How To Become a Carpenter
Pursuing a career in carpentry requires both dedication and formal training. There are several options available for obtaining the type of education required to land a job as a carpenter. Many people will obtain this training from a vocational school or another institution of higher learning. High school students may be able to join a program from a construction academy in their area. Apprenticeships are another option.
Previous generations often used the system of apprenticeship to provide carpenters with hands-on experience and guidance from an expert carpenter. Today’s carpentry apprenticeships involve paid training during which a beginner works with a journeyman carpenter to learn what he or she needs to know to succeed in the field. This method is roughly equivalent to formal training in an educational program that issues certificates or degrees from an accredited institution.
What Does a Carpenter Do?
Carpenters are responsible for the construction of buildings and other kinds of infrastructure. Carpentry is always associated with buildings and residential property construction, but professional carpenters might also be employed in the construction of roads and bridges. The skill set is as diverse as the occupational options, including the general construction supervisor role.
Prospective carpenters can anticipate learning general skills for buildings. These include wall framing, door installation, stairs, and foundation work. It might also include specialized skills for finishing or cabinetry jobs. Procedures may vary, but the carpenter will always adhere to the industry standard for following blueprints, selecting appropriate materials, measuring, cutting, and assembling the pieces. This requires physical dexterity, building skills, and experience.
Inspecting existing properties is another skill that is in high demand in this trade. Carpenters may inspect the property from top to bottom and provide a detailed report on the condition of the walls, ceiling, doors, and flooring. General contractors might also perform work on these properties once the inspection is completed and reviewed. Carpenters may work under the supervision of a project manager on tasks like crafting frameworks and replacing fixtures or installing cabinets, drywall, and siding. Having work experience in blueprint reading is essential.
What Qualifications Are Needed To Become a Carpenter?
The minimum requirement for a carpenter is to be a high school graduate or have an equivalent credential like the GED. Most carpenters will acquire more training and practical experience than the minimum requirement necessary. Employers might also expect their job candidates to have a valid driver’s license, and each company can set the terms of employment, which could require additional training or experience.
This is why many carpenters seek college degrees or training programs that teach students how to use power tools and work on scaffolding, door frames, and concrete forms. You must comply with building codes and even know how to provide first aid.
Consider these path options with their associated advantages and drawbacks:
- High school education: Although high school graduates may possess the minimum proficiency needed to enter the profession, landing a job can be difficult without advanced training, education, or certification. Wages are typically much lower for these candidates, and it will be difficult to acquire the detailed and precise knowledge necessary to advance in this field.
- Apprenticeships: Apprentice programs teach skills like reading blueprints, using hand tools, and maintaining OSHA compliance. Apprentices also gain experience by completing projects involving construction, woodworking, repairing buildings, and the specific skills of construction workers. Actual skills learned will depend on the type of apprenticeship.
- Colleges and trade schools: The curriculum offered at community colleges or within a technical school should match the type of carpentry work that the student wants to do upon successful completion. The best way to make sure of this is to become familiar with your ideal employer’s preferred educational requirements before reviewing the school’s curriculum. Looking ahead will show your employer that you’re motivated and already envisioning yourself in a carpentry career.
How Much Can a Carpenter Earn?
The annual salary of a full-time carpenter varies depending on a number of factors. To obtain a higher income, the carpenter must first be in a position to be paid, and this can require business and networking skills in addition to the capacity to acquire capital to start a new company. For employee carpenters, the median income was almost $47,000 in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2020, this amount rose to just over $49,500. However, since this is only the median amount, experienced carpenters with advanced skills can expect to earn much more.
The starting wages for entry-level carpenters range from $18 to $22 an hour, according to one study by a technical college. Clearly, the key to a higher income is to have advanced training and experience while using various business skills to obtain a position within a company where your value is best leveraged. Self-employed carpenters might work as specialists. Examples include master carpenters for the construction trades under the formal agreement of a contract bond, for example.
Step-by-Step Guide To Become a Carpenter
Preparation can help your career stay on track. There are a few steps you can use as a roadmap to speed you to your final destination of becoming an employable carpenter. Plan ahead because each of the following steps requires commitment and time.
Use data from the Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to evaluate each career option. Aspiring carpenters should be familiar with the possibilities before embarking on any specific path.
The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma, but you might also choose to enroll in an associate degree program or technical school. University programs in carpentry still exist, but the only way to assess the merits of a program is to research each institution individually. The curriculum will conform to accreditation requirements. The student’s career goals may not align with the actual program, though, so research thoroughly before enrolling. Vocational programs may teach practical and business skills like reading blueprints, creating job estimates, ordering materials, and other supply-chain considerations. Building codes, OSHA regulations, and other legal considerations are often addressed. However, the hands-on experience offered varies greatly from one program to another.
Experience or Apprenticeship
You can obtain experience as a carpenter’s helper or by pursuing an apprenticeship. This can be done before or after completing an optional formal training program. This is usually done through networking since the apprentice must be accepted by a master carpenter who already works for an established company.
Training may last up to five years. The company functions as a sponsor, and the apprentice might have to demonstrate aptitude through testing systems like the ACT. An interview should also be expected, and the employer might end up offering a job upon successful completion of the apprenticeship. However, you can’t count on this, so it’s wise to consider other job prospects as well. Make sure to join the affiliated union if it’s required by your apprenticeship program.
In the following states, carpentry is viewed as a specialized profession, and in that case, it will be necessary to get a license:
For more on this, please refer to our guide on how to get a Carpentry License.
Creating Your Résumé
Every significant achievement should be listed chronologically on your résumé for employment. Apply for jobs using your existing network, or cold call prospective employers to see if they’re hiring. There are many paths available for obtaining employment as a carpenter, so keep looking for opportunities. You might discover that you need to upgrade your skills periodically through advanced training. Whenever you do so, update your résumé to reflect these new accomplishments.
Once you land your first job, you’ll need to have a career plan to track toward your ultimate goal. Career advancement can take different forms, which often depend on your personal and professional priorities. It’s not uncommon for these plans to change over time. You might originally want to work in the field, only to find that your interests move into managing or even owning a company as you gain experience. Being fluent in two or more languages can open many doors to international work in construction firms. So, get the education and training you need, and always keep an eye open for new job opportunities.