Carpenter: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Training Requirements

Get information on what a carpenter does and what skills are required. Find out about education and training requirements, including what courses you'll take, and see what the employment outlook is for this profession. Schools offering Carpentry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are a Carpenter's Job Duties?

Following directions from a supervisor or a blueprint, you'll use hand and power tools to shape materials along with using assorted fasteners to join them into an object or structure. Possible projects include buildings, roads, bridges or home furnishings and fixtures. The fasteners you'll use include nails, screws, glue or cement, and the materials you work with include wood, steel, plastic, fiberglass, drywall or glass. Chisels, hammers, drills, saws, sanders and planes are among the tools you'll need daily.

You might perform rough tasks, such as erecting walls, building stairs and installing doors and windows, or precision tasks, such as repairing furniture or installing cabinets, trim and molding. You might perform multiple tasks or specialize in a few. Carpenters are likely to work regular daytime hours, but they might not have regular year-round work, due to weather conditions or seasonal lulls in activity within the construction industry. Switching between remodeling projects and new residential and commercial projects is one strategy you can use to stay busy.

Where Do Professionals Work?

You'll be most likely to work for a contractor or as a self-employed sub-contractor on construction sites. Retailers, manufacturers and government agencies are also potential employers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) approximately 743,760 carpenters were employed as of May 2009, down significantly from just under 1.3 million in 2008 ( Employment was projected to rise to around 1.45 million by 2018. However, any increase will be dependent on a recovery in the construction industry, which as of May 2011 was still sluggish.

What Training Is Available?

You can start learning carpentry in high school with shop classes and vocational courses. Geometry, algebra and physics courses are also helpful. After high school, training options include certificate and associate's degree programs at vocational schools and community colleges, which are very common, and apprenticeship programs with a union or construction firm, which are comparatively limited in number.

Certificate and associate's degree programs and apprenticeships mix classroom instruction with hands-on carpentry work. In some instances apprenticeships are done at real construction sites. Courses teach you the properties of building materials and train you in wood working and metal working techniques, framing, blueprint reading, work site safety and finish work. Associate's degree programs also include general education courses in communications, the arts and humanities. Certificate programs may be completed in a year or less, with associate's degree programs lasting two years and apprenticeships taking roughly 3-4 years.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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