How to Become a Carpenter
Apprentice carpenters learn by working with more experienced coworkers.
Carpenters typically learn on the job and through apprenticeships.
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required. High school courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, and general vocational technical training are considered useful. Some technical schools offer associate’s degrees in carpentry. The programs vary in length and teach basics and specialties in carpentry.
Carpenters typically learn on the job and through apprenticeships and learn the proper use of hand and power tools on the job. They often begin doing simpler tasks under the guidance of experienced carpenters. For example, they start with measuring and cutting wood, and learn to do 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 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job 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, and working within confined workspaces. All carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10- and 30-hour safety courses.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Some carpenters work as construction laborers or helpers before becoming carpenters. They learn to become carpenters while working under the guidance of an experienced carpenter. Laborers and helpers learn tasks that are similar to those performed by carpenters.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Many carpenters need a driver’s license or reliable transportation, since their work is done on jobsites.
Carpenters do not need certification for the job. However, there are certificate programs that teach basics for carpenters interested in completing an apprenticeship, such as the Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) offered by the Home Builders Institute. Other programs offer certifications by specialty. For example, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers various levels of certificates for remodeling.
Carpenters are involved in many phases of construction and may have opportunities to become first-line supervisors, independent contractors, or general construction supervisors.
Business skills. Self-employed carpenters must bid on new jobs, track inventory, and plan work assignments.
Detail oriented. Carpenters make precise cuts, measurements, and modifications. For example, properly installing windows and frames provides greater insulation to buildings.
Dexterity. Carpenters use many tools and need hand-eye coordination to avoid injury or damaging materials. For example, incorrectly striking a nail with a hammer may cause damage to the nail, wood, or oneself.
Math skills. Carpenters frequently use basic math skills to calculate area, precisely cut material, and determine the amount of material needed to complete the job.
Physical strength. Carpenters use heavy tools and materials that can weigh up to 100 pounds. Carpenters also need physical endurance; they frequently stand, climb, or bend for many hours.
Problem-solving skills. Carpenters may need to modify building material and make adjustments onsite to complete projects. For example, if a prefabricated window that is oversized arrives at the worksite, carpenters shave the framework to make the window fit.