Most people believe all electricians are simply electricians. In reality, all electricians are not equal. As electricians advance through their careers they meet a few milestones, go through different levels of education and training, and take and pass different exams.

Classifications differ from state to state and a classification you might see in one, doesn’t exist in another. Many states avoid statewide licensing and actually leave the licensing responsibility up to cities and counties. Below are the most common classifications we see for Electricians in the United States..

Apprentice Electrician
Most states and local governments that require licensing in order to become an electrician have an apprentice classification. This is the entry level position in the electrical trade. Apprentice electricians learn the trade by working directly with an experienced, licensed electrician. The type of work and work hours are logged and verified by their employer as proof to the licensing authority that they have work experience before being permitted to advance to the next level in their career.

Apprentice electricians are also typically required to enroll in electrician courses while working. These courses are usually offered at local community colleges or through trade schools. These courses are important in helping to understand the National Electrical Code, how to read blueprints and other information to keep the job site safe.

Journeyman Electrician
Most, but not all states have a Journeyman electrician classification. Typically, a journeyman electrician is required to have between 2 and 4 years of experience and has to pass an exam specific to the journeyman classification. As the next level in the electrical trade, a journeyman is higher on the pay scale and has more responsibilities. This is because of their experience and knowledge developed over the years.

A journeyman is typically able to work on his own, instead of being supervised, and in many areas he is even allowed to supervise apprentice electricians and verify their work experience. A journeyman classification does not mean that the learning ends. Continuing education courses are required by the local or state licensing boards as a way to ensure a journeyman is up to date on the electrical codes.

Master Electrician
In states with a master electrician classification, this is the highest level an electrician can achieve. A master electrician will have between 4 and 8 years of experience before they are able to apply for this top level license. This license offers the highest pay scale and the most responsibility. A master electrician will supervise apprentice, and in some areas even journeyman electrician and verify their work experience.

Once again, the learning doesn’t stop for the master electrician. Continuing education courses are required by the local or state licensing boards as a way to ensure a master electrician is up to date on the electrical codes.

We’ve just outlined the three most common classifications for electricians. Your state may offer more or fewer classifications. Some states, for instance, further break down journeyman and master electricians into residential, commercial and industrial journeyman and master electricians. Check with your state or local jurisdiction for the classifications and requirements in your area.