Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

What Do Millwork / Finish Carpenters 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 building frameworks, including walls, floors, and doorframes
  • Erect, level, and install building framework with the aid of rigging hardware and cranes
  • Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
  • Instruct and direct laborers and other construction helpers

Carpenters are a versatile occupation in the construction industry, with workers usually doing many different tasks. For example, some carpenters insulate office buildings and others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Those who help construct tall buildings or bridges often install wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars and are commonly referred to as rough carpenters. Rough carpenters also erect shoring and scaffolding for buildings.

Carpenters use many different tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They commonly use hand tools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, nail guns, and welding machines.

Carpenters fasten materials together with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives, and check their work to ensure that it is precisely completed. They use tape measures on nearly every project to quickly measure distances. Many employers require applicants to supply their own tools.

The following are examples of types of carpenters:

Construction carpenters construct, install, and repair structures and fixtures of wood, plywood, and wallboard, using carpenter’s 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.

Career Snapshot

As the name implies (‘Finish’), a career in this construction sub-sector entails such activities as putting the trim and casing around joints and openings, hanging doors, attaching hardware, and building in shelves and closets. A Millwork/Finish Carpenter works mostly with wood product to ensure the quality of completed pieces meets their company's and or clients' standards. They are also responsible for reviewing and interpreting blueprints, sketches, and work orders in order to determine what materials and equipment are needed for the assignment.  Millwork/Finish Carpenters may create beautiful detailing in kitchens and bathrooms through the craft of woodworking using power tools to cut, shape and install things like baseboards, molding, doors, and cabinets.

Job Details

Millwork/Finish 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
  • Build closets, counters, shelves, cabinets, doors, bulletin boards, windows, wall panels and other related finish carpentry items
  • Select wood, materials and supplies

Education and Experience

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to enter the occupation. Most employers prefer that a millwork/finish carpenter have a diploma or certificate in carpentry or a related field from a trade, technical, or vocational school. Community colleges may offer 12-month, 18-month certificate and two-year associate programs in carpentry or related fields. Several groups, such as unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs, as well.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: entry-level Millwork/Finish Carpenter with less than 1-year experience can expect to earn an average salary of $31,000; early-to-mid career Millwork/Finish Carpenter with 1-9 years of experience can expect to earn an average salary of $36,000;  an experienced Millwork/Finish Carpenter with 10-19 years of experience can expect to earn an average salary of $52,000.
  • Employment of Millwork/Finish Carpenter workers is projected to grow 8% percent from 2018 to 2028.
  • Entry-level education: Typically requires a high school diploma or equivalent and associated apprenticeship (or other on-the-job experience).

Career Growth Opportunity

Millwork/Finish Carpenters are involved in many phases of construction and may have opportunities to become first-line supervisors, lead carpenters and/or independent contractors.  Common employers include construction companies and large institutions, such as universities.

Professional Associations

  • United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America - The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) is one of North America’s largest building trades unions, with over a half-million members.
  • Finishing Trades Institute International - This organization’s mission is to advise, assist and coordinate in the training and development of a skilled, educated, and productive workforce for the finishing trades industries.
  • Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
  • National Association of Home Builders - NAHB strives to protect the American Dream of housing opportunities for all, while working to achieve professional success for its members who build communities, create jobs and strengthen our economy.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The AGC 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.
  • Best Practices in Health Care Construction (UBC) - The United Brotherhood of Carpenters, through the Carpenters International Training Fund (CITF), now offers this training and qualification program, which delivers comprehensive skill-sets to contain pathogens, protect patients and perform work without disrupting operations.
  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry - NARI connects homeowners with its professional members and provides tips and tricks so that consumers have a positive remodeling experience with a professional, qualified remodeler.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • Sisters in the Brotherhood - Sisters in the Brotherhood is a group dedicated to strengthening the UBC by promoting activism and diversity and by increasing the number of women members.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals.  Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
  • 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.
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology - New England Regional Council of Carpenters has launched a program with Wentworth Institute of Technology that will give college credit for completing a four-year apprenticeship, providing union carpenters with a pathway to management positions within the construction industry. The program is also available for journey level workers who did not complete an apprenticeship.



Options to prepare for and progress a career in the Millwork/Finish Carpenter trade:

Apprenticeship: Get paid while you learn. An apprenticeship allows you to spend 2-3 years working under the guidance of a veteran carpenter while earning money and hands-on job training needed to work in the field.

Vocational Program: Earn a certificate in carpentry from a community college or union-sponsored training program to learn in a more formal setting.

Associate’s Degree: An Associate’s Degree in construction management can start you on the path to owning a business.

Specialized Training: Carpentry is described as one trade with many crafts. Millwork/Finish Carpenters spend years mastering their specialty through practicum and additional training experience.

* some jurisdictions may require certification or a license to perform carpentry work *