Carpentry Careers 101

A carpenter is one of many skilled tradesman, and there are a great deal of carpenters who erect new commercial and residential buildings from the ground up including stairs, installing doors and framing walls.

As a carpenter, you would experience an array of exciting work tasks that may change depending on the job that has been undertaken by your employer or the contract that you choose to take on, if you become self-employed.

A carpenter’s job may entail:

  • Measuring, cutting and preparing building materials.
  • Building and repairing framework, building components and fixtures.
  • Building and repairing structures such as bridge supports, sheds and decks.
  • Installing flooring, cabinetry and drywall.
  • The installation of siding.

Carpenters are also expected to build in accordance to plans, blueprints and local building codes. It is also worth knowing that some carpenters use their expertise for wooden furniture such as tables, desks and bookcases. If this sounds like the type of career that you would enjoy, it is important to be aware of the types of carpenters and the requirements for becoming a carpenter. Therefore, you will be better prepared for your journey along this exciting career path. To learn more about carpentry careers, review the sections provided below.

The Benefits of Being a Carpenter

There is a lot of earning potential for a carpenter. Pay is very competitive and carpenter services are often in high demand. While all carpenters must start out an apprentice level, most entry-level positions into carpentry offer an average of $13.09 an hour or more, with apprenticeships taking between three and four years to complete. The median salary for carpenters as a whole was $42,090 in 2015.

After an apprenticeship, the sky is the limit. There are a variety of career paths for carpenters and the job market for carpentry is only expected to grow. It is estimated that between the years of 2016 and 2026 that the industry could rise by 87,000 jobs.

Have you ever been interested in working from home or owning your own business? Carpentry offers a great amount of opportunity to work from home. As a self-employed carpenter, you can take on contracts with residences for additions to a home, repair work and the installation of cabinetry, floors and more. Additionally, there are a variety of carpenters that have achieved an immense amount of success in creating and selling products such as:

  • Birdhouses.
  • Handcrafted wooden toys, dollhouses and accessories.
  • Custom furniture items such as bookshelves, tables, chairs and desks.
  • Customized wooden instruments.
  • Home decor items and accessories.

You can also offer services to restore and repair older furniture and wooden antiques. The possibilities are endless and many opportunities offer large payoffs.

Not only can you perform contracts with other homeowners, but you can also make improvements on your own home at a fraction of the cost. With the skill set of a carpenter, you could add decks, fences, tool sheds and take on projects within your home.

The Various Job Paths of a Carpenter

Once you have completed your apprenticeship as a carpenter, there are a variety of career paths available to you. By specializing in a particular area of carpentry, you can become one of several types of carpenters:

  • Residential or farming carpenters assist in the build of various homes, condos, townhomes and other forms of residence. They may also be involved in framework, building stairs, roofs and decks.
  • A commercial carpenter does similar work to a residential or farm carpenter, but primarily works in commercial settings such as offices, schools, hospitals, hotels and retail locations. These types of carpenters will often need to develop skills to use steel and other materials when framing exterior walls. Most commercial carpenters will also specialize in building concrete forms.
  • An industrial carpenter is primarily expected to work on important infrastructure projects or work in large industries such as energy production and manufacturing. This form of carpentry will often require a carpenter to specialize in the construction of safe and sturdy scaffolding, firm partitions and precise concrete pouring forms. From this career path, an industrial carpenter could move on to work in engineering projects such as bridges, dams and tunnels.
  • Bench carpenters and cabinetmakers specialize in the shaping, cutting and assembling of wood building material. They frequently operate power saws, jointers and mortises. This form of carpentry generally specializes in both the creation of wooden cabinets and the installation.
  • Furniture finishers restore worn or damaged furniture and possess skills that allow them to apply stains, topcoats and sealing agents.
  • Woodworking machine operators specialize in the use of automated equipment. They may be expected to use equipment such as a computerized numerical control machine in order to produce items that are made from wood, veneers and laminates.

If you are interested in carpentry, you may have the opportunity to become a carpentry assistant prior to entering in an apprenticeship program. This role will allow you to get a feel for the trade before committing complete as well as offer beneficial experience in basic carpentry tasks and the fundamentals of carpentry.

Earn Your High School Diploma or GED

Before you will be able to enroll into an apprenticeship program or a carpentry course, you will first need to earn your high school diploma or GED. If you are currently still in high school, there are a variety of courses that you can take in order to give yourself an edge when seeking an apprenticeship and entering into this exciting field. These classes lay out the foundation for a carpentry career and include:

  • Woodworking, which is also sometimes referred to as woodshop.
  • Drafting and blueprint reading.
  • Physics.
  • Algebra.
  • Geometry.
  • English.

In addition to these high school courses, you may want to consider finding work as a carpenter’s helper. As mentioned previously, the role of a carpenter’s helper can provide invaluable experience that can help you through your carpentry courses or apprenticeship program.

Enroll into an Apprenticeship Program or an Education Program

After you have earned your high school diploma or GED, you will have the opportunity to choose between carpentry classes and an apprenticeship program. Certificate programs are offered through trade schools and most community colleges. These courses are designed to teach you the fundamentals of carpentry and aid you in the development of hands on skills such as measuring, altering and assembling building materials. These courses will generally cover a variety of carpentry topics, are primarily classroom based, and last between one and two years.

Alternatively, you can enroll in an apprenticeship program in your area. Most apprenticeship programs require that you at least be 18 years of age and they emphasize on-the-job training with the occasional classroom setting of study. Apprenticeship programs will typically last four years and most are paid and considered employment. There are a variety of apprenticeship programs that offer a specific specialty, if you already know the type of carpenter that you would like to become.

Carpentry Advancement

As stated previously, carpenters have a variety of career paths that can be pursued for career advancement. Many of the more advanced forms of carpentry, such as pump work or scaffold building, will require that you obtain certification. There are a variety of unions and regional workforce agencies that offer certification exams, in which you can earn the title of journeyman carpenter. Should you choose to earn an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, you can even pursue a career in construction management in order to take on supervisory positions.

It might also interest you: