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An education in carpentry prepares an individual to work with the shaping of wood and other materials for the purposes of furnishing, construction or repair. An individual can take several paths to obtain the skills necessary to become a carpenter. The first option is taking a program of study offering an associate's degree or certificate. The second is to find work as a carpenters assistant (usually alongside taking relevant classes), and the third is a formal apprenticeship that also offers college credit. Once an apprenticeship is completed an individual will obtain the title of journeyman. A journeyman carpenter can then obtain certification in a variety of specialties in order to increase his or her skill set and increase marketability.
Carpenters can work for or with a variety of carpenters and tradespersons in the construction industry. From independent tradespeople and general contractors to factories and unions the landscape of work can vary from job to job. Carpentry can involve the process of planning, designing, installing, deconstructing, repairing, and maintaining work for the customer. This can be done for a specialty woodworking project for a family’s mantle to large-scale, multi-faceted project like building a public bridge.
Some classes in a carpentry program may include:
- Industrial Math
- Hand and Power Tools
- Tool Grinding and Sharpening
- Reading Prints and Schematics
- Wood Products
How to Become a Carpenter
In order to become a tradesperson in carpentry, you will need the right tools for the job. The tools of the trade include knowing what tools to use in differing scenarios and equipment necessary to successfully complete a project. The formal path to become a carpenter includes going to a college or trade school to earn a degree or certification. By coupling a certification or degree with a robust apprenticeship program, students can maximize their resources by learning in class and on the job.
An apprenticeship program that is state-sponsored or affiliated with a post-secondary school is an excellent path to a carpentry career. Apprenticeship programs are 3 to 4 years in length and are paid training programs coupled with classes that lead to a certificate, diploma, or degree. These programs also allow students to learn from trained professionals in a safe environment while gaining valuable exposure to a variety of building blocks of carpentry. Upon completion of the apprenticeship program, you may have the opportunity to earn a journeyman status.
Certificate in Carpentry
A certificate program in carpentry is specifically designed to provide students with a set of foundational skills to enter the trade. The curriculum is designed to help students establish a good understanding of the tools, equipment, safety measures, and essential construction practices. Some trade schools and vocational programs offer apprenticeship programs in conjunction with certificate programs while other certificate programs do not. Specific research in the program or school desired will help determine if a certificate program is right for you.
Associate’s Degree in Carpentry
An associate’s degree in carpentry is a program created to provide students with the basics of the carpentry trade plus a robust set of general education courses. The general education courses like philosophy or English composition help students think differently which can directly apply to work situations. The core carpentry curriculum will provide basic construction techniques, theories, business practices, workflow management, and safety protocols. A number of colleges and trade schools offering associate level programs are linked to an apprenticeship program which is valuable for students looking to make a long-term career out of the carpentry trade.
Endorsements coupled with a certificate or degree in carpentry is another means to showcase your dedication and ability in the trade. Earning an endorsement may help you with a future employer or help to secure a project with an important client. In either case, the additional education is an added benefit that may be worth considering at some point in your career. A sampling of endorsements may include the following:
- Site Inspection
- Fire Protection
- Confined Space
- First Aid
- OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour programs
- HCS/HAZCOM certifications
Carpentry is the second largest building trade in the Unites States and is expected to have normal growth over the next decade. Carpentry is a volatile profession in that it is closely tied to the economy and can have long droughts of work due to lack of available opportunities. Conversely, during construction booms, carpenters can be in short supply. Additionally, work for carpenters can vary greatly based on geographic region and specialization.
What Carpenters Learn in College
The range of information a student will learn as they navigate college towards a certificate in carpentry or an associate’s degree in college will vary from school to school. That being said, a set of common skills undergirds the educational track for virtually every tradesperson. We have listed out the most common take-aways from college courses and hands-on training for carpenters around the country:
- Project Management & Resource Management
- Gathering job-specific information
- Bidding out the job
- Managing the project: tools, time, resources, budget
- Adhering to plans and specifications to limit rework
- Pulling permits required by state and/or municipality
- Construction and Building
- Allocating proper tools and equipment
- Identifying the right tools for the job
- Adhering to best practices and value engineering scope
- Utilizing the best material for the project
- Workplace Safety
- Properly using, maintaining, and storing equipment
- Communicating safety issues and concerns effectively
- Understanding set of emergency response measures including First Aid, AED, and CPR
- Adhering to township and municipality codes for safety
- Using of math and mathematical models to solve issues
- Budgeting and bidding jobs
- Converting raw material to finished products
- Calibrating equipment and machinery
- Converting volume and area into materials to procure
- Codes & Regulations
- Tightly adhering to local and national codes and regulations
- Meeting federal standards relating to OSHA safety
- Proactively determining any work site risks
- Providing customer with green building options and path to a LEED certification
- Administrative & Managerial
- Leveraging trade knowledge to help plan resources
- Strategically planning with customer milestones and objectives
- Helping superintendent coordinate resources and people
- Utilizing technology by trade and job to make processes more efficient
- Learning new computer devices and hardware
- Using electronic communication to help move a job forward
- Working with experts to model project using CAD applications
- Planning & Design
- Understanding intricacies of blueprints and CAD models
- Processing and applying codes, regulations, standards by job type
- Working with cross-functional team to create models and renderings
Top 6 Skills of a Carpenter
According to the most recent survey completed by carpenters and administered by the United States Department of Labor, a carpenter must possess a number of core skills. These skills include activities ranging from communication to operating mechanized devices. A list of the most important skills for a carpenter is listed below in order of importance:
- Communication: Gathering information from overt methods or through observations, a carpenter must critically assess situations to obtain vital information about a job or project.
- Inspection: Carpenters in all trades are required to carefully inspect the work site, equipment, and structures to identify problems and provide solutions.
- Physical Activities: Performing a range of physical activates that may include bending, squatting, reaching, and stretching is quite common.
- Transporting: Moving goods and equipment from station to station at a job site or in the shop is yet another important job skill of a carpenter.
- Planning: The skills around project management of organizing, planning, and executing job-specific work or project-based work is vital for anyone in the trade.
- Equipment: Safely and effectively operating mechanized devices and equipment to achieve a desired result is a technical aspect requisite for all carpenters.
Most Common Jobs for Carpenters
From residential houses to museums to convenience stores, each of these building structures exist thanks to many dedicated construction professionals. Carpenters literally have a hand in building permanent structures from office buildings to bridges you use in everyday life. Below you will find a quick list of the top jobs for a carpenter and the most common management jobs for upwardly mobile carpenters.
Top 10 Jobs for a Carpenter
- General Trade Carpenter
- Construction Carpenter
- Rough Carpenter
- Floor Covering Specialist & Tile Setter
- Interior Systems Carpenter
- Drywall Specialist
- Acoustical Systems Carpenter
Top 8 Management and Supervisory Jobs in Carpentry
- Project Manager
- Crew Leader
- Lead Hand
- Project Site Manager
- Project Estimator
- Safety Lead
The average salary for a carpenter is approximately $43,6000 per year. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates a total of 169,100 job opening in carpentry for the ten year reporting period ending in 2024. Entry level positions start at about $24,250 per year.
Top 5 States with Highest Employment for Carpenters
- California 91,780
- New York 48,220
- Florida 41,610
- Texas 36,870
- Pennsylvania 30,620
Top Paying States in Carpentry
- Alaska $69,970
- Hawaii $68,960
- Illinois $62,380
- New York $61,900
- New Jersey $60,380
Individuals interested in a career in carpentry may also be interested in becoming an electrician, plumber, or construction worker.