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I'm looking for the noun form of "person with intermediate skill". For example, in the context of a particular activity, "person with no skill" might be designated a novice, and "person with much skill" might be designated an expert. However I know of no such word in between these two extremes.

My only thought is amateur, which has a distinct meaning from describing level of skill, although skill level can often be inferred. I'm looking for a better solution.

EDIT: due to the attention this question has received, I'll try to offer some clarification in order to reduce repeat questions.

  1. "Journeyman" would certainly not work. I am a software developer by profession. However the word I'm looking for should hopefully be profession-agnostic.

  2. I am trying to designate the skill level of the person that some learning material might be appropriate for. The word that I'm looking for follows the preposition "for".

    • For Beginners
    • For [word for intermediate-skilled person]
    • For Experts
  3. Sorry, but even after all the great answers, I'm still learning towards "amateur" even though it is technically incorrect. Also, the word should not be so esoteric that only people with English degrees know what it means. Keep the ideas coming!

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What skill or activity is it that you want to characterize? That can make a difference. – jwpat7 Sep 24 '11 at 13:43
"Journeyman software developer" would be good and appropriate usage, especially with the craftsman-like aspects of being a developer. Certainly people are much more aware of its craft-like aspects than they were ten years ago. – jprete Sep 24 '11 at 17:08
@jprete: except you'll get strange looks and confused faces from other software developers if you used the phrase "journeyman software developer" – Lie Ryan Sep 24 '11 at 17:55
@Lie: I do not believe that is true. I've used it at work, albeit infrequently, and people understood what I was trying to say. – jprete Sep 24 '11 at 18:12
@jprete: I think your assertion that software development is more recognised as craftsmanlike today is just wishful thinking. I started in the 70s, when there were no degrees in computer science. Most of us had degrees in English or History - it was very unusial to find yourself working alongside anyone with a degree in maths or any other "hard science". Software was largely recognised as an "arcane art" back then. If anything it's become more downgraded over the decades, as managers assume all the clever stuff is in the "rapid development" tools we've got nowadays. – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '11 at 19:54

17 Answers 17

up vote 34 down vote accepted

In some professional organizations, the word "Journeyman" is used for someone who has passed their apprenticeship and able to complete work on their own, but are not necessarily masters yet.

EDIT: If you are seeking a skill level reference for learning material. This seems to be a standard:

For Beginner [programmers, developers, carpenters, chefs]
For Intermediate [programmers, developers, carpenters, chefs]
For Advanced [programmers, developers, carpenters, chefs]

You are asking for a word to replace "intermediate", but the more I think about it "intermediate" may actually be the word you need.

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The problem with journeyman is it's profession-specific in that sense. When applied more generally, it does indeed mean reasonably competent at simple tasks, but to me at least it has overtones of but something of a 'plodder', who's unlikely to ever become a master of his craft. – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '11 at 15:24
I've never, ever heard it used in the context of "a plodder who's unlikely to master the craft", so I don't think that's a universal connotation. – jprete Sep 24 '11 at 18:13
It's also suitable only for (certain) professional contexts, e.g. a a "journeyman snowboarder" makes no sense. – Andrew Vit Sep 24 '11 at 18:49
@jprete: I never expected my connotations to be shared by everyone - that's why I said to me at least. But I doubt I picked up that connotation out of thin air, so I imagine I'm not alone, even if no-one here on EL&U ever upvotes my comment to that effect. – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '11 at 19:35
I'm with @FumbleFingers on this one. I generally see the word used as a backhanded complement to describe someone who is perhaps competent, but not great. I don't see it used much on people who are presumed to be still learning their craft and show a lot of potential. – T.E.D. Sep 26 '11 at 18:21

There isn't a word that's as widely recognized as novice or expert that I know, but I would suggest adept.

It's far more commonly used as an adjective, but the noun form does exist.

This can apply to professional or non-professional skills. It indicates some level of mastery without necessarily being expert (but the meaning seems closer to expert than novice). I would rank them in this order:

  1. novice
  2. amateur
  3. adept
  4. expert

This seems to fit with the various ranks of "Adept" that are used by different religious and occult orders.

From Latin, "past participle of adipisci to attain, from ad apisci to reach" (related to apt).

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I'm not sure I agree. I would place adept and expert at the same level, or possibly even switch adept and expert. To me, adept has a strong connotation of being extremely skilled. – JesusFreke Sep 24 '11 at 21:06
@JesusFreke yes, I agree the meaning can be unclear and it can seem like a synonym of "expert", but I would be more likely to say someone is "fairly adept" than to try and qualify "expert" at a lesser degree. – Andrew Vit Sep 24 '11 at 21:56
Yeah, good point. "fairly adept" definitely makes more sense than "fairly expert" – JesusFreke Sep 24 '11 at 22:26
In many games, adept is considered lower than expert (or master). I'm not saying that this is the correct usage, just that is is quite prevalent. – tjameson Sep 27 '11 at 5:47

Your question reminds me of the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition which describes five stages in increasing (any particular) skill:

  1. Novice
  2. Advanced beginner
  3. Competent
  4. Proficient
  5. Expert

Borrowing from that, use of "competent" or "proficient" might be one option. Problem is, "competent" isn't a noun and "proficient", according to NOAD, is only rarely used as such (as in the example he became a proficient in Latin and Greek).

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"Journeyman" means "someone who completed an apprenticeship and was fully educated in a trade or craft, but not yet a master." "Apprentice" also may be relevant, but I think can include very tyros as well as persons of some experience. (While sense 1 of tyro may apply (1. a learner or beginner; 2. a freshman or greenhorn) sense 2 does not.)

I've occasionally seen "sophomore" denoting an intermediate level. An example from wiktionary: "The band’s sophomore album built upon the success of their debut release". However, its adjectival form "sophomoric", "conceited and overconfident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature", may be the opposite of what you're after.

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"Sophomore" in that context doesn't mean "intermediate skill", it means "second attempt". – jprete Sep 24 '11 at 17:04

Perhaps the best word to describe someone with an intermediate level of skill is "intermediate."

He is an "intermediate" in the game.

Other words I'd use are "middling" and "competent." That is, neither clumsy nor expert.

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I think you could even say "an intermediate player" instead of "he is intermediate in the game". – Alexandre Jasmin Sep 25 '11 at 0:01
+1 for "competent". – Charles Sep 29 '11 at 1:54

Based on your edit of how you intend to use these, I would propose:

  • For Beginning users
  • For Experienced users
  • For Advanced users

Or possibly:

  • For Beginning users
  • For Intermediate users
  • For Advanced users
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It's Junior. Growing better gets to Senior. Even better, near full control? Expert. Knows everything? Master.

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"Junior" is often synonymous with "novice", while "senior" is often synonymous with "expert", and otherwise they tend to be used in different contexts. – jprete Sep 24 '11 at 17:05
I agree but i'm not so sure about this too. Let's see what Travis Webb thinks about it in his context... thank's for the editing and the comment. I'm a foreign. – H_7 Sep 24 '11 at 17:17
I wasn't the person who did the edit, that was @kiamlaluno. – jprete Sep 24 '11 at 17:24
I know. lol. thanks. – H_7 Sep 24 '11 at 19:27
sry @kiamlaluno. kiss principle. – H_7 Sep 24 '11 at 19:40

Perhaps hobbyist? It generally implies one has devoted some time to a pursuit but hasn't mastered it (and perhaps doesn't have the desire to).

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While this makes sense, hobbyist has the same problem of "amateur" that I want to avoid. It only implies skill level, instead of defining it. "Expert" is, in itself, a definition for a level of skill. Hobbyist is only an implication. This is what I'm trying to get away from. It may be the case that no such word exists, which I'd also like to definitively know if that is, in fact, the answer. – Travis Webb Sep 24 '11 at 13:44
You could also go with 'dabbler'. – onomatomaniak Sep 24 '11 at 13:45
I see what you're saying. I think, though, you would never call an expert a hobbyist - that would be considered patronizing. So its definition might be stricter than you think. – onomatomaniak Sep 24 '11 at 13:46
hobbyist does not convey skill level at all, instead a hobbyist conveys that the person does not use their skill for as their primary source of income but only as a hobby. An expert in a particular field can be a hobbyist, if they do not make a living from the skill. – Lie Ryan Sep 24 '11 at 17:12

Not a noun, but competent seems like the word you're looking for...

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What about Semi-pro or semi-professional?

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In many professions, such as law and finance, the term Associate is used. The term Associate Programmer or Associate Engineer, most would understand, is adept and able but not a high-level expert.

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British English, at least, distinguishes between a skilled labourer, a semi-skilled labourer and an unskilled labourer.

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In American English these refer to classes of jobs. Being a server in a restaurant is unskilled labor; even if a server is extremely good the job is still considered unskilled. Vice versa, even a terrible programmer is engaged in skilled labor. – user2400 Sep 25 '11 at 9:01

I think probably the best word is improver. This is (or at least, was) a standard term in the UK building industry, applied to newly-qualified apprentices who in principle had the knowledge relevant to their trade, but not yet the experience to be called a fully-qualified tradesman.

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This is interesting, but have to say I've never heard that used in US. – Chinasaur Sep 24 '11 at 20:00
@Chinasaur: I just happen to understand it that way because I worked on building sites in the early 70s. Here's a bit of UK parliamentary debate from 1900 which I'm sure would be in reference to the word, as applied to multiple trades. But that's just history now. It's a good word for OP because it's self-descriptive (no need to learn/explain), and has no 'dated' connotations for most people. – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '11 at 23:15

Possibly because of sports usage (a "journeyman reliever"), journeyman has assumed negative connotations that would have surprised those who went through an arduous apprenticeship to become a journeyman in their trade or craft in bygone days.

That being said, mid-level is a term I've seen used in job listings that accurately describes that vast middle ground between not knowing enough to be useful, and knowing too much to be of any use.

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The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition uses the terms "novice", "advanced beginner", "competent", "proficient", and "expert" to describe the level of skill towards a particular task in an individual. What you're describing sounds like either "competent" or "proficient". I'm not familiar with a noun form of "competent" (and dictionaries weren't of much help - there might not be one), but "proficient" can be used as a noun.

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Experienced would be less skilled than Expert.

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From the ODO:

A person actively engaged in an art, discipline, or profession, especially medicine.

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I think Practitioner is a good answer and deserves more visibility so I've proposed an edit giving the ODO definition. I've also dropped the mention of Professional as it is excluded by OP (who favours 'Amateur'). – EleventhDoctor Aug 20 '15 at 8:21

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