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How Long Does It Take to Become a Journeyman?

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Tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians typically have an apprentice training system. This means that those who join the profession learn the trade by taking classes and working, usually full-time, as an apprentice at a relatively low wage. After completing an apprenticeship, which typically takes three to five years, and passing an exam, you can become a journeyman. Another three or four years of working as a journeyman gives you enough experience to qualify to take the exam to become a master plumber or electrician.

Applying for Apprenticeships

Organizations such as unions and electrical and plumber contractor associations offer trade apprenticeship programs. Typical qualifications for an apprenticeship program include a minimum age of 18, a high school diploma or GED, one year of algebra, a passing score on an industry-specific aptitude test and a clean criminal history check and drug screening. Many apprenticeship programs have a limited number of openings each year, so it is important to have good references and high test scores.

A Trade Apprenticeship

A trade apprenticeship typically lasts three to five years. Most apprenticeship programs require 150 to 250 hours of classroom study and around 2,000 hours of paid supervised training every year. Apprentices who have completed an accredited certificate or associate degree program can reduce the length of their apprenticeships. Apprentices are often assigned to work with experienced tradesmen across a broad range of tasks, so they are prepared to work in manufacturing, the construction industry or as private tradesmen after completing the apprenticeship. Trade apprentices are usually paid around half the wages of journeyman. Becoming a journeyman requires passing a state licensing exam.

Working as a Journeyman

Journeymen are experienced professionals at their trade. With four-plus years of education and experience, they have learned all of the basics of the profession and are likely developing expertise in one or more specialty areas. A journeyman electrician earns an average of $24.41 per hour. A journeyman plumber earns an average of $23,27 per hour.

Reaching Master Status

It takes seven or eight years of professional experience to qualify to sit for the exam for a master plumber or electrician license. A master plumber or electrician is expected to be able to take on most types of specialty work in his trade or recommend another professional who has experience dealing with a specific problem. Master plumbers and electricians typically earn significantly more than journeymen, and many have earnings that put them in the top 10 percent of their profession. Pay varies according to geographic location and other factors, including bonuses and overtime. The average annual master electrician salary ranges from $39,788 to $61,523, depending on the number of years of experience. For master plumbers, salary does not change much after five years of experience. On average, plumbers earn $58,285 annually.

Technical Education

Using the search term "technical schools near me," you will likely find the names of several institutions that offer training to become an electrician or plumber. Be sure to investigate your options before making a decision. Find out the cost of the program, the length of time required for study and the job placement rate. Talk to current and former students if you can. Electrician school length varies, depending upon the type of credential you seek. Certificate programs may be completed in several months' time, while diploma or associate's degree programs can take up to two years. Plumbing training at a technical school also takes up to two years.