With the pandemic behind us, there is a resurgence of interest in trade. If you’re interested in building a career in a trade, you should know that the US currently faces a shortage of qualified electrical professionals so becoming a journeyman electrician could be beneficial.
There are several opportunities to enter this lucrative field, and it has excellent prospects. Given time, you could make six figures as an electrician contractor. Plus, you don’t need to get a college education to become an electrician. There couldn’t be a better time to begin working in the electrical trade.
But to get to a high level of earning power, you will need to go through the different stages of electrician licensing. A journeyman electrician is the intermediate segment of the three-phase process of becoming a master electrician.
In this post, we will describe what the journeyman electrician job entails, how to become one and help you determine whether you’re the right fit for the role.
What is a Journeyman Electrician?
A journeyman electrician is an electrician that is part-way through the electrician training process and has completed their apprenticeship. These electricians typically work to install and repair electrical systems in all kinds of settings.
These professionals are also responsible for installing and repairing wiring and inspecting circuit breakers and transformers.
It is essential for journeyman electricians to be familiar with building codes regulations and ensure that all the electrical work is done accordingly.
Additionally, a journeyman electrician must be able to read blueprints to ensure that systems are installed correctly and in the right place.
What Does a Journeyman Electrician Do?
Journeyman electricians have the necessary training and experience to work independently. However, these electricians have not acquired a master electrician license.
These electricians typically work with wires, fixtures, and control systems in different kinds of buildings. But they do not design the electrical systems for buildings — a master electrician does this.
A journeyman electrician typically completes tasks such as installing lighting, security systems, circuit breakers, outlets, and switches. They also inspect existing wiring systems to ensure they work correctly and fix any faults they find.
These professionals are also experienced enough to connect transformers. Depending on the situation, a journeyman electrician may supervise an apprentice electricians’ work.
In simple words, a journeyman electrician can install, maintain, and repair electrical systems of all sizes, except they cannot design these systems like master electricians can.
Journeyman electrician jobs typically fall into one of the two following categories, with each job entailing a unique set of duties:
An outside linemen journeyman electrician, or journeyman lineman, is responsible for connecting and maintaining the external electrical power supply. The power supply may originate from the generation plant or the facility’s power meter. Outside linemen may work on public utilities such as traffic signals depending on the circumstances.
Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of an outside lineman include installing and maintaining:
- circuit breakers and insulators
- transformers and other electrical components
- overhead electrical transmission lines
- electric towers and poles
- existing wiring and stringing new wires
- subterranean distribution systems
Inside wiremen journeyman electricians are typically hired by commercial, industrial, and residential customers. Besides connecting electrical circuits to the building’s power meter, they also maintain electrical systems in the building.
The responsibilities of an inside wireman are installing and maintaining:
- grounding systems
- power generation equipment
- the mains to the facility’s power feed
- the electrical panels, such as the circuit breakers
- energy management systems
- communication systems
- junction boxes
- Installing wiring
- existing wiring
- lighting control devices
- heating equipment
- security and fire alarm systems
- electrical service between buildings
- temporary power systems on construction job sites
and troubleshooting faulty equipment.
In the journeyman electrician stage of an electrician’s career, if the professional chooses to become an inside wireman, they specialize in one of the three areas of electrical service: residential, commercial, and industrial.
Residential Journeyman Electricians
These are the electricians that most people are familiar with. Residential electricians install, inspect and repair household electrical equipment. These electricians are often self-employed but can also work for a company owned by a master electrician.
A residential journeyman electrician either works for homeowners directly on an as-needed basis or is subcontracted through the building’s contractor.
A residential electrician has the following responsibilities:
- reading blueprints and following the national electrical code
- installing wire systems, fixtures, and electrical components of all kinds
- connecting homes to the grid
- troubleshooting faults and repairing wiring systems
- replacing broken elements in electrical systems
- ensuring that the electrical system meets the local electrical codes and also the national electrical standards
Commercial Journeyman Electricians
A commercial electrician has different skills than a residential electrician. Commercial journeyman electricians work in the construction industry and may work full-time or get hired for a specific period on a construction site.
These professionals are typically commissioned for major, complex projects. The responsibilities of a commercial journeyman electrician include:
- reading complex blueprints and elaborate wiring plans
- sourcing material for projects
- installing special equipment, such as building lighting control systems, security systems, and energy monitoring and regulating systems
- mounting equipment such as panel boards and transfer switches
- attaching additional wiring to existing systems
- repairing electrical systems
- ensuring compliance with local electrical codes and building codes
Commercial electricians often have to travel to job sites with the work van they are provided. These professionals are typically on-call and must be available for electrical work.
When a commercial electrician proves their abilities, they are promoted to the foreman position. Forepersons review the work orders and plans and delegate work. Other responsibilities of a foreman include liaising with other trades on site and ensuring safety regulations are implemented consistent with the national electrical code.
Foremen typically earn 5% higher wages than a journeyman electrician.
Industrial Journeyman Electricians
Industrial electricians specialize in installing electrical equipment and systems in industrial buildings. They are also responsible for maintaining these systems and are typically employed full-time within maintenance departments of an industrial business.
These professionals typically work in facilities owned by manufacturing businesses, shipyards, mines, oil rigs, power generating plants, and other large entities. Some of these businesses require electricians to obtain additional training and accreditation before working at their facilities.
The responsibilities of an industrial electrician include:
- reading blueprints and plans
- being familiar with major electrical systems, safety procedures, and emergency protocol
- installing system control devices, wiring, lighting systems, and other equipment
- maintaining equipment such as VFDs, motors, pumps, and generators
- using electric meters to troubleshoot faults in wiring and components
Where do Journeyman Electricians Work?
The work environment of journeyman electricians changes with every project. But in general inside wiremen work in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
On the other hand, outside linemen typically work on the exterior of buildings and also in public spaces to install and repair things like street lights.
Journeyman electricians can find opportunities to work with local government agencies, utility companies, and non-residential contractors.
Journeyman Electrician Salary
Per the latest data collected by Salary.com, journeyman electricians earn an annual average salary of $52,502. However, it’s important to note that the salary depends on various factors such as location, experience, and sometimes the complexity of the project.
The state and area data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the top paying states for electricians are Illinois, New York, Hawaii, the District of Colombia, and Oregon.
The BLS projects a demand for 66,100 more electricians by the end of this decade. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the country is also currently facing a shortage of these professionals.
The growth of the population, the need for retrofitting older buildings, and the adoption of new technologies that require electrical expertise will drive the demand for electricians higher.
How Do I Become a Journeyman Electrician?
To become a journeyman electrician, you must first enroll in an electrical apprentice program. These programs typically take between four and five years to complete. Industry groups and labor unions sponsor these programs.
During your apprenticeship, you will learn about everything from electrical power systems and security systems to power distribution and energy management systems.
Electrical apprentice electricians learn from more experienced electricians by watching and later by doing what’s asked of them. All tasks that apprentices do are supervised during job training, and as the apprentice gains more knowledge and experience, more independence is granted.
In most apprenticeship programs, there are periods where you will need to attend technical school. Alternatively, you can attend a local community college run by the IBEW. In this portion of your apprenticeship, you will learn electrical theory and local and national electrical codes.
You will take around 600 hours of classroom instruction and learn everything you need to know to start a career as an electrician.
Besides the classroom instruction, you will also receive 8,000 hours of on-the-job training in your apprenticeship program. During training, you will perform various tasks ranging from drilling holes to connecting wires.
All training schools prepare apprentices for a written test that they must take at the end of the program. The test will have questions concerning the electrical theory and local and national electric codes. When candidates pass the apprenticeship training program, they qualify for a journeyman electrician license.
It’s important to note that every state has different licensing and certification renewal standards. While some states require you to earn continuing education credits to stay informed about the electrical codes changes, others do not mandate any continuing education.
Journeyman Electrician Career Advancement: Becoming a Master Electrician
A journeyman electrician can become a master electrician after passing an exam. Master electricians are skilled and experienced electricians that serve as foremen, supervise other electricians, and pull electrical work permits as required.
In most states, master electricians are authorized to become electrical contractors and run their own businesses. However, contractors are required by law to maintain insurance coverage. This is not mandatory by law for journeyman electricians.
For a journeyman electrician to become a master technician, they must have enough experience (in hours) to take their state’s master electrical exam. In some states, this exam is administered by the state’s municipality.
Most states require journeyman electricians to have a total of 12,000 hours of work experience. With the average journeyman working for 2,000 hours a year and already having 8,000 hours of experience, meeting this requirement typically takes two years.
Besides this, the electricians aspiring to become a master electricians must have a minimum of two years of experience working as a journeyman.
After you meet these requirements, you must study for the exam. You can find a preparatory course online or purchase one from your local book store. You can also check your local library for study material.
Journeyman Electrician: Frequently Asked Questions
Do journeyman electricians need to be a part of a labor union?
When you commence your apprenticeship, you will be required to join a labor union. Joining a union will offer several benefits and also protect you from unfair employment practices.
What are the working hours of a journeyman electrician?
A big part of having a job in a skilled trade is waking up early. You will not have the typical 9 to 5 workday and need to get out of bed before 6 am. However, you can expect to work a 40-hour week like you would in most jobs. This also means that you will end work earlier in the day.
It’s important to note that your working hours depend on your location and whether your mentor is a union contractor or a non-union shop.
Where to find jobs as a journeyman electrician?
Local job boards, newspapers, and online job boards are some places you can find jobs.
Should I pick a union contractor or a non-union shop for my apprenticeship?
To get an apprenticeship through the union, you will need to complete an application process, post which you will become a member of the union. The IBEW ensures that every electrician in the workforce is trained and vetted.
The union’s representatives negotiate union salaries. Becoming an electrician with this route is comparatively difficult.
On the other hand, non-union electricians are your conventional electricians. You can apply for a job by answering a job ad and giving an interview. The salary you earn will depend on how much the shop can afford to pay you.