Are you considering a career in the electrical industry? If so, it’s important to understand the path you’ll be embarking on. What does the process look like? Where will all your hard work lead you? These are valid questions worth pondering before entering the trade. Fortunately, we’re here to help! In this article, we’ll provide a brief overview highlighting the difference between a master electrician and a journeyman electrician. This will give you the foresight you need to plan your next career move.
Table of Contents
- What is an apprentice electrician?
- Graduated as a skilled electrician
- What is a Certified Master Electrician?
- Types of Electrician or Electrical Contractor License
- Continuing Education
- Final Thoughts
So, let’s get started. It’s important to note that local state governments, rather than the central government, issue electrician licenses. However, the state adheres to the guidelines set by the National Electrical Code, which classifies electricians into three broad categories: apprentices, journeymen, and masters.
What is an Apprentice Electrician?
The journey to becoming either a master or journeyman electrician begins with an apprenticeship. An apprentice is essentially a trainee who works under the direct supervision of a master electrician. This period typically lasts three to six years and involves comprehensive training. Apprentices receive both classroom instruction and hands-on experience by working alongside licensed electricians.
At the end of the apprenticeship, the aspiring electrician must pass a journeyman test. This exam evaluates their understanding of basic electrical knowledge and the National Electrical Code. Once they successfully pass, apprentices receive their skilled electrician license. Therefore, in addition to practical training, significant classroom instruction is required. Apprenticeships provide these individuals with an opportunity to learn and discover the most effective ways to excel in their work.
Many apprentice electricians can fulfill the requirements for a journeyman license by attending a technical school or participating in affiliate programs offered by electrical training alliances.
Graduated as a Skilled Electrician
After completing the required apprenticeship, an aspiring electrician graduates as a journeyman. Along with passing the journeyman license exam, journeymen gain the ability to work independently without direct supervision. It’s important to note that specific regulations depend on the state and local jurisdiction.
Journey electricians still work under the guidance of a master electrician, but their license certifies that they can handle wiring, receptacle and fixture installation independently. A journeyman should possess the expertise to perform any necessary service work and resolve electrical issues that arise on the job site. Depending on the master electrician they work under, journeymen may specialize in residential, commercial, or industrial installations.
If a journeyman wishes to further their education, they typically work for an additional three to six years. During this time, they gain valuable experience and receive further training. Their education encompasses not only the fundamentals of electricity but also building codes, project management, safety procedures, and regulations.
Various career and technical schools offer master’s certification programs, which are jointly designed and conducted by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
What is a Certified Master Electrician?
Certified Master Electricians are professional electricians who hold the highest level of certification in their field. However, obtaining this prestigious title requires more than just passing a test. Becoming a Certified Master Electrician necessitates several years of practical experience as a skilled electrician (usually 2-3 years or 4,000+ hours of field work). It’s only after accumulating this invaluable experience that they may take and pass rigorous exams. While the specific requirements and steps to become a Certified Master Electrician vary depending on the certification body and jurisdiction, the following are generally expected:
- Hold a journeyman electrician certificate with at least 2 years (4,000+ hours) of experience
- Pass the Advanced Electrician certification exam, which typically involves approximately 144 hours of class time. The passing mark is usually set at 70% or above.
- Fulfill local municipality requirements for a Master Electrician certificate
After obtaining master’s certification, electricians demonstrate their competence across several key areas. They can initiate projects, apply for permits for new construction and installations, and supervise apprentices and journeyman workers.
Master electricians are responsible for designing and selecting wiring and connection types in accordance with electrical codes. They are skilled in laying out circuits and determining the placement of circuit breaker panels. Many Master Electricians also pursue contractor’s licenses, allowing them to operate their own businesses and/or work as subcontractors. The final step in this process involves obtaining various types of insurance policies, including general liability and property damage coverage tailored to their specific needs.
Types of Electrician or Electrical Contractor Licenses
While the types of electrician or electrical contractor licenses may differ from state to state, let’s use Florida as an example to provide some guidance:
- Registered Electrical Contractor: These individuals are responsible for designing, installing, and maintaining electrical systems.
- Alarm System Contractors: They specialize in various types of alarm systems.
- Electrical Specialty Contractor: These professionals focus on specialized electrical fields, such as elevator or fixture maintenance.
To obtain an electrical contractor license, individuals generally need to meet a set of requirements. In Florida, for instance, one must be a licensed electrical engineer for at least 3 of the past 12 years, or have a minimum of 3 years of management experience in the industry within the past 6 years. Alternatively, applicants can possess a minimum of 4 years of experience as an electrical foreman, supervisor, or contractor within the past 8 years, or 6 years of general training, technical education, or extensive experience in electrical contracting within the past 12 years.
Those with military service or employment history with the federal government may qualify based on having 6 or more years of technical experience in electrical work.
Within the aforementioned requirements, anyone pursuing certification as an electrical contractor must complete at least 40% of three-phase (commercial) service work.
Both master electricians and journeyman electricians are required to participate in annual continuing education courses. This ensures they stay up-to-date with the latest electrical codes and regulations. Similar to certification courses, electricians can enroll in these courses through trade schools or online platforms.
For example, in Florida, certified and registered electricians must complete 14 hours of continuing education every 2 years. These courses usually consist of at least 7 hours dedicated to technical issues, 1 hour covering workers’ compensation, 1 hour focusing on business topics, and 1 hour devoted to safety.
As you can see, the path to becoming an electrician involves a significant amount of work. Masters and journeymen alike must devote a considerable amount of time to learning their craft. After all, working with electricity carries inherent risks. It’s crucial to ensure that only well-trained professionals handle electrical wires, cords, outlets, and circuit breakers.
To reach the pinnacle of the electrical profession, individuals may need to invest 6 to 12 years in the industry.
So, to answer the original question, the main differences between a master electrician and a journeyman electrician come down to work experience, extensive education, and state certification.
For further information regarding master and journeyman requirements by state, please refer to the following link: https://www.electriciansschooledu.org/state-by-state-licensing-guide