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Ship Carpenter: Job Outlook and Info About a Ship Carpentry Career

Learn what ship carpenters do. See what kind of education and training are required for employment. Get the details about job prospects to decide if this career field is right for you.

Career Definition for a Ship Carpenter

Employment opportunities in ship carpentry can be found in a wide variety of industries, and job responsibilities range from the analytical (interpreting blueprints) to the practical (building and repairing ship parts). Also known as shipwrights, ship carpenters build and repair boats according to blueprints and client specifications. A career in ship carpentry offers numerous possibilities, from cruise ship manufacturing to naval ship building to repair of industrial fishing boats. The job involves working with a variety of materials, such as wood, fiberglass, and aluminum. Ship carpenter job responsibilities include construction of ship parts and frames, structural assembly and repairs, finishing of ship surfaces, and inspections of finished crafts.

Required Education Usually, a high school diploma as a minimum
Job Duties Include making ship parts and frames, finishing of ship surfaces, inspecting finished crafts
Median Salary (2015)* $42,090 (all carpenters)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 6% growth (all carpenters)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Most ship carpenters have a high school diploma, according to COSEE, but a college degree is not required or even necessarily expected. High school woodshop experience is helpful, and many carpenters of various specialties opt to complete a professional apprenticeship with a prospective employer; apprenticeships can last up to a few years and provide a combination of on-the-job and classroom training, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Some shipwrights also pursue professional certification from an association like the American Boat Builders & Repairers Association (ABBRA), which offers certification in diesel marine engine technology, fiberglass repair, and technology and boat-surface topcoat application (www.abbra.org), all of which may strengthen a ship carpenter's job prospects.

Skills Required

Ship carpenters must be physically fit and manually dexterous to perform the demanding manual labor involved in a ship carpentry career. In addition, they should be happy working with a team, interested in marine vessels, and adept at problem-solving, as the job involves working from blueprints and building ocean crafts that meet varying technical specifications. An aptitude for mathematics is also beneficial in calculating proportions, ratios, and measurements.

Career Outlook

According to the BLS, carpentry jobs, including ship carpenter jobs, will grow at an average rate of 6% from 2014-2024. Because ship carpenter jobs are so wide-ranging, job prospects should continue to be numerous, especially for those with a diverse skill set that covers the full range of shipwright tasks and responsibilities, from planning with blueprints to constructing new boats to repairing faulty parts. As of May 2015, the median salary for carpenters in general was $42,090, according to the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Marble Setter

Marble setters install custom decorative and practical marble work. They cut the material to the right size and shape. They prepare the surface, such as walls, floors or countertops, and then affix the marble to it, polishing the marble as a final step. Marble setters aren't required to meet any specific education requirements, although it's possible to complete postsecondary training; other marble setters complete an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. The BLS estimates that jobs for tile and marble setters will increase 6% from 2014-2024; the agency also reports that tile and marble setters earned median pay of $39,400 in 2015.

Terrazzo Worker

A terrazzo worker prepares and pours a concrete surface and then adds a decorative look to it by applying very small marble chips. Terrazzo workers can apply this specialty finish to floors, patios, and walkways. This job requires an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. Jobs for terrazzo workers and finishers are expected to grow 7% from 2014-2024, per the BLS. The BLS also reports that terrazzo workers and finishers earned median pay of $40,710 in 2015.


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