How to Become a Carpenter: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a carpenter. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in carpentry.

Should I Become a Carpenter?

Carpenters work with wood and other materials to complete a variety of construction projects. A career in carpentry requires the ability to read blueprints, lay out projects, cut wood and assemble different materials. They are also responsible for ensuring their work is accurate and in compliance with building standards. Heavy lifting, climbing ladders, standing for prolonged periods and working in all types of weather might make this occupation physically demanding. Carpenters often work overtime.

Career Requirements

Degree Level A high school diploma or equivalent (minimum), associate's degree
Degree Field Carpentry
Training A 3-4 year apprenticeship is standard
Key Skills Manual dexterity, detail-oriented, strong math and problem-solving skills, strength, stamina focus, basic computer skills, experience using a variety of hand and power tools, including chisels, levels, sanders, saws and nail guns
Salary $40,820 is the median annual salary for carpenters in 2014

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine.

Step 1: Complete an Apprenticeship

Being admitted to a carpentry apprenticeship program is the most common path to becoming a carpenter. Apprenticeships, which generally take 3-4 years to complete, offer on-the-job training along with classroom instruction. This program is a good way to gain necessary expertise with the tools of the trade and how to best avoid strain or injury.

An apprentice must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and high school graduate. Potential apprentices are also subject to drug screenings. Individuals are educated in subjects such as carpentry techniques, blueprint reading, safety practices and scaffold construction. For each year of an aspiring carpenter's apprenticeship, he or she will complete at least 144 hours of technical training and 2000 hours of practical training in the field.

Success Tips:

  • Develop a fitness routine. A carpenter's job can be very taxing physically; they work on their feet, both indoor and outdoors, and sometimes in small spaces. Following a fitness regimen may be a good way to stay in shape and build physical stamina.

Step 2: Consider Postsecondary Education

Though it is not mandatory to break into the profession, aspiring carpenters may complete formal carpentry programs at technical schools or colleges. This formal training offers additional experience in the trade. Diploma, certificate and associate's degree programs are all available in carpentry. Educational coursework includes building codes, concrete work, blueprint reading, roof framing, building materials, tools, building layouts and fasteners. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that credit earned during an apprenticeship program may be applied to an associate's degree program (www.bls.gov).

Step 3: Develop Marketable Skills

The BLS predicts that carpentry will grow up to 24% in the decade from 2012-2022, though construction jobs tend to fluctuate by geographic location and current economy. Carpenters may choose to enhance their skills by specializing in infrastructure or renovation, or by taking courses in Spanish. Carpenters who speak both English and Spanish may be better positioned for advancement in the field, since they can effectively communicate with workers on their teams.

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