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How to Become a Carpenter Foreman: Info and Requirements

Learn how to become a carpenter foreman. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career as a carpenter foreman. View article »

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  • 0:03 Become a Carpenter Foreman
  • 1:20 Train as a Carpenter
  • 3:03 Gain Work Experience
  • 3:47 Advance to Carpenter Foreman
  • 4:18 Start Your Own…

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Video Transcript

Become a Carpenter Foreman

Degree Level None required; apprenticeship or on-the-job training is common
Experience Several years of experience in the construction industry
Key Skills Organizational and time-management skills, excellent leadership and communication skills, strong attention to detail, manual dexterity, math proficiency, physical strength, problem-solving skills, expertise in blueprint reading, building codes, safety and first-aid practices
Additional Requirements Substance abuse screening
Median Salary (2015)* $62,070 yearly (for all first-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com job listings, O*NET OnLine

Carpenter foremen supervise other carpenters and coordinate all aspects of carpentry jobs. This can involve training new workers, collaborating with outside contractors, giving out assignments, and sometimes, performing carpentry work themselves. This job is physically demanding, and foremen work in all types of weather conditions and must sometimes deal with difficult employees.

Carpenter foremen need organizational, time-management, leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills. They must have strong attention to detail, manual dexterity, proficiency in math, and physical strength, as well as expertise in blueprint reading, building codes, safety, and first-aid practices. Before and possibly during employment, carpentry foremen might be required to undergo substance abuse screening. As of May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (or BLS) reported an average annual salary of $66,820 for all first-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers.

Let's trace the steps to become a carpenter foreman.

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Step 1: Train as a Carpenter

Learning the carpentry trade is the first step to a career as a carpentry foreman. While some carpenters learn their skills on the job, apprenticeships are the most common training path. Apprenticeships typically offer compensation and are 2-4 years in length, consisting of approximately 140 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of practical training each year. Along with learning core subjects, specialized training in the areas of concrete, scaffolding, rigging, and various safety aspects may be covered. Individuals can usually find such training through unions and contractor associations.

To qualify for an apprenticeship, a candidate must have a high school diploma or a GED, be at least 18 years old, and pass a drug test, as well as provide proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency. Upon successful completion of an apprenticeship program, the trainee is then considered to be a journeyman carpenter.

Success Tips:

  • Consider earning an associate's degree. Unions and contractor organizations are sometimes affiliated with 2-year technical school programs. In these cases, apprentices may apply their credits toward an associate's degree in carpentry.
  • Learn to speak Spanish. Aspiring foremen may benefit from taking Spanish courses or learning the language on their own, since the ability to speak Spanish is essential to be able to communicate with Hispanic workers. Many community colleges offer such foreign language training.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Carpenters perform a variety of duties in the construction and repair of various structures, like residential or commercial buildings. These workers study building plans, determine what materials are needed and cut materials according to measurements, as well as erecting and installing structures. Carpenters need to have expertise in hand and power tools, building regulations, and measurement procedures. Most carpenters are self-employed, and many work full-time. Overtime is often required to complete projects by deadlines. Aspiring carpenter foremen should note that this line of work often involves a high rate of injury.

Step 3: Advance to Carpenter Foreman

With experience, carpenters can be promoted to carpenter foremen. The BLS reports that carpenters typically have greater chances of becoming supervisors than those in other types of construction work, since carpenters tend to have greater exposure to the entire construction process. The amount of previous work experience required for foremen varies. Some employers require a minimum of 3-5 years of experience within the construction industry.

Step 4: Start Your Own Construction Firm

While it's not for everyone, experienced foremen interested in striking out on their own could start their own carpentry firms. Taking this type of career step involves not only years of experience in the industry but also some business acumen. Aspiring business owners have many opportunities through postsecondary institutions to learn essential business skills.

To recap, the career path for most carpenter foremen begins with a carpentry apprenticeship. They also must gain experience as a journeyman carpenter before being promoted to a foreman position.

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