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A journeyman is a skilled trades person who has finished an apprenticeship and can accept money for his work but is not yet qualified to work independently. Individual states regulate licensing for journeymen, which vary by trade and region but usually require applicants to have completed a certain number of training hours and pass a test. The most frequent industries that require licenses for journeymen are plumbing, electricians and mechanical contracting.
Plumbers, pipefitters and steamlayers are generally ready to sit for their journeyman licensing examination after they have completed a paid internship in their field. These internship programs are usually administered jointly by community colleges and unions and consist of four to five years of paid, on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom training per year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although some states don't require licenses for plumbers to work at journeyman level, those that do generally require you to pass a state-specific journeyman examination that will test whether you are familiar with federal and local plumbing codes and basic maintenance and installation of plumbing systems.
Most states require electricians to complete three to five years of apprenticeship and classroom training and pass an examination before they are ready to apply for a journeyman's license. These apprenticeships are usually sponsored by joint committees made up of the local chapter of the national electricians or contractors unions and local electrical contracting companies. The training, which includes at least 144 hours of classroom learning and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training, is so comprehensive that electricians are generally qualified to do maintenance and construction work once they are finished. The state-specific journeyman's exams are designed to assess your knowledge of national electrical code, state laws and regulations and basic electrical theory. Licensed journeymen are generally allowed to work on all types of electrical systems, but they can't design electrical systems without the help of a licensed master electrician.
As with other trades, mechanical contracting or HVAC journeyman are generally required to have completed a certain number of hours of classroom and on-the-job training before they qualify to take the state-specific exam usually required for a license. Oklahoma, for example, requires mechanical contractor journeymen to have completed either four years of work experience or an associate degree from a community college or a vocational technical school. Mechanical contractors in that state must also pass an examination on business and law. Mechanical contractor journeymen are generally not allowed to work unless they are employed by a licensed contractor.
If you are interested in preparing for a journeyman license, your first step should be checking out the training programs offered by your local community colleges, vocational technical schools and trade unions. These organizations generally will offer comprehensive apprenticeships and classroom training designed to prepare you for state licensing requirements. They also can give you up-to-date information about the specific requirements in your state.
Elaine Severs is an award-winning journalist who has been writing professionally since 2001. She has written about politics, health, education, travel and general interest topics for several newspapers and travel guides, including the "New York Times" and Insight Travel Guides. She has a Master of Science in journalism from Columbia University.