[A medieval baker, The Bodleian Library, Oxford, Source: Wikimedia Commons]
Yes, the story we all know of the apprentice becoming a journeyman who travels around working for various Masters, eventually completing a masterwork and becoming a Master in the guild is a true one. People did that. Both men and women took that path. These people worked subordinate to the Master in the workshop that employed them. Some traveled from place to place, some stayed within the same town. When they had acquired the skill, they created their masterwork and took on the status of Master within the guild and opened their own workshop.
The thing is, not all journeymen became Masters. It is reasonable to suppose that not all of them wanted to, but beyond that, some simply weren’t good enough. Additionally, and possibly more importantly, some guilds didn’t want too many Masters glutting the market in any particular area. Regardless of the reasons in the case of any one individual, the majority of journeymen would retain that status for the majority of their adult lives.
It’s worth noting that the word “journeyman” is related to the French word journée. These were people who sold their labor by the day. They were considered unruly and unstable, unfit to hold power within a household. They could, however, leave the Master they worked for at any time. They also tended not to marry, the general thinking being that one did not need a spouse until one had a workshop and needed a partner to share in the work. The position of the journeyman was a marginal one.
Rees Jones, Sarah. “The Household and English Urban Government in the Later Middle Ages.” In The Household in Late Medieval Cities: Italy and Northwestern Europe Compared, edited by Myriam Carlier and Tim Soens, 71-87. Louvain-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2001.
Goldberg, P.J.P. “Household and the Organisation of Labour in Late Medieval Towns: some English Evidence.” In The Household in Late Medieval Cities: Italy and Northwestern Europe Compared, edited by Myriam Carlier and Tim Soens, 59-70. Louvain-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2001.
The Wanderers - The Guardian (This isn't actually an article about medieval journeymen, but it's got some interesting information about journeymen now.)