Finish Carpenter Training Program Overviews

There are no formal educational requirements for finish carpenters, though training can be found through vocational schools and community colleges as well as formal carpentry apprenticeships.

Essential Information

A finish carpenter, formerly known as a joiner, is a precision woodworker who undertakes carpentry jobs, such as interior and exterior trimming, cabinetry and furniture making. College training programs that teach finish carpentry are available at the certificate and associate's degree level, with a high school diploma or equivalent usually required for admittance. Additionally, individuals who have completed a registered apprenticeship are typically eligible to receive an associate's degree through the cooperating college.

Experience in the field is vital. Finish carpenter training often includes trade union apprenticeships through organizations like the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Individuals interested in finish carpentry may also pursue training through a traditional college program.

Finish Carpentry Certificate

Finish carpentry certificate programs generally require less than 30 credits, which can be completed in less than one year. Students learn to use manual and power tools to create and install cornices, soffits, baseboards and crown mouldings. They also gain practical skills in door, window, wall, ceiling and stair case installation.

Finish Carpentry Associate's Degree

Associate's degree programs, such as the Associate of Science (A.S.) in Carpentry Technology, provide an opportunity for a well-rounded carpentry education. Carpentry undergraduate students in these A.S. programs study blueprints and construction mathematics. They also take lectures and shop classes in interior and exterior finishing techniques, cabinet construction and finishing, stair building and form detailing. Carpentry students gain cutting and welding skills and learn to use levels, hand tools, miter saws, planers and routers.

Licensing and Continuing Education

While many finish carpenters are self-employed, others work for construction and manufacturing companies, which typically require their carpenters to possess 2-5 years of experience. Often, experience is gained through college internships and formal apprenticeships.

Apprentices work as paid trainees under the supervision of skilled journeyperson carpenters, usually for 3-4 years. They take college classes and gain on-the-job finish carpenter training, learning to measure, cut and shape wood to form exact joints. After completing a union apprenticeship program, a candidate is considered a journeyperson finish carpenter.

Some states require finish carpenters to obtain specialty contractor licenses. Depending on the state, licensure can be required of all finish carpenters or may be only mandated of commercial finish carpenters. To obtain licensure, finish carpenters may have to pass a skills exam as well as an exam about business law. Additionally, proof of liability insurance may be required.

Educational centers, lumberyards and hardware stores often host 1-day workshops for finish carpenters and other woodworking professionals. Topics can range from creative built-ins woodworking to exterior trimmings. There are also a number of builders' shows and conferences throughout the year, such as JLCLive Residential Construction Show (, which often last for 3-4 days. Participants can attend tool exhibits or high-end finishing clinics.

Finish carpenters seeking continued training resources can look to the Web, which has numerous how-to video demonstrations and articles as well as interactive message boards. Fine woodworking books and magazines may also prove helpful. Finish carpenters can also network with other professionals by attending carpentry meet-up groups within their town or county.

Aspiring finish carpenters can find relevant training within vocational school or community college programs, and also have the option of gaining experience through apprenticeships. All of these options provide students with hands-on experience in the trade, preparing them to become self-employed carpenters or work for manufacturing companies after gaining experience. Certain states may also require finish carpenters to attain specialty licensure.

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