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.

What Do Rough / Framing / General Carpenters Do?

Duties

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

Carpenters build and repair the framework, structures, and fixtures of various types of buildings made of wood and other materials. They build things such as stairs, doorframes, partitions, rafters, and install items such as kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall. Carpenters are not required to obtain any specific license or certification to practice their trade.
Carpentry work may be divided into further job sub-sectors such as:

Rough Carpenter - Build rough wooden structures, such as concrete forms, scaffolds, tunnel, bridge, or sewer supports, billboard signs, and temporary frame shelters, according to sketches, blueprints, or oral instructions.

(Similar work titles may include: Apprentice Carpenter, Bridge Carpenter, Bridge Repair Crew Person, Carpenter, Form Carpenter, Journeyman Carpenter, Rough Carpenter, Union Carpenter)

Framing Carpenter - Framing carpenters build and repair structures made of wood or wood products. They typically begin work early in a project, constructing what becomes the framework for the rest of the building.

(Similar work titles may include: Apprentice Carpenter, Construction Worker, Repair Crew Person)

Construction Carpenter - Construct, erect, install, and repair structures and fixtures of wood, plywood, and wallboard, using carpenter's hand tools and power tools.

(Similar work titles may include: Assembler, Cabinet Maker, Carpenter Foreman, Carpentry Foreman, Concrete Carpenter, Construction Superintendent, Construction Worker, Foreman, Framer, Production Worker)

Job Details

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

Education and Experience

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’s degrees in carpentry. Community colleges may also offer two-year programs leading to an associate degree in carpentry. The course of study may account for all or some of the required hours of apprentice work. Time spent as an apprentice may also count toward a degree. Several groups, such as unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs, as well.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: A person working in the carpentry sector of construction will most likely earn a salary of approximately $48,000
  • Employment of carpentry 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

Carpenters are involved in many phases of construction and may have opportunities to become first-line supervisors, lead carpenters, independent contractors, or general construction supervisors.

Professional Associations

  • International Union of Operating Engineers - IUOE is a trade union representing all of construction workers from the heavy equipment operators and mechanics in the construction industry, to the stationary engineers, to those who maintain and operate building and industrial complexes and service industries throughout the United States and Canada.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Publications