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Carpenter Career Guide

Like many construction careers, a career as a carpenter offers excellent employment opportunities with little educational commitment. To become a carpenter, you will need a high school diploma, to complete an apprenticeship, be physically fit and to have excellent mathematical, communication and organization skills.

You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, or work outside. It could be ninety-five or negative five, but I’m still out there

Dan Enright

Carpenter Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Carpenter Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Carpenter field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33395 Carpenter Male 50 $15,000 madison heights, VA 01/01/2010

Overview

What a carpenter actually does

Carpenters are specialists within the construction field. They work to build anything from furniture and cabinets to complexed wooden structures, such as timber frames, doors or windows. There are lots of different types of carpenters, some examples include: scenic carpenters, restoration carpenters, preservation carpenters, residential carpenters, industrial carpenters and commercial carpenters.

Their typical responsibilities and duties will vary dependent on what area of carpentry they specialize in, the size of the organization or their level of skill or experience. However, carpenters can expect to do the following on a regular basis:

  • Designing and assembling well-constructed floorboards, skirting boards, window frames, doors, door linings, staircases, fitted furniture, cabinetry and shelving
  • Incorporating fixtures like door handles and locks, cabinet handles, stairway railing and other fixtures into design and implementation
  • Building the framework of a building, bridge, ship, or other large-scale construction project
  • Working with designers and planners on construction projects
  • Matching and choosing materials to requested design specifications
  • Measuring building materials and spaces accurately
  • Ordering building materials (normally wood) as needed
  • Repairing and refurbishing existing building work
  • Replacing damaged wood in hardwood floors and outdoor decks
  • Using power tools and other tools to cut and shape wood, metal, and other materials
  • Communicating with the rest of the construction team, such as plumbers, bricklayers or ground workers

Why they are needed

Carpenters are crucial members of the workforce as they help build and grow society by playing a vital role in building the homes we live in. They are also responsible for building, modelling and repairing infrastructure, like buildings and skyscrapers, that are critical for society. The work of carpenters allows us to deal with and support the growing population by providing safe environments for people to live, work and play in.

Pros and cons of a career as a police officer

Pros:

  • There are lots of opportunities within the construction industry. For example, carpenters can become self-employed, work in different sized organizations or progress to more senior and specialist roles with more responsibilities
  • There is a steady job outlook for carpenters. This is because the construction industry at a whole is growing at a healthy rate to match the demands of the growing population
  • It is an easy career to access, with many carpenters only needing a high school diploma to get a job. Once hired, carpenters get all of the training they need on the job

Cons:

  • Working as a carpenter often means working in all kinds of weather conditions, such as the freezing cold, heavy rain, extreme heat or high winds
  • There are many safety hazards as carpenters work with power tools, heavy wood and at heights, which can be dangerous and lead to injury
  • Carpenters have a lot of responsibility as they must ensure that structures are built correctly to prevent serious injury or damage

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of carpenters is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This increase in employment is primarily due to the population growth, which should result in the need for more home construction, where carpenters are essential. Similarly, the construction of factories and power plants is also expected to result in some job growth.

However, the increasing popularity of modular and prefabricated components and homes may limit the demand for more carpenters. For example, roof assemblies, bathrooms, windows, and entire buildings can now all be manufactured in a separate facility and then assembled onsite, which is less labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Carpenters, like all other occupations in the construction industry, will also be subject to periods of unemployment as building construction slows during cold months.

Career paths

Job prospects of carpenters, with all levels of education or experience, are good as construction activity is expected to continue to increase. To become a carpenter, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. Certain high school courses, such as mathematics, chemistry or mechanical drawing, may be useful but are not essential. Furthermore, some vocational-technical schools offer associate’s degrees in carpentry.

Carpenters then typically learn on the job or through apprenticeship, where they begin doing simple tasks and then progress to more complex tasks, such as reading blueprints and building wooden structures. Apprenticeship programmes vary slightly by state and region, but typically they must complete a predetermined number of hours of technical training and paid on-the-job training. All carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10-hour safety course.

Example Job Titles for Carpenter

Below is a list of common job titles in the Carpenter field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a carpenter in the United States was $48,330 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $84,690. The starting pay for apprentices is obviously less than what fully trained carpenters. As apprentices gain experience, their pay will increase.

The highest paid industries for carpenters are nonresidential building construction, where the average salary is $53,040 per year. This is closely followed by building finishing contractors, where the average yearly salary is $49,440.

Autonomy and Flexibility

The level of flexibility in carpentry varies depending on the level of experience a carpenter has. For instance, qualified carpenters will obviously have more task flexibility than apprentices. Flexibility also varies dependent on whether a carpenter is self-employed or works for a company. Carpenters who are independent contractors/self-employed will have more flexibility and autonomy, but they will also need to form and manage relationships with builders and suppliers to ensure materials are available at affordable prices and that ongoing work is available.

Locations and commute

The number of job openings for carpenters will vary regionally because different areas are experiencing more development than others. According to Zippa, the best states to be a carpenter in 2020, based on average annual salary and the number of job opportunities available, are:

  1. Maine, where the average annual salary is $60,684
  2. New Hampshire, where the average annual salary is $54,085
  3. Rhode Island, where the average annual salary is $55,230
  4. Washington, where the average annual salary is $55,553
  5. Iowa, where the average annual salary is $49,841

The worst states to be a carpenter, according to Zippa, were Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, New Mexico and Texas.

Additionally, it is also important to note that carpentry will teach you skill that you can use worldwide, this means that carpenters have the opportunity to find work all over the world.

Work environment

Most carpenters work full time, which may include evenings and weekends, to meet each clients’ deadline. Extreme weather conditions may impact building construction timelines, which in turn may affect carpenters’ hours. However, carpenters typically work in manufacturing facilities or residential and commercial buildings, which are less effected by extreme weather conditions.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Carpenter careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Carpenter career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Carpenter.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

There has been no scientific exploration into exactly what personality types will make a successful carpenter. However, the Myers Briggs personality type of ISTP, or otherwise known as ‘the craftsperson’, is likely to be a successful carpenter. This is because these types are able to tackle problems in their immediate environment, with an innate mechanical ability and they enjoy building and fixing objects. ISTPs are typically very attentive to detail, independent, adaptable and self-directed, which are key skills for carpenters.

Accomplishment and mastery

As carpenters can enter the profession without much education and learn a lot of skills in a short space of time, there is a high sense of accomplishment and mastery. This sense of accomplishment and mastery will continue as, throughout their career, carpenters will finish many successful projects which are safe, high quality and aesthetically pleasing.

Meaning and contribution

There is high meaning and contribution to being a carpenter as their work helps support the growing population and provides safe spaces for members of society, which is invaluable.

Life fit

Carpenters tend to work full time. Due to weather conditions, such as extreme heat, carpenters tend to start work earlier than other professions. This means that carpentry can offer a good life fit, as carpenters will have evenings free to spend time with family or do leisure activities.

Who will thrive in this career?

In order to thrive as a carpenter, you will need to be physically fit to lift heavy building material and to keep up with the general demands of the job. On top of this, those who are good at mathematics and have the ability to pay excellent attention to detail will thrive, as a carpenter needs to follow specific instructions and blueprints.

Who will struggle in this career?

If working outside in extreme weather conditions isn’t for you, then you probably won’t enjoy being a carpenter that much. Similarly, if you are not physically fit, for whatever reason, then you may struggle to keep up with the demands of the job. Finally, if you do not have patience and don’t like to pay attention to detail, then as a job as a carpenter will require you to work to every millimeter, it might not be right for you.

Requirements

Skills and talents

Carpenters will learn a lot of skills through their apprenticeships. However, it is also important to have skills such as:

  • Mathematical skills, because carpenters need to do everything from calculating wall heights and floor space, to measuring angles in order to make the right cuts for corners
  • Detail orientation, as carpenters must be very precise in their work
  • Critical thinking, as carpenters must be able to problem-solve when issues arise in a project. Such issues may include a project running on for longer than expected or the materials ordered being the wrong size
  • Communication skills are key as carpenters need to be able to communicate with clients and other construction workers

Education

Carpenters need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Certain high school courses, such as mathematics, chemistry or mechanical drawing, may be useful but are not essential. Furthermore, some vocational-technical schools offer associate’s degrees in carpentry.

Carpenters then typically learn on the job or through apprenticeship, where they begin doing simple tasks and then progress to more complex tasks, such as reading blueprints and building wooden structures. Apprenticeship programmes vary slightly by state and region, but typically they must complete a predetermined number of hours of technical training and paid on-the-job training. All carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10-hour safety course.

Certifications

If carpenters wants to progress or specialize, they can take optional programs that offer certification by specialty. For example, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers various levels of certification for remodeling. Or, the National Wood Flooring Association offers certification for installers, craftsman, and master craftsman.

 

How to Become

Summary

Like many construction careers, a career as a carpenter offers excellent employment opportunities with little educational commitment.

Immediate action

If you want to become a carpenter, then we recommend contacting local carpentry firms to see what apprenticeship schemes they have available. It is also advisable to get experience in the construction industry. This can be done by getting a job as a construction worker.

Education and learning

Carpenters need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Carpenters then typically learn on the job or through apprenticeship, where they begin doing simple tasks and then progress to more complex tasks, such as reading blueprints and building wooden structures. Apprenticeship programmes vary slightly by state and region, but typically they must complete a predetermined number of hours of technical training and paid on-the-job training.

Skill development

Carpenters learn all the skills they need on the job, typically through apprenticeships. They continue to develop their skills throughout their career by continually learning or even specializing in a certain area of carpentry.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Carpenter careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33395 Carpenter Male 50 $15,000 madison heights, VA 01/01/2010

Resources