How to Become a Carpenter

How to Become a CarpenterDo you enjoy working with your hands and watching projects grow from an idea to a complete structure? If so, becoming a carpenter could be an ideal career for you.

Job Overview
High School or GED
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

You might be surprised at how many things in your home a carpenter built or repaired. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), carpenters create stairways, door frames, partitions and rafters. They install drywall, cabinets and siding. People associate carpenters with projects using wood, but they also work with other materials.

If you’re a carpenter on construction projects like bridges, you’ll work outdoors a lot. The work can be strenuous, and these carpenters experience an above-average number of injuries.

Residential carpenters usually specialize in home construction and remodeling. Commercial carpenters typically have a role in building commercial buildings like office suites, schools, hospitals and hotels. Industrial carpenters might erect scaffolding or build and set forms used to pour concrete or for other uses.

Similar Jobs

If what a carpenter does sounds appealing, you might be interested in similar jobs. Among them are carpenter’s helper, cement mason, terrazzo worker, drywall and ceiling tile installer, carpet installer, insulation worker, millwright and tile and marble setter.

Career Outlook

The BLS reports that in 2010, there were more than 1 million carpenters working in the United States. Their median pay was $19 an hour, or $39,530 per year.

Between 2010 and 2020, projections include a 20 percent growth rate for this career, which is faster than average. This represents nearly 200,000 new jobs.


The United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) states that carpenters must work quickly and accurately, with safety paramount. If this field interests you, you must realize that productivity is the primary objective. Manual dexterity is also important for this type of work.

According to the BLS, most people become carpenters after a formal apprenticeship. Most apprenticeship programs require you to be at least 18, have a high school education or a GED and be physically able to perform the work. You must also pass a screening for substance abuse and be either a U.S. citizen or prove legal residency.

Typical Education

The typical path to becoming a carpenter includes a three- or four-year apprenticeship, usually sponsored by a union or a contractor association. However, some contractors run their own training programs. You might opt to begin as a carpenter’s helper and pick up training at community colleges or trade schools.

The program at the California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association requires 48 months of training, including 4,800 work hours. Participants must also complete 612 hours of classes at an approved training center.

The UBC operates an international training center in Las Vegas, as well as regional training centers. UBC members can enroll in courses in specialized areas such as green contracting and supervisory education.

Steps to Becoming a Carpenter

If you’re interested in this career, begin by filling in any gaps in skills offered in high school. According to eHow, this might be courses in math, blueprint reading, general shop and mechanical drawing. You should also have a basic idea of how to use woodworking tools.

To find apprenticeships, you can contract the Associated General Contractors of America and the National Association of Home Builders. You should also contact any unions with workers in your area and large residential and commercial builders so see if they offer training.

Most beginners start as general carpenters or carpenter helpers. After completing specialized training, you could advance to jobs as a foreman or a superintendent. The BLS indicates that to advance, you should be able to communicate in Spanish as well as English to convey instructions to other workers.

Because carpenters gain exposure to the whole construction process, they enjoy more job opportunities than others working in construction. Want more information? Be sure to fill in the sign-up form.

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