Following blueprints or other specifications, a carpenter builds, assembles, installs and repairs fixtures and structures that are usually made of wood. A carpenter may also work with other materials such as plastic, fiberglass or drywall.
There were about 901,200 carpenters employed in 2012. Most work in the construction industry. Jobs are usually full time, and overtime is often required to meet deadlines. Over a third of carpenters are self-employed.
There are some dangers and discomforts that come with this job. Carpenters do work that is very physical. They must lift heavy materials and spend a lot of time on their feet or kneeling. They are also frequently in cramped spaces and often have to stand on ladders. It's not a surprise, then, that those who work in this occupation have a high rate of injuries that include falls, cuts, and strained muscles.
There are several ways to become a carpenter. The most common way is to do a three or four-year apprenticeship that includes technical and paid on-the-job training. Unions and trade associations usually sponsor apprenticeships.
You can find registered apprenticeships, categorized by job title, at "MyNextMove.org". To participate in this type of program, one must be at least 18 years old and a high school graduate. You must pass a drug test. Another route is to enter a training program offered by a contractor. Finally, one can begin his or her career by working as a helper to an experienced carpenter.
In addition to formal and on-the-job training, certain soft skills, or personal qualities, will contribute to an individual's success in this occupation. Physically fitness and good manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination and balance are of the utmost importance. A carpenter must be detail-oriented and good at solving problems.
An experienced carpenter can become a carpentry supervisor, a general construction supervisor or a project manager. Carpenters who are bi-lingual in English and Spanish have a better chance of becoming supervisors than those who are not since many construction workers speak Spanish.
Job Outlook and Earnings
Job prospects for carpenters, especially those with the most training and skills, is expected to be good for the next several years. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in this field will increase much faster than the average for all occupations through 2022.
The median annual salary of carpenters was $40,820, and median hourly wages were $19.63 in 2013 (US).
A Day in a Carpenter's Life
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for carpenter positions found on Indeed.com:
- Construct partitions, small buildings, and concrete forms.
- Build and repair cabinets, tables, office furniture, and related items.
- Operate woodworking machinery.
- Set, brace and strip wood and steel forms.
- Practice and maintain safety regulations and procedures in and out of the shop.
- Prepare and maintain records for construction materials and completed work orders.
- Exercise proper care and maintenance of company equipment.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Carpenters.
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Carpenters.