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Become A Carpenter

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Working As A Carpenter

  • Getting Information
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Make Decisions

  • $42,930

    Average Salary

What Does A Carpenter Do

Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures—such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, rafters, and bridge supports—made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.

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

Carpenters use many different hand and power 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 do a final check of their work to ensure that it is completed according to specifications. They use a tape measure on nearly every project to make sure that the pieces being cut are the proper size, which reduces waste and saves time. Many employers require applicants to supply their own tools.

The following are examples of types of carpenters:

Residential carpenters typically specialize in single-family, townhome, and condominium building and remodeling. As part of a single job, they might build and set forms for footings, walls, and slabs, and frame and finish exterior walls, roofs, and decks. They also frame interior walls, build stairs, and install drywall, crown molding, doors, and cabinets. In addition, residential carpenters may tile floors and lay wood floors and carpet. Fully trained carpenters can easily switch from new homebuilding to remodeling.

Commercial carpenters typically build and remodel commercial office buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools, and shopping malls. Some specialize in working with light-gauge and load-bearing steel framing for interior partitions, exterior framing, and curtain wall construction. Others specialize in working with concrete forming systems and finishing interior and exterior walls, partitions, and ceilings. Most commercial carpenters perform many of the same tasks as residential carpenters.

Industrial carpenters typically work on civil engineering projects and in industrial settings, where they build scaffolding and create and set forms for pouring concrete. Some industrial carpenters build tunnel bracing or partitions in underground passageways and mines to control the circulation of air to worksites. Others build concrete forms for tunnels, bridges, dams, power plants, or sewers.

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How To Become A Carpenter

Although most carpenters learn their trade through an apprenticeship, some learn on the job, starting as a helper.

Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is required. High school courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, and general vocational technical training are considered useful.

Training

Most carpenters learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship program. For each year of a typical program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. In the technical training, 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, working within confined workspaces, and fall protection. All carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10- and 30-hour safety courses.

After finishing an apprenticeship, carpenters are considered to be journey workers and may perform tasks on their own.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. The basic qualifications for a person to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work
  • U.S. citizen or proof of legal residency
  • Pass substance abuse screening

Some contractors have their own carpenter training program, which may be an accredited apprenticeship program.

Although many workers enter apprenticeships directly, some carpenters start out as helpers.

Some workers can earn certificates before entering an apprenticeship. The National Association of Home Builders offers Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) through the Home Builders Institute. PACT is available for several different groups, from youths to veterans, and covers information for eight construction trades, including painting.

Workers typically learn the proper use of hand and power tools on the job. They often start by working with more experienced carpenters and are given more complex tasks as they prove that they can handle simpler tasks, such as measuring and cutting wooden and metal studs.

A number of 2-year technical schools offer carpentry degrees that are affiliated with unions or contractor organizations. Credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree.

Advancement

Because they are involved in all phases of construction, carpenters usually have more opportunities than other construction workers to become first-line supervisors, independent contractors, or general construction supervisors.

Carpenters seeking advancement often take additional training provided by associations, unions, or employers. Communication in both English and Spanish also is helpful for relaying instructions to workers.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Self-employed carpenters must be able to bid on new jobs, track inventory, and plan work assignments. 

Detail oriented. Carpenters perform many tasks that are important in the overall building process. Making precise measurements, for example, may reduce gaps between windows and frames, limiting any leaks around the window.

Dexterity. Carpenters use many tools and need hand-eye coordination to avoid injury or damaging materials. Striking the head of a nail, for example, is crucial to not damaging wood or injuring oneself.

Math skills. Carpenters use basic math skills every day to calculate volume and measure materials to be cut.

Physical stamina. Carpenters need physical endurance. They frequently stand, climb, or bend for long periods.

Physical strength. Carpenters use tools and materials that are heavy. For example, plywood sheets can weigh 50 to 100 pounds.

Problem-solving skills. Because construction jobs vary, carpenters must adjust project plans accordingly. For example, if a prefabricated window arrives at the worksite slightly oversized, carpenters must shave framework to make the window fit.

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Carpenter jobs

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Carpenter Demographics

Gender

  • Male

    93.9%
  • Female

    4.9%
  • Unknown

    1.2%

Ethnicity

  • White

    81.9%
  • Hispanic or Latino

    10.4%
  • Asian

    5.8%
  • Unknown

    1.4%
  • Black or African American

    0.5%
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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

    67.2%
  • French

    4.4%
  • Portuguese

    3.9%
  • German

    3.5%
  • Carrier

    2.4%
  • Japanese

    2.4%
  • Russian

    2.0%
  • Italian

    2.0%
  • Swedish

    1.5%
  • Dakota

    1.5%
  • Polish

    1.5%
  • Finnish

    1.3%
  • Chinese

    1.3%
  • Korean

    0.9%
  • Greek

    0.9%
  • Arabic

    0.9%
  • Vietnamese

    0.7%
  • Turkish

    0.7%
  • Albanian

    0.7%
  • Mandarin

    0.4%
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Real Carpenter Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Formwork Carpenter Villa Construction, Inc. Hawthorne, NY Nov 28, 2016 $91,828
Supervising Carpenter A.G.C. Construction Blue Point, NY Apr 27, 2016 $82,347
Carpenter A.A.D Construction Corp. New York, NY Sep 26, 2016 $81,869
Carpenter ZEN Restoration Inc. New York, NY Oct 13, 2016 $81,869
Carpenter Art Pro Construction, Inc. Mount Prospect, IL Sep 21, 2016 $80,933
Carpenter Pink Orchid Passaic, NJ Sep 17, 2015 $79,000
Formwork Carpenters Villa Construction, Inc. NY Oct 01, 2015 $72,127
Carpenter John Cortese Mason Contracting, Inc. Morris Plains, NJ Dec 22, 2015 $70,678
Carpenter Adelphi Contractors Inc. Harrison, NY Sep 09, 2016 $67,226
Carpenter Beck Contracting Inc. Brick, NJ Jul 29, 2015 $63,565
Carpenter Candlewood Valley Building, LLC New Milford, CT Sep 10, 2015 $62,192
Carpenter Beck Contracting Inc. Brick, NJ Jan 09, 2015 $60,986
Carpenter Sterling Ridge Group, Corp. Newark, NJ Apr 17, 2015 $60,466
Carpenter JMOC Builders Inc. Morristown, NJ May 01, 2016 $56,035
Carpenter Empire Builders, Inc. Annapolis, MD Apr 15, 2016 $48,651 -
$50,419
Carpenter FMH Investments, LLC Arlington, VA Dec 19, 2016 $46,791
Carpenter S.O.A., Inc. Whitehall, OH Jul 01, 2016 $45,664
Carpenter Andaloro Construction LLC New York, NY Apr 29, 2015 $45,622
Wood Carpenter M.S. Custom Mill Work Lorton, VA Jun 10, 2015 $45,219
Carpenter Capenters Union Local 735 Mansfield, OH Sep 01, 2016 $44,620
Carpenter Nugarese Inc. Yonkers, NY Jun 23, 2016 $44,574
Carpenter Carpenters Union Local 735 Mansfield, OH Jun 03, 2016 $44,161
Carpenter P & M Associates Richmond, VA Nov 05, 2016 $34,778
Carpenter AA Hodde (DBA, AA Hodde and Company) Brenham, TX Dec 20, 2016 $33,705
Skilled Artisanal Carpenter Montealban Doors, LLC Miami Beach, FL Feb 02, 2016 $33,580
Skilled Artisanal Carpenter Montealban Doors, LLC Miami Beach, FL Oct 31, 2016 $33,580
Carpenter Seashore Builders Inc. NC Mar 23, 2015 $31,764
Carpenter Precision Stairs Perth Amboy, NJ Dec 28, 2015 $31,055
Carpenter Core Tech International Corporation Nov 02, 2016 $30,472
Carpenter Core Tech International Corporation Sep 01, 2015 $30,472

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Top Skills for A Carpenter

DoorHardwareInstallWindowsDrywallInstallationRepairCabinetsSafetyRulesCustomHomesHandToolsProjectLayoutFinishCarpentryNewConstructionSheetrockJobSiteKitchenCabinetsVinylResidentialConstructionConstructionProjectsGeneralCarpentryHeavyEquipmentOshaPlumbBOB

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Top Carpenter Skills

  1. Door Hardware
  2. Install Windows
  3. Drywall Installation
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Installed, maintained, troubleshoot and repair door hardware.
  • Remodel and repair homes - Install windows - General carpentry and maintenance
  • performed framing and drywall installation Additional work history is available upon request
  • Build or repair cabinets, doors, frameworks, floors, or other wooden fixtures used in buildings.
  • Followed established safety rules and regulations and maintained a safe and clean environment.

Top Carpenter Employers

Carpenter Videos

Training for a Career as a Union Carpenter

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