Museum of Freemasonry - Masonic Library
The word goes back to operative days. The Freemasons of middle ages were a select group; they were the highest class of artisans of their time. It required sound health, moral character and high intelligence, to be a good operative freemason and to be permitted to work on the great Houses of God, which were the Freemason’s work and the display of their art. They were of course, proud of their abilities and of their reputation and very strict in their rules.

To become a Freemason, a young man was required to serve a seven year apprenticeship before he might ask to be permitted to make and submit to his superiors his “Master's Piece” and be admitted as a “Fellow of the Craft" Before he could serve his time he had prove himself ; therefore he served a period of time as an Apprentice. If at the end of that period he had shown himself possessed of the necessary qualifications of industry, character, decency and propriety he was entered on the books of the Craft, and become an Entered Apprentice".

Originally an Apprentice was not a member of the Masonic Craft, even after being entered on the books of the Lodge; not until he had passed his apprenticeship and been accepted as a fellow was he a Craftsman.

This practice gradually gave way to the modern idea and, after 1717, Apprentices initiated in Lodges formed the bulk of the Craft.

The Ritual teaches us that Apprentice is a symbol of youth, the Fellowcraft is a symbol of manhood and the Master is that of Age. Probably, this conception is derived a from the fact that learners, beginners, are young, experts are mature men, and the wise and learned ‑ the elder group.

Having said that; we sometimes wonder what is the reason for our system to rush young Masons though the three Degrees ins several months instead of letting education take its time and gradually mould and prepare our Entered apprentices for. a secure Masonic future.

Would that not secure the future of our Craft?