Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.
What they do
Carpenters typically do the following:
- Follow blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients
- Install structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding
- Measure, cut, and shape wood, plastic, and other materials
- Construct and install building frameworks, including walls, floors, and doorframes
- Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
- Instruct and direct laborers and other construction helpers
Carpenters have many different tasks. Some carpenters insulate office buildings; others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Still others focus on production or commercial work to help construct tall buildings or bridges, installing wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars. These carpenters also erect shoring and scaffolding for buildings.
Carpenters use many different tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They use hand tools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, nail guns, and welding machines. On large projects, carpenters may use rigging hardware and cranes as part of the installation process. Carpenters may also use smart phones, tablets, and other personal electronic devices to assist with planning, drafting, or other calculations.
Carpenters fasten materials with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives and check their work to ensure that it is correct. They use tape measures or laser measures on nearly every project to quickly determine distances. Many employers require carpenters to supply their own tools on the job.
The following are examples of types of carpenters:
Construction carpenters construct, install, and repair structures and fixtures of wood, plywood, and wallboard, using carpenters’ hand tools and power tools.
Rough carpenters build rough wooden structures, such as concrete forms; scaffolds; tunnel, bridge, or sewer supports; and temporary frame shelters, according to sketches, blueprints, or oral instructions.
Wood flooring installers put in a variety of materials, including plank, strip, end-grain, and parquet flooring. These wood products may be nailed in place or glued down. Floor sanders and finishers may smooth the flooring onsite or it may be prefinished prior to installation.
Carpenters work indoors and outdoors on many types of construction projects, from installing kitchen cabinets to building highways and bridges. Carpenters may work in cramped spaces and frequently alternate between lifting, standing, and kneeling. Those who work outdoors are subject to variable weather, which may affect a project’s schedule.
How to become a Carpenter
Carpenters typically need a high school diploma and learn on the job or through apprenticeships.
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to enter the occupation. Certain high school courses, such as mathematics and mechanical drawing, may be useful. Some vocational-technical schools offer associate degrees in carpentry. The programs vary in length and teach basics and specialties in carpentry.
Carpenters typically learn on the job or through apprenticeships. They often begin doing simple tasks, such as measuring and cutting wood, under the guidance of experienced carpenters or other construction workers. They then progress to more complex tasks, such as reading blueprints and building wooden structures.
Several groups, such as unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. For each year of a typical program, apprentices must complete a predetermined number of hours of technical training and paid on-the-job training. Apprenticeship program requirements differ based on the type of program and by region. Apprentices learn carpentry basics, blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety and first aid practices. They also may receive specialized training in creating and setting concrete forms, rigging, welding, scaffold building, and working within confined workspaces. All carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10-hour safety course.
The median annual wage for carpenters was $48,330 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $84,690.
Employment of carpenters is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029.
Population growth should result in more new-home construction—one of the largest segments employing carpenters—which will create some jobs for carpenters. Construction of factories and power plants is also expected to result in some new jobs over the decade.
Similar Job Titles
Assembler, Cabinet Maker, Carpenter Foreman, Carpentry Foreman, Concrete Carpenter, Construction Superintendent, Construction Worker, Foreman, Framer, Production Worker, Apprentice Carpenter, Bridge Carpenter, Bridge Repair Crew Person, Carpenter, Form Carpenter, Journeyman Carpenter, Rough Carpenter, Union Carpenter, Construction Carpenter
Brickmason and Blockmason, Construction Carpenter, Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installer, Sheet Metal Workers, Structural Iron and Steel Worker, Cement Mason and Concrete Finisher, Terrazao Worker and Finisher
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Home Builders Institute - HBI is a national leader in construction career training, offering certification programs, mentoring, pre-apprenticeships, advanced training, apprenticeships, job placement services and more. Their programs prepare students from diverse backgrounds, including at-risk and underserved populations such as youth, veterans, displaced workers and formerly incarcerated persons, with the skills and experience necessary to build successful, long-term careers in the building industry.
- National Association of Home Builders - The National Association of Home Builders represents the largest network of craftsmen, innovators and problem solvers dedicated to building and enriching communities.The Associated General Contractors of America - The Associated General Contractors of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry; providing opportunities for firms to learn about ways to become more accomplished; and connecting them with the resources and individuals they need to be successful businesses and corporate citizens.
- United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America - The UBC mission is to stand strong with our members and business partners to help them achieve success. UBC education and training advances leadership, skill, quality, productivity, safety, and attitude with the goal of creating a constructive culture within the construction industry and providing a competitive workforce for our contractors and owners.
Magazines and Publications
- Constructor Magazine
- AGC Newsletter
- Carpenter Magazine
- This is Carpentry
- Popular Woodworking
- Wood Magazine
From sanding a board perfectly smooth to transforming two by fours into a finished structure… carpentry fills the bill for those who want a hands-on career. Carpenters construct and repair wooden building frameworks and structures— such as stairways, doorframes, and windows. They use hand and power tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They use a tape measure on nearly every project and need math skills to calculate the proper size for pieces they cut. They also train and direct construction and carpenters' helpers. Carpenters helpers work under carpenters’ direction. Typically, they gather and carry materials, clean work areas and equipment, measure and cut materials, and position equipment. Carpenters and helpers work both indoors and outdoors. Worksites vary from tall buildings and bridges to homes and industrial sites. The work is sometimes strenuous, and involves physical risk, requiring protective equipment and safety practices. Most carpenters learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship program that combines technical training with paid on-the-job training. Apprentices must have a high school diploma or equivalent, have the physical ability to do the work, and meet additional criteria. Carpenter helpers usually learn on the job and have no specific education requirement.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org