How Do I Become A Carpenter?

"I am going to graduate from high school soon. I have always loved creating things with my hands and am thinking of following the footsteps of my uncle who was a carpenter to the day he died. He even built his own house! I used to help him out and I never noticed the hours passing by when we were measuring and sawing and nailing together. Since I was still in the elementary then, it never occurred to me to ask him how I can become a carpenter, you know, like officially. What do I need to do to become a carpenter?"

asked by Christopher R. from Helena, Montana

If you are really interested in this career, you can begin by checking out unions or contractor associations in your city or state as they are the ones that provide apprenticeship programs for aspiring carpenters. In addition to your high school diploma, you will need to be at least 18 years old, are a US citizen or legally residing in the US, are physically able to do the job and pass the screening for substance abuse to apply to an apprenticeship program. If you are still in high school now, you might want to start preparing yourself by taking courses in mathematics, English, shop and mechanical drawing.

An apprenticeship program generally lasts three or four years. Every year, you are required to finish at least 144 hours of technical training. The technical training will teach you the basics of carpentry, reading blueprints, mathematics, requirements of the building code and safety practices as well as first-aid.

Aspiring carpenters may also be trained in specialties like concrete, rigging, welding, scaffold building, and working in confined spaces. Safety courses from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that lasts ten hours and thirty hours may also be given. In addition to the technical training, apprentices must also complete 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Once you have completed the apprenticeship program, you become a journey worker and can do the job on your own.

You may also obtain an associate degree in carpentry by attending a technical school. The credits you earned in apprenticeship can be counted towards your degree. You may also start your career as a carpenter by being a helper to a seasoned carpenter.

Carpenters have good chances of advancement compared to other construction workers since they have knowledge of the whole construction process. You can eventually become a general construction supervisor or even an independent contractor the longer you are in this profession. If you really want to hold supervisory positions, you need to obtain additional training that your employer, union or association will provide. If you don’t speak Spanish yet, it’s a good idea to start learning the language. A lot of construction workers are Spanish speakers and a supervisor who can communicate with them fluently will be highly-valued.

While apprenticeships and trainings will be necessary for this career, keep in mind that you won’t get anywhere if you don’t have the physical strength and stamina to do the job. As you may have experienced from the years when you were assisting your uncle, a carpenter lifts heavy materials and tools, climbs and bends for long hours. If you are working outdoors, you will be exposed to the sun or rain.

This is not the job for those who are suffering from various health issues. Moreover, you also need to be well-coordinated. Precision is a very crucial part of the job because you could end up getting injured or messing up the work if you’re not. You also need to be able to solve problems that arise when you’re doing work.

Career Spotlight: Carpenter

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