Carpenter Career Education and Training Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a carpenter. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and career advancement to find out if this is the career for you.

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A carpenter is a craftsperson who specializes in woodworking, typically learning as an apprentice and becoming experienced. Trade schools provide apprenticeships which may offer journeyman certification upon completion. Employers prefer those with formal training.

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  • Building Inspection
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Essential Information

Carpenters can work on projects ranging from the small, precise scale to the very large scale and might switch between residential and commercial projects as opportunities present themselves. Though no one specific educational path exists for those interested in carpentry, high school shop classes are a good starting point, as are courses in geometry, algebra, trigonometry, mechanical drawing and blueprint reading. In addition, most carpenters learn skills on the job and go through an apprenticeship program to study the trade and become journeyman carpenters.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements Optional certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (faster than average)
Median Salary (2015)* $42,090 per year

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Training Requirements

Though relatively limited in number, formal education programs in carpentry can come via an apprenticeship with a construction union or building contractor. These programs usually last 3-4 years and combine on-the-job training with classroom study. At the work site, apprentices learn the properties of wood, metal, glass, concrete, plastic and other materials. They also learn about exterior and interior finishing, structural design, layouts, form building and rough framing. In the classroom, prospective carpenters learn blueprint reading, freehand sketching, work site safety, first aid and basic mathematics.

Community colleges and technical institutes also offer carpentry programs at the certificate and associate's degree level. Many of these programs are affiliated with unions and contractors and thus are roughly equivalent to apprenticeships, although they may be shorter in duration. Classes may cover all the subjects of an apprenticeship through combination of textbook and hands-on studies. Employers may have a favorable opinion of school-trained workers and hire them at a higher rate of pay than untrained workers.

Certification

Carpenters may earn certification as a journeyperson by completing a formal apprenticeship program. Additionally, some organizations offer specialized certifications in fields like pump work or scaffold building. Carpenters with these certifications might enjoy additional job responsibilities and rewards.

Career Advancement

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, because of their knowledge of the entirety of the construction field, carpenters have better chances than most other construction workers of becoming supervisors (www.bls.gov). Advancement can also be helped by bilingualism, since many construction workers speak Spanish, according to the BLS. Good communication skills combined with significant knowledge of the construction process can lead to carpenters becoming independent contractors.

Carpenters gain their skills largely through experience, usually as an assistant to a professional. Vocational or technical programs provide classroom and on-the-job training as well. Carpenters will have better opportunities if they are bilingual and knowledgeable of various types of constructions.

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