What Does It Actually Mean to Be A Journeyman?

What Does It Actually Mean to Be A Journeyman?

How about them job titles? It feels like half the positions you hear are heavily exaggerated these days. And to be honest, it might have always been that way. In the 1400s, the king had a special servant just for emptying his toilet. And what was the title of such a crappy role? The Groom of the stool. Sounds fancy! Now that’s how you put a spin on a stinky situation!

The 1st Earl of Holland, Groom of the Stool to King Charles

The 1st Earl of Holland, Groom of the Stool to King Charles

The point is, it’s sometimes hard to know how credible a title actually is. So, is it the same for the welding world? Does saying “apprentice” or “journeyman” welder actually mean anything, or can anyone with enough experience (and confidence) claim those titles on their resume? Find out with us as we explore if welding job titles hold their weight, or end up like the groom of the stool (a load of crap).



Getting information about welding apprentices isn’t hard. But getting accurate information… Now that’s where the challenge begins. Here’s the main reason for that: A lot of states, unions and organizations like the AWS (American Welding Society) have their own certification standards. While some of the requirements match between most organizations, they all tend to differ in some ways. So giving a one-size-fits-all answer to becoming a certified apprentice for your specific state or industry is a little tricky.

To further complicate things, some jobs will only require specific certifications in certain areas—As long as you can prove you know how to do the job, they don’t care if you’re a journeyman or a space alien. Other jobs require someone to have a specific title.

To become an apprentice welder, there are some similar standards across most organizations. Usually, you must train under a professional welder. Most programs require your mentor to be “licensed” or “certified.” That’s not to say you won’t learn a ton from any experienced welder, but if you want to be an official “welding apprentice,” you’ll need to check your state requirements.

An apprenticeship generally lasts between 6,000 and 8,000 hours. The average is usually around 3 or 4 years. For some welders, that might seem insane. We know plenty of guys who were given two hours of instruction and told to start welding parts on their own. And we’re not saying straight practice and hours and hours of trial and error aren’t a great teacher. But if you want the officially recognized title, most apprenticeships require you to work under the watch of a professional.



The officiality of the title “journeyman welder” can be a little controversial. There are guys who’ve been welding for 20 years, but technically haven’t completed the steps to be a “certified journeyman.” This is why a lot of jobs only require you to be certified in specific procedures. Usually, those certifications can be done fairly quickly, meaning if you have the skills, you can get the paperwork to match.

Welding test example

Being an official journeyman welder (or certified/licensed welder), on the other hand, can require quite a bit more work. The actual steps required depend on your state or organization.

For instance, the AWS offers a way to become a “certified welder” in several different areas. But they don’t actually call it a “journeyman” welder. Some states have a very specific list of requirements, though they often refer to it as a “licensed welder,” not technically a “journeyman.”

It should be noted that some welding industries are pretty buttoned-up. For instance, aerospace jobs tend to be a lot more strict about certifications or licenses, while some industries are a lot more lax.

All of these ambiguities and differences between different states and organizations are why it’s so hard to nail down exactly what it means to be a “journeyman” welder. It’s also why welders in different industries will give you different answers on how valuable these titles really are.


What Does the Title Mean?

This all goes back to our original story about the groom of the stool. Do the different welding titles mean anything? Can someone say “Journeyman” welder on their resume, but their actual work is awful?

The answer is “kinda.” Other careers like being a doctor or lawyer mandate specific, nationwide requirements before someone can begin working in that field. Claiming to be a “journeyman” welder does not. However, claiming to be a certified or licensed welder does. So while officially recognized titles can be beneficial for your career, they may not be required.

There are a lot of highly skilled welders who have never gotten certified or licensed. This is why it’s so common for a job to require either certifications in specific procedures and/or a weld test right at the job site. Ultimately, the work a welder can produce tends to be their actual resume.

At the end of the day, the welds themselves have to be up to code. Whether it was done by a licensed welder or not, if it’s not going to pass inspection, it has to be redone. That’s why having the right equipment is critical to progressing your skills and career. If you feel like your setup is holding you back, now is the best time to consider a new machine. Most of the major manufacturers will raise prices on their gear and equipment in late winter/early spring. Don’t get caught paying more later for the same equipment you could get now. Check out everything you’ll need at Welding Supplies from IOC, the best welding supplier on the web.