Carpenters are an integral part of the building trades. There is almost always demand for carpenters, so there are many opportunities to get the skills and experience required to grow in this field. Learn what type of work you’ll do on this career path, plus what steps it takes to become a carpenter.
Overview of carpentry
The field of carpentry is diverse and can include small-scale projects like installing trim to large-scale projects like framing houses. Here’s a brief overview of a few different types of carpentry:
- Framing or “rough” carpentry. Framers build the structures of a house and install exterior doors and windows. A neat finish isn’t required because the wood will be covered, often by drywall or some other type of final product.
- Finish carpentry. Finish carpenters focus on the numerous wood details that complete the interior of the home. Finish carpentry includes a number of things, including:
- Interior trim and millwork, such as baseboards, stair railings, crown molding and casing around doors and windows.
- Cabinetry, built-in furniture, and other wood details.
A carpenter differs from a general contractor. A general contractor typically oversees sub-contractors working on a large project. A carpenter can be one of these sub-contractors.
What does a carpenter do?
The day-to-day work of a carpenter can vary greatly. Carpenters—especially framers—need to know how to read blueprints. Finish carpenters might work on projects from finishing stairs to installing moulding to building and installing cabinets. All carpenters must use different types of power tools, including saws, drills, sanders, and routers.
As of January 2022, Jobs2Build reports an annual median salary of $41,240. This can vary based on location and work experience; for instance, expert level carpenters can average over $50k per year.
What skills does a carpenter need?
To become a carpenter, you’ll need the following skills:
- Ability to safely use hand tools and power tools
- Basic construction math
- Knowledge of national and local building codes
- Knowledge of different types of woods and which ones are suited for various projects
- Ability to estimate time and costs involved for projects
- Ability to read blueprints
How to become a carpenter
It takes several years of education and experience to work as a full-time carpenter. These key four steps give you an idea of what it takes to succeed in this field.
Step 1: Earn a high school diploma or GED. While you don’t need a college degree to become a carpenter, you do need to reach high school graduation or earn a GED. One reason for this requirement is because carpentry requires many basic math skills, like calculating angles. Additionally, most carpentry programs offered at technical schools also require a high school diploma or GED for admission.