Carpenters build, erect and install a variety of structures and fixtures made from wood and other types of materials. Carpenters also repair structures and items. They perform a variety of tasks, however some carpenters specialize in one or two areas. Some carpenters primarily work for large construction contractors, whereas others may remodel homes.
Some carpenters specialize in constructing concrete forms for bridges, tunnels or sewer construction projects. Some carpenters focus on installation and maintenance projects. They may repair cabinets and desks or install ceiling tiles and doors. A number of carpenters specialize in cabinetmaking. Cabinetmakers custom design cabinets, shelves and other types of fixtures for stores, restaurants and homes.
Rough carpenters typically work outdoors and utilize unfinished wood and other materials. They perform tasks such as framing houses, making forms for concrete and construction scaffolding. Finish carpenters may cut and fit doors and interior molding. They may also lay hardwood floors and construct and install cabinets.
- Build frameworks
- Install and repair structures
- Install hardwood floors
- Review specifications in blueprints, building plans and sketches to prepare a project layout and to decide the dimensions and the materials that are needed
- Cut or shape material to specified measurements
- Adhere to established safety rules and regulations
- Inspect floor and ceiling tiles, wall coverings and other materials for damage
- Measure and mark cutting lines and different types of materials
Carpentry work can, at times, be strenuous. Due to the material and tools they use and their work situations carpenters risk injury. A lot of carpenters work 40 hours a week, however sometimes they work additional hours.
Carpenters should have good hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, good balance and be in good physical shape. In addition, the ability to solve mathematical problems is important in the occupation.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 12 percent employment growth for carpenters from 2008 to 2018 which is about as fast as average for all occupations. The fluctuations of the economy significantly affect the demand for carpenters.
In 2008 the median hourly wage for carpenters was $18.72. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $33.34 per hour.
In 2008 approximately 32 percent of all carpenters were self-employed. Approximately 32 percent of carpenters worked in the construction of buildings industry and about 22 percent of carpenters worked for specialty trade contractors.
Experienced carpenters may move up to carpentry supervisor and general construction supervisor positions. Some carpenters become independent contractors. The ability to communicate in English and Spanish is becoming increasingly important for those seeking to advance in their careers.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Training for carpenters is provided by vocational schools, formal apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training. Those seeking to become carpenters can collect knowledge and skills while in high school. Beneficial classes include mechanical drawing, general shop, blueprint reading, English, geometry, algebra and physics.
After completing high school, some workers become carpenter's helpers and assist experience workers. While working as carpenter's helpers they may receive additional training at a community college or a vocational school.
Some employers provide formal apprenticeships which blend classroom learning with on-the-job training. Apprenticeship programs usually take three to four years to complete, however new rules may let apprentices finish the programs earlier as competencies are demonstrated. Carpenters that complete formal apprenticeship programs are given certification as journeymen. Carpenters can achieve other certifications such as in high torque bolting and scaffold building.
There are a limited number of apprenticeship programs, thus only a small portion of carpenters are able to learn their trade from these programs. Most apprenticeship programs are provided by industrial and commercial building contractors and construction unions. In addition, some carpenters become members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenter and Joiners of America.
There are numerous private and public vocational schools and training academies that are affiliated with contractors and unions that provide training for carpenters. Employers often view these training programs as beneficial and typically start these students at a higher level than workers without this training.
- Associated Builders and Contractors
- Associated General Contractors of America, Inc
- National Association of Home Builders, Home Builders Institute
- United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Carpenters Training Fund
The top employment sectors are nonresidential building construction, building finishing contractors, residential building construction; foundation, structure and building exterior contractors, and employment services.
Schools for Carpenters are listed in the Browse Schools Section.