How To Become a Carpenter in 4 Steps
Carpenters are skilled workers involved in numerous aspects of the construction process. Their expertise spans constructing, installing, and mending a diverse range of structures – wood or other materials.
Those with a keen interest in pursuing a career as a carpenter must have dedication and patience apart from a strong foundation of skills and knowledge.
What Does a Carpenter Do?
Generally, carpenters construct, install, repair, and maintain building frameworks and structures of wood or other materials. They’re involved in projects ranging from commercial buildings to residential homes.
The following are the typical tasks and responsibilities of carpenters:
- Choose the appropriate materials based on the project requirements. This includes the types of wood, screws, nails, and adhesives.
- Measure, cut, and shape wood, plastic, drywall, fiberglass, and other materials.
- Follow blueprints and building plans to understand the project specifications.
- Install structures and fixtures like doors, windows, staircases, cabinets, and molding while ensuring functionality and proper alignment.
- Construct and repair structures and frameworks like walls, floors, roofs, furniture, shelves, etc., ensuring they’re sturdy, level, and meet safety standards.
- Operate hand tools, including chisels, welding machines, nail guns, and circular saws.
- Assist supervisors with planning, layout, and structural design and instruct laborers and other construction helpers.
There are different types of carpenters, like:
- Rough carpenters: They build rough wooden structures like scaffolds, concrete forms; bridges, tunnels, sewer supports; and temporary frame shelters by following blueprints, sketches, or oral instructions.
- Construction carpenters: They construct, install, and repair structures of plywood, wood, or wallboard. It involves the use of power tools and hand tools.
- Wood flooring installers: They install materials like strip, plank, end-grain, and parquet flooring, either by nailing them in place or gluing them down.
How to Become a Carpenter
Becoming a carpenter requires education, training, and practical experience. Here are the most common steps to becoming a carpenter:
Obtain a High School Diploma
The minimum requirement for prospective carpenters is a high school diploma or GED. High school mathematics, drafting, and carpentry classes help build the foundation for carpentry skills. These courses will help prepare students for apprenticeships and advanced carpentry schooling.
Complete an Apprenticeship
Apprenticeships help carpenters learn on the job with a hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced professionals. Contractor associations, construction unions, or commercial and industrial employers offer carpentry apprenticeship programs.
An apprenticeship typically combines classroom instruction with on-the-job training and can vary in duration, lasting about 3-4 years. However, for each year of a typical program, apprentices must complete a predetermined number of hours of technical training and paid on-the-job training.
It starts with simple tasks, such as supervised measuring and cutting wood, followed by more complex tasks, such as reading blueprints and building wooden structures.
Upon completing the formal apprenticeship program, a journeyman certification is provided. The next option is to enroll in trade school or pursue other carpenter or vocational schooling for skill advancement.
NOTE: All carpenters are required to pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10-hour safety course.
Consider Additional Carpenter Schooling
While it isn’t mandatory for aspiring carpenters to attend formal carpentry programs in technical schools or colleges, such programs can benefit skill enhancement.
Additional carpentry schooling involves learning about carpentry math, foundation work, building layouts, stair construction, roofing, sidings, and moldings.
An associate’s degree or certificate in carpentry makes it possible to start at a higher position in the field, increasing earning potential.
Develop Marketable Skills
Consider specializing in infrastructure, renovation, cabinets, or roofs for effective workplace marketing.
Optionally, consider learning an additional language of the geographical area since some employers prefer bilingual carpenters.
What is the Average Salary?
Most carpenters work full time, sometimes even overtime, including evenings and weekends, to meet client deadlines. The average salary of a carpenter will vary based on the geographical location and level of expertise.
The average base salary of a carpenter in the U.S. is $23.20 per hour.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a carpenter’s median pay in 2021 was $48,260. In May 2021, the top industries in which carpenters worked had median annual wages as follows:
- Nonresidential building construction: $59,020
- Building finishing contractors: $48,800
- Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors: $48,080
- Residential building construction: $47,820
While the starting pay for apprentices is less, the pay increases with more experience.
What Skills Are Required for Carpentry?
Several essential skills are required to become a carpenter and excel in the profession like the following:
- Problem-solving skills: Carpenters may work independently with little or no guidance. When construction and building projects don’t go according to plan, a carpenter should be able to prevent and fix potential problems.
- Business skills: Self-employed carpenters must possess the aptitude for customer service and marketing skills. They should be able to bid on new jobs, track inventory, and direct workers.
- Physical strength: Carpentry involves using heavy tools and materials that must be carried and repositioned. Carpenters must also be able to bend, climb, or stand for many hours.
- Mathematical skills: Basic math skills, including basic trigonometry, are essential to calculate the size, area, and materials required for the project.
- Manual dexterity: A carpenter uses a variety of tools and needs hand-eye coordination to use them with accuracy and precision. This will help avoid damage to the materials or injuries.
- Interpersonal skills: Whether working with a team cooperating and assisting others, or interacting with customers, carpenters must possess interpersonal skills.
What is a Carpenter’s Typical Schedule?
Most carpenters work full-time, with strict deadlines sometimes requiring overtime, including evenings and weekends. However, extreme temperatures or inclement weather may impact building construction project timelines. This, in turn, will affect a carpenter’s work hours.
What Advancement Opportunities Are Open to Carpenters?
Since carpenters are involved in most of the construction process, more advancement opportunities exist. Carpenters can look into becoming general construction supervisors or independent contractors for advancement.
Those interested in advancing their careers can seek additional training provided by employers, associations, or unions.
Advancement opportunities include becoming first-line supervisors, independent contractors, lead carpenters, or general construction supervisors.
The expected growth of employment of carpenters between 2021 and 2031 is 2%; this is slower than the average for most occupations.
Despite the limited growth, each year over the decade will see about 91,200 openings for carpenters. Most of these openings will result from people exiting the labor force (probably to retire) or the need to replace workers transferring to different occupations.
More carpenter jobs are expected owing to more construction of new homes for the growing population. Additionally, the construction of non-residential buildings and factories will likely result in new jobs.
What is the Work Environment Like for a Carpenter?
Carpenters may be involved in indoor projects, such as installing kitchen cabinets, or outdoor construction projects, such as building highways and bridges. They are typically employed in the following:
- Building finishing contractors
- Residential building construction
- Nonresidential building construction
- Foundation, building, and structure exterior contractors
Carpenters may also have to work in cramped spaces and lift, stand, or kneel for prolonged periods. Those involved in outdoor work may also be subject to variable weather affecting project schedules.
How Can I Become a Carpenter With No Prior Experience?
Those with an interest in pursuing a career in the field of carpentry without prior experience can follow these steps:
- Start by researching the skills, responsibilities, and career options of the carpentry profession.
- Enroll in carpentry training programs in community colleges, vocational schools, or trade schools. These programs combine theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience.
- Look into workshops or classes that teach basic carpentry skills.
- Optional programs that offer specialty certification provide opportunities for additional work or career advancement. Examples include the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and the National Wood Flooring Association.
- Apprenticeship programs make a good learning experience to learn from experienced carpenters. Consider such programs that combine classroom instruction with hands-on work.
- Gain practical experience by volunteering or taking entry-level positions in carpentry-related projects. This can involve assisting local carpenters, construction companies, or non-profit organizations in their projects.
- Build connections with professionals by attending trade shows, industry events, or joining associations. Building a network helps access job opportunities and improve learning opportunities.
A carpenter must be creative and dedicated to improving skills. Those without any prior experience can also follow certain steps to become a carpenter.
The minimal educational qualifications and training will provide the fundamental skills required for the profession. This includes problem-solving abilities, technical expertise, and attention to detail.
Anyone who aspires to build custom furniture, renovate homes, or contribute to large-scale construction projects must look into how to become a carpenter.