How To Become A Carpenter
Career Video: Carpenter
Carpenters use many tools to transform wood into various objects: houses, benches, tables, cabinets, and more. Many carpenters work in construction. They can build or repair structures, such as doorframes, stairways, rafters, bridge support systems, and partitions. Many help homeowners and contractors build and install drywall, kitchen cabinets, siding, roofs, garages, and more. A skilled carpenter can find endless opportunities for employment.
Most carpenters should be able to perform the following tasks:
- Read and follow an engineer’s blueprints
- Measure, cut, and transform wood and other materials
- Build and install small structures (window frames, kitchen counters, molding)
- Build framework for major structures (bridges, houses, commercial buildings)
- Use hand and power tools to cut, adhere, and shape wood and other materials
- Use cranes and other machines to build larger structures
- Manage and direct other laborers
- Work with other professionals to complete a project
Being a carpenter can be physically demanding. It is essential that you stay alert and keep in shape in order to lift heavy objects, climb ladders, and balance at heights. It is also important to exhibit various qualities and skills:
- Detail oriented
- Spatial reasoning
- Aptitude for mathematics
- Problem-solving skills
- Project and time management
- Knowledgeable of tools and machines
Why Become A Carpenter
Becoming a carpenter can lead to many opportunities. There will always be a demand for building homes, furniture, and other structures. People need constant repairs done to their homes. It is possible to become specialized and be in high demand for your services. It is also possible to be skilled at doing many tasks, so you will always be able to find employment. Carpenters are essential to keeping people safe.
Residential carpenters build new homes or remodel old dwellings. These living spaces include townhomes, condominiums, and single-family houses. They can build a home from the ground up: foundations, exterior and interior walls, roofs, stairs, drywall, etc. They can help make a home livable by building cabinets and doors, and laying floors. Residential carpenters build additional rooms, decks, gazebos, porches, and other requests.
Commercial carpenters provide services to businesses and the public. These carpenters are involved with building and remodeling hotels, apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, shopping centers, and places of commerce. Commercial carpenters typically work with heavier materials, such as concrete and steel. They build the same structures as residential carpenters but for different clientele.
Industrial carpenters work on building structures for bridges, tunnels, sewers, power plants, and other developed settings. They can help engineers create scaffolding, partitions, and other structures to build these projects. Such development is important to public safety and progress.
The skills that carpenters have can also provide functionality and beauty to any dwelling. Master carpenters can create additional dwelling or storage space, accent pieces, and shape wood into art.
Carpenter Work Environment
Many carpenters are self-employed and run their own businesses. Many of these carpenters work in construction, residential and commercial. About 20 percent of all carpenters work for residential customers, which is the largest group in the construction trade. Other carpenters work as finishing contractors, installing flooring (hard wood, tile, or carpet), cabinets, and finishing basements.
Carpenters can work outside or inside, depending on the job or stage in a project. The majority of carpenters work fulltime, and many work on weekends and late into the evening.
Work conditions for carpenters can be difficult. They can work in extreme temperatures, and tight or uncomfortable spaces. Their job has many hazards. Machinery, tools, and other equipment can be dangerous. They may have to work in elevated spaces or with electricity.
The median annual salary for a carpenter is $43,000. Salaries range from $27,070 to $79,480, depending on the industry and geographic location. Commercial and industrial carpenters may make more money than those in residential construction. An apprentice will likely make about a third or half of an experienced carpenter. Overtime is common.
Carpenter Career Outlook
The job growth for carpenters is estimated at 6 percent between 2014 and 2024. The reason for growth is because of an increased human population and the need to build more dwellings. Additionally, the nation will demand more infrastructure repairs, replacements, and new development. Bridges, tunnels, public transportation, hospitals, and power plants will be needed to meet public needs.
Unfortunately, federal and state funding for such projects is not guaranteed. Industrial and commercial construction companies may freeze hiring or layoff employees due to a lack of funding for projects. Also, prefabricated technologies and systems may make the role of carpenters obsolete or at least altered. Structures can be built by less skilled workers in a shorter amount of time. The good news is that the residential sector of construction will keep carpenters employed more than any other building trade.
No specific college degree is required for carpentry. Most carpenters have a high school diploma and have worked through an apprenticeship program. Some carpenters in the industrial trades have advanced degrees, as they may have more responsibility. Foremen and business owners may also have advanced degrees.
Step 1: Graduate from high school and enroll in an apprenticeship program. Many carpenters will work as apprentices for 3 to 4 years before becoming independent carpenters. An apprenticeship program often requires the following:
- 144 hours of technical training
- 2,000 hours of paid, hands-on training
- Pass a Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety course
Technical training consists of reading blueprints, learning about building codes and permitting, mathematics and engineering principles, the basics of carpentry, and safety. Some training may also consist of specialized knowledge, like scaffold building, welding, and rigging.
Most apprenticeship programs require the following for admittance:
- 18 years or older
- High school diploma or GED
- S. legal resident
- Pass substance abuse screening
Apprenticeship programs can be found in trade schools, community colleges, or trade unions.
Note: Some carpenters do not enroll in apprenticeship programs but earn their experience as helpers on job sites. The National Association of Home Builders offer aspiring carpenters Pre-Apprentice Certificate Training (PACT). This is an excellent way for military veterans to find employment.
Step 2: Advancement. If you want to start your own business or work in a specific industry, then it’s important to find a training program that is specific to your needs. Schools can offer such programs, but so can building and trade associations. Certification and college degree programs can lead the way to many advancements in the carpentry field.