Carpentry School: Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Many community colleges, trade schools and vocational schools offer certificate or associate's degree programs in carpentry wherein students can learn skills in remodeling, construction techniques and code compliance

Essential Information

While both certificate and associate's degree programs cover core carpentry topics, associate's programs have additional general education coursework. Some of these postsecondary programs are linked to 3-year or 4-year apprenticeships offered through unions or labor organizations; completing an apprenticeship is the standard path to a career as a carpenter.

  • Program Levels in Carpentry: Certificate; associate's degrees
  • Prerequisites: A high school diploma or equivalent

Certificate in Carpentry

Certificate programs in carpentry provide students with the necessary skills for entry-level careers in the carpentry trade. They emphasize proper tool use, job site safety and basic construction practices. Some programs provide opportunities for students to enter journeyman apprenticeship programs.

The curriculum in certificate programs focuses specifically on skills necessary for the carpentry trade, although a basic math course may also be required. Courses include the following:

  • Blueprint reading
  • Framing and interior finishing
  • Cabinet making
  • Construction methods
  • Estimating and safety
  • Construction materials

Associate's Degree in Carpentry

Associate's degree programs in carpentry provide the technical skills necessary for a carpentry job, as well as general education courses that can be beneficial in any work environment. The program covers carpentry techniques, construction theories, workplace safety and business principles as related to the carpentry industry.

Courses cover the specific skills used in carpentry along with general education coursework, such as technical math, writing and computers. Carpentry topics include the following:

  • Basic welding
  • Roofing, floors and walls
  • Stair systems
  • Concrete work and metal framing
  • Contracting laws
  • Alternative construction materials, environmental issues and solar construction

Popular Career Options

Carpenters may take on specialized roles, such as framer or finish carpenter. They can also work in general carpentry. Those with more experience and additional training may work as general contractors or operate their own small carpentry businesses. Other job outcomes might include the following:

  • Cabinet maker
  • Construction foreman
  • Building superintendent
  • Construction estimator
  • Project manager

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected a 24% job growth rate during 2012-2022 for carpenters ( Carpenters in areas of the U.S. with large populations were expected to see good job opportunities. As of May 2014, the median annual salary for carpenters was $40,820, according to the BLS.

Certification and Continuing Education

Carpenters who complete formal apprenticeship programs become certified journeymen. Continuing education opportunities are offered by a number of professional trade organizations, such as the Home Builders Institute, the Associated General Contractors of America and the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

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