If you love to build then this guide on how to become a carpenter is for you! Below we will cover the basics of the profession and other relevant questions such as how long does it take to become a carpenter, salary and job prospects, the type of individual who excels at the career, how to become a carpenter apprentice and a journeyman carpenter. Follow the steps below and you will head off down the path to become a master carpenter!
What Does a Carpenter Do?
Carpenters are skilled designers, craftspeople, builders, and business people who work primarily with wood as a construction material. Some carpenters work in large-scale construction (rough carpenters), measuring, cutting, and joining pieces together to build homes or other wooden structures. Others (finish carpenters) design and build specialized objects or structures, including cabinets, furniture, models, wooden instruments, molding or trim, or other finely crafted items. They may add elaborately-detailed features or ornamentation to their creations, or to wooden structures that were built by others.
In addition to their work in original design and construction, carpenters are also repair, restoration, and remodeling experts. They use their woodworking skills and knowledge of wood’s properties to alter or improve existing wooden structures or items, or to return them to near pristine condition.
How Much Does a Carpenter Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, the annual median wage for full-time carpenters was $48,330. Their median hourly wage was about $23.24 per hour, and it is by the hour that carpenters are usually compensated. Carpenters can change locations in search of work opportunities as often as they’d like, since the skills they possess are valued in all geographical regions and populated areas.
At the present time, the demand for trained carpenters in the United States is stable. In fact, current estimates project suggest a slightly negative growth rate in the carpentry profession, with total employment opportunities expected to decline in number by approximately 4,200 between 2019 and 2029. Nevertheless, there will still be job and business opportunities available for newly trained carpenters and those who decide to become carpentry contractors, since Baby Boomers nearing retirement age are well represented in the carpentry profession, which should reduce the number of active carpentry professionals.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Carpenter?
How long it takes to become a carpenter depends on if you already have your high school diploma, as well as, the path you choose to follow. The different paths are laid out below. If you have already completed high school, you may be able to immediately look for a position as a carpenter apprentice, though you’ll probably need some experience and proof of some skillset.
If you choose to first do some academic study, then it can take from half a year to two years to become a carpenter apprentice. A carpenter apprenticeship usually takes 3 to 4 years. After this time you’ll be considered a carpenter.
So, in total, it will take anywhere from 3 to 6 years to become a professional carpenter. For details, continue on to the step by step guide below.
How to Become a Carpenter: A Step-by-Step Guide
Below is our detailed guide on how to get into carpentry.
Step 1: Obtain a High School Diploma
The minimum requirement for becoming a carpenter is to complete your high school education. It could help your chances if you can gain some practical experience working with wood during your secondary school years, through woodworking or carpentry classes, off-campus vocational training programs, or summer jobs working for carpenters, builders, or woodworkers.
Step 2: Enroll in a Vocational/Educational Program
Since on-the-job training is required to learn essential skills, all prospective carpenters are expected to serve apprenticeships. Some candidates seek apprenticeships immediately after high school, but others choose to increase their odds of being selected as an apprentice by studying carpentry in an academic setting first.
Many community colleges, trade schools, and technical schools offer associate degree programs, diplomas and certificates for those aspiring to enter carpentry. While these programs aren’t considered mandatory in the industry, they can help you get started and are especially valuable if you have little or no previous experience in carpentry.
Certificates are the most basic form of carpentry skills training. It takes only one or two semesters to complete a college-level certification program, which will mix classroom instruction with regular hands-on experience in various aspects of the carpentry trade.
Diploma programs take longer to complete (usually two or three semesters), but might be a better choice if you have no previous experience with carpentry whatsoever. Academic work combined with practical, hands-on experience will provide you with a solid base of knowledge in carpentry, helping boost your qualifications when you apply for apprenticeship programs.
Some community colleges do offer two-year associate degrees in carpentry. Pursuing this type of degree could make sense if you know you’d like to someday work in management, or as a contractor. Most aspiring carpenters choose certificate or diploma programs, however, which are intensive enough to prepare you for your apprenticeship.
Step 3: Complete a Carpentry Apprenticeship Program (How to Become a Carpenter Apprentice)
There are three categories of working carpenter: apprentice, journeyman, and contractor. If you want to advance to the journeyman level, you’ll need to complete a carpentry apprenticeship under the expert tutelage of an experienced journeyman carpenter or contractor. You may be wondering how to become a carpenter with no experience. There is a chance you may become a carpenter apprentice without experience, but you will generally need to gain experience as an apprentice to become a fully certified professional carpenter.
Formal apprenticeship programs are widespread in the carpentry profession, and can usually be found in any municipality or county. They may be sponsored by local trade union chapters, contractors’ associations, companies that provide carpentry services, or individual contractors. The application process is competitive, but if you have previous work experience or appropriate academic credentials you should be able to secure a position.
The best way to give yourself an edge in landing a carpenter apprenticeship is to get a few months work experience in a construction trade. This could be as a part-time or full-time job. The two primary unions for carpenters (Laborers’ International Union of North America and United Brotherhood of Carpenters) are a great place to seek out apprenticeships.
If you’re accepted for an apprenticeship, you should know going in that the work and educational requirements will be heavy. Formal carpentry apprenticeships take three or four years to complete, generally involve several thousand hours of on-the-job training, and will require you to complete a few hundred hours of classroom instruction in addition to fulfilling your work requirements (hours completed in an accredited academic program will partially fulfill these continuing education requirements).
The good news is that carpentry apprentices are simultaneously paid employees, meaning you’ll be able to support yourself as you learn. Once you complete your apprenticeship program, the union, contractor, or organization that sponsored it will issue you a verification card that acknowledges your status as a fully-trained journeyman carpenter. This card is not an official license (journeyman carpenters don’t need them), but it will open doors to better employment opportunities.
Step 4: Find Employment as a Journeyman Carpenter (How to Become a Journeyman Carpenter)
With a completed apprenticeship under your belt, you’ll be fully qualified to perform all the duties associated with your chosen profession as a journeyman carpenter (as either a rough, finishing, or specialized carpenter, depending on the nature of your apprenticeship experience). As a full-time employee, you’ll be assigned to work on projects both large and small, with minimal to moderate supervision in most cases. In addition to performing various tasks required to complete various projects, you may also be assigned to train apprentices, who can benefit from your hard-earned knowledge.
As you gain experience, and the trust of your employers, you may eventually graduate to a supervisory role, possibly advancing to the position of lead man or foreman. You may even be able to work independently, as long as you limit yourself to relatively small projects that don’t require a contractor’s license to complete in your state.
You may be wondering how to become a master carpenter. There is no official designation or certification deeming a person as a master carpenter. Having a few years experience as a journeyman carpenter, and strong carpentry skills, will allow you to consider yourself a master carpenter.
Overall, it takes about four years to become a journeyman carpenter (or perhaps a little longer if you enroll in an academic program before seeking your apprenticeship).
Step 5: Become a Licensed Carpentry Contractor
As a licensed or registered contractor, you’ll be eligible to run your own carpentry business, offering a full range of services to potential clients. You’ll be able to accept jobs of all sizes, and hire as many apprentice and journeyman carpenters as you require (or handle all the responsibilities of your business alone, if you prefer).
To become a carpentry contractor, you’ll need to add at least four years of experience as a journeyman carpenter to your list of career accomplishments, in addition to the four years or so it took you to complete your apprenticeship. Once you’ve met this basic requirement, you’ll be eligible to either officially register as a contractor (in some states), or take an exam to obtain your contractor’s license (in other states).
Pros and Cons of a Career as a Carpenter
Pros of Becoming a Carpenter
Carpenters can always see the tangible results of their hard work. The items, objects, or structures they build frequently stay in use for decades, standing as lasting monuments to the carpenter’s skill and creativity. Finish carpenters often have the freedom to customize their work based on their own preferences and artistic vision, adding elements of individuality and imagination to they products and structures they make. Meanwhile, rough carpentry practice is ideal for craftsmen and craftswomen who enjoy the outdoors and prefer not to stay cooped up inside all day. Because wood is so commonly used as a construction material in the United States, trained and experienced carpenters never have to worry about their skills becoming obsolete.
Cons of Becoming a Carpenter
Carpenters are often forced to work with some degree of physical discomfort. They may be required to stand or sit in one position for an extended period, possibly for hours at a time. They may also have to work outdoors in the cold, the heat, or in other inclement weather conditions. When carpenters make mistakes, which will happen on occasion, they may have no choice but to scrap the work they’ve completed and start over from the beginning. Because carpenters use power tools and other sharp instruments, they do face some risk of serious or disabling injury at all times, although the likelihood of such a contingency can be dramatically reduced with a cautious approach.
Important Characteristics of a Successful Carpenter
Carpentry is an appealing profession for those who have a strong independent streak, and the discipline to get things done with minimal or no supervision.
Like other craftsmen and women, carpenters must sincerely enjoy working with their hands. The most successful carpenters are genuinely excited when they finish a project, gaining a great sense of satisfaction from the final result. But they also enjoy the creative process while it’s still in action, and consequently never find their work boring or tedious.
Carpenters must combine patience with the capacity to maintain their concentration for an extended length of time. They generally work on projects that are quite time consuming, yet demand a continuously careful eye for detail. Carpenters often work in environments that are noisy, dusty, crowded, hot or cold, or drenched in sunlight. Yet, they must maintain their focus despite these potential distractions.
The best carpenters are perfectionists. They demand a lot of themselves, and are unwilling to overlook even the smallest flaw or imperfection in their work. They don’t take shortcuts and will stay with each element of a project until it is done precisely according to specifications. They also don’t waste time, since doing so could easily put them behind schedule and violate their perfectionist-driven sense of propriety and responsibility.
This article has addressed the question of how do you become a carpenter and has detailed the steps and relevant information in attempt to answer questions such as how long does it take to become a carpenter. If you have read over everything above then you now know how to become a master carpenter and the type of person who is likely to succeed in this profession. We wish you lots of success!