How to Become a Carpenter

November 28, 2022

Many construction trades are necessary to finish a construction project. Carpentry is one of the needs that a general construction supervisor might need to fill among the many professionals they oversee. 

If you're looking to join the construction industry and its many ranks of general contractors, then you might decide to follow the career path of carpentry and work on the many construction projects available.

You don't need hands-on experience to get into cabinet making, and you can learn blueprint reading and develop the right skill set if you go through a good apprenticeship program. Dexterity certainly helps aspiring carpenters finish carpentry training. 

The job outlook and annual salary can be good for carpenter jobs, but you need to know how to become a contractor first and what they do as construction workers.

What Does a Carpenter Do?

Carpenters might work from supervisor instructions or blueprints, but everything they do has to be in compliance with local building codes. 

Primary responsibilities of carpenters can range from the accurate shaping, cutting, and measuring of materials, including fiberglass, wood, plastic, and drywall, to installing structures and fixtures, such as windows, cabinets, and doors. Carpenters might also work on floors, furniture, shelves, cabinets, and stairways.

In many cases, they will need to know how to ascertain the project materials are necessary as well as how to estimate the costs of a project. They will operate different hand tools, such as chisels, drills, and power saws. They might also assist supervisors with layout, planning, and structural design.

What Skills Does a Carpenter Need?

Carpentry requires many different skills. Some are physical for the actual labor involved with the profession. Other skills are more mental in nature.

Physical strength, stamina, and manual dexterity are all crucial to the carpentry profession. Dexterity allows a carpenter to use various tools with accuracy and precision. Strength helps a carpenter carry or reposition building materials that might weigh a lot. Stamina keeps a carpenter moving through long work hours.

Math skills are necessary every day to be sure enough building materials are available and that they have the right size. Problem-solving becomes crucial to both prevent issues and solve complications that arise. Business skills prove essential for marketing, pricing, and customer service, especially for the self-employed.

Essentials Carpenter Qualifications

If you want to be truly successful as a carpenter, then experience and training are necessary. They will also take you a long way, but you might need other elements that clients and job supervisors are looking for. Catering to these criteria makes it more likely you get hired for work over others.

Working without a license can be a huge professional risk. In many states, it's even illegal. Count on many private consumers and industry professionals to ask for your credentials and then verify them.

Insurance is another common requirement. You might not get hired unless you have both worker's compensation insurance and liability coverage. A contractor license bond is another plus to many people who might hire you, and often a prerequisite.

Can you provide a warranty to those you work for? Two different kinds of warranties are possible. One is for the materials you use, and the other is for your workmanship.

Your last qualification to land work consistently is simply availability. Many projects will be urgent or time-sensitive. If your timeframe doesn't align with the project needs, then you might not be able to finish what they need done or even start.

How Much Can You Earn as a Carpenter?

Most carpenters work a full-time schedule. Their average salary typically reflects two distinct factors. The first is their geographical location, and the second is their level of professional expertise.

The national base salary across the United States is $21.23 per hour. The median pay for carpenters in 2020 was $49,520. Annual median wages varied for specific industries within the carpentry sector.

Contractors working on building exteriors, structural work, and foundation projects earned $48,430. Building finishing contractors were earning $50,030. Nonresidential building construction work came in at a median of $54,220, while residential contractors were taking in $48,430 per year.

Steps to Become a Carpenter

Whether you are doing a carpentry apprenticeship or working for construction companies as a journeyman carpenter, there are several steps that you need to go through before you get busy with saws, building materials, and frameworks for your living.

1. Obtain a High School Education

There's a lot about blueprints and woodworking you can learn on your own. However, an apprenticeship program is usually going to require a minimum level of basic education. That might be a high school diploma. If you didn't finish high school, then a GED might also be acceptable.

High school students can usually start developing their trade skills with classes in mathematics, dating, and carpentry. Such courses prepare you for the terminology and techniques used in more advanced levels of carpentry education. Certain apprenticeship programs permit their students to begin working alongside veteran carpenters before they graduate, so long as they are still working towards getting a diploma.

2. Complete Your Apprenticeship

If you want to eventually become a master carpenter and be self-employed full-time, then you need to finish your apprenticeship. These frequently happen through industrial and commercial employers. You might also find options through construction unions, such as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

You might be on your own for physical strength and hand-eye coordination, but these programs will teach you things like how to read a mechanical drawing or develop problem-solving skills and math skills. You'll also likely learn about OSHA regulations and requirements.

As you go through a training program with experienced carpenters and learn about drywall and roofing specifics, you'll eventually become a journeyman in certification. Your knowledge of hand tools, building codes, and power tools will come into play. You will also have the option to pursue more job training and work experience with additional schooling.

3. Get More Schooling

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics information shows that carpentry is like other professions in those professionals with more skills, training, and accredited education or experience are likely to make more money. You don't have to get an associate degree through a community college, but any extra training program you take through a trade school or technical school is likely to advance your career. Doing so can help you stand out among a group of other carpentry applicants.

Emphasize learning special things, such as building layouts, siding and moldings, foundation work, and stair construction. A certificate in carpentry or an official educational degree can put you in a better position in the industry. Your earning potential will probably go up, thanks to having this in your background.

4. Hone Marketable Skills

Having the right background to get into the field is a great start, but you also need to know how to market yourself. Choosing a niche to specialize in can result in more work, be it roofing, cabinetry, infrastructure, or renovation. You can also increase your number of prospects and professional network connections if you are bilingual in two languages common to your particular region of choice.

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