician, and his son (my cousin) is following in his footsteps. He is currently at the journeyman stage and has been for a couple of years.
They say that one of the other reasons only a master electrician can own a company is for state recording standards. The article mentions having to stay a certain stages for a set number of years, but what the regulators really care about is how many hours of experience you have (which typically equate to a certain number of years of full time work).
Besides overseeing all of the journeymen and apprentice electricians, a master electrician has to keep track of their hours and report those things to the state. They are also responsible for teaching their subordinates and preparing them for the master's exam.
@jcraig - I have always had the sense that if you are a journeyman you still have to be under the general supervision of a master electrician. Although a person may have passed the journeyman electrician test and had several years of training, that person still doesn't always have the same detailed knowledge that a master electrician will have.
I think a lot of people underestimate the education some of these people have to have to be licensed for some of these skilled professions like electricians and plumbers. Electricians especially have to go through a lot of regulations because messing up an electrical job not only puts the electrician in danger when they are installing the wires, but can put a whole house at risk of catching fire. Having an electrician job takes a lot of training, and I think it is well justified.
I didn't realize that there was so much involved in becoming an electrician. I was always under the impression that journeyman electricians had to be working under the supervision of a master electrician, but I guess that isn't the case. I am pretty sure that is how it works with plumbing, but I could be wrong about that, as well.
The article says that after a journeyman passes the state test, he or she can work unsupervised on any type of project. It also says, though, that only master electricians can own their own business. Does that mean that a journeyman can only work for a master electrician, or just that the journeyman can't hire additional people that they are responsible for supervising? For example, could a journeyman electrician do "freelance" work where they were self employed and advertised for their services only?
Post your comments