Carpenter: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Training Requirements

Research what it takes to become a carpenter. Learn about training requirements, job responsibilities, average salary and career outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Carpentry degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Carpenter?

Carpenters create or repair structures, including buildings, roads and furniture. As a carpenter, it is helpful to be proficient in a number of areas, from window installation to tiling, as it may increase the chances of finding employment. While carpenters may choose to specialize in one area, they generally should have skills in measuring, cutting, installation, inspection, and basic design. The following table gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required No specific education required; apprenticeship, certificate and associate's degree programs available
Training Required 3- or 4-year apprenticeship common
Key Responsibilities Build furniture, objects and framework; follow blueprints; work with variety of materials and tools
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*
Average Salary (2015) $46,780*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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 945,400 carpenters were employed as of 2014. Employment was projected to rise by 6% from 2014 to 2024, which is roughly as fast as the average for all occupations.

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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Carpentry is a relatively broad term for a variety of hands-on manual labor careers. Individuals may be more interested in specializing in a particular area, like cabinet building, home repair, or installation. There are also careers in masonry, flooring, industrial machinery, and drywall, among others. It may also be possible for an individual to join a general construction crew, where they would work on large projects alongside other carpenters and workers. Most of these jobs only require on-the-job training.

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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