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How to Become a Carpenter: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a carpenter. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in carpentry.

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Do I Want to Be a Carpenter?

Carpenters work with wood and other materials to complete a variety of construction projects. A career in carpentry requires the ability to read blueprints, lay out projects, cut wood and assemble different materials. They are also responsible for ensuring their work is accurate and in compliance with building standards. Heavy lifting, climbing ladders, standing for prolonged periods and working in all types of weather might make this occupation physically demanding. Carpenters over work overtime when a deadline draws near.

Job Requirements

The most common avenue to a career in carpentry is a 3-4 year apprenticeship after completing high school. Some may also choose to pursue a 2-year degree program in carpentry. The following table outlines the basic requirements for carpenters:

Common Requirements
Degree Level A high school diploma or equivalent is considering sufficient education; some individuals may choose to enroll in formal education programs*
Degree Field Carpentry*
Experience None is required to enter the profession*
Key Skills Manual dexterity is essential for carpenters since they work with their hands on a daily basis; carpenters should pay close attention to details and possess strong math and problem-solving skills*
Computer Skills Carpenters may use accounting, job costing, estimating, scheduling and project management software; experience with Microsoft Excel and Word may also be helpful**
Technical Skills Experience using a variety of hand and power tools, including chisels, levels, sanders, saws and nail guns, is important*
Additional Requirements Carpenters are especially susceptible to injury on the job; strength, stamina and focus are important for this profession*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine.

Step 1: Complete an Apprenticeship

Being admitted to a carpentry apprenticeship program is the most common path to becoming a carpenter. Apprenticeships, which generally take 3-4 years to complete, offer on-the-job training along with classroom instruction. An apprentice must be at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen and high school graduate. Potential apprentices are also subject to drug screenings. Individuals are educated in subjects such as carpentry techniques, blueprint reading, safety practices and scaffold construction. For each year of an aspiring carpenter's apprenticeship, he or she will complete at least 144 hours of technical training and 2000 hours of practical training in the field.

Success Tips:

  • Use on-the-job training to hone skills. Working with experienced carpenters during an apprenticeship program is a good way to gain necessary expertise with the tools of the trade. Carpenters use a variety of different tools on a daily basis, and learning how to use these tools safely is essential in a profession with a high rate of injury.
  • Develop a fitness routine. A carpenter's job can be very taxing physically; they work on their feet, both indoor and outdoors, and sometimes in small spaces. Following a fitness regimen may be a good way to stay in shape and build physical stamina.

Step 2: Consider Postsecondary Education

Though it is not mandatory to break into the profession, aspiring carpenters may complete formal carpentry programs at technical schools or colleges. This formal training offers additional experience in the trade. Diploma, certificate and associate's degree programs are all available in carpentry. Educational coursework includes building codes, concrete work, blueprint reading, roof framing, building materials, tools, building layouts and fasteners. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that credit earned during an apprenticeship program may be applied to an associate's degree program (www.bls.gov).

Success Tip:

  • Take Spanish courses. The BLS states that carpenters who speak both English and Spanish may be better positioned for advancement in the field since they can effectively communicate with workers on their teams. Taking Spanish courses while enrolled in school could help individuals gain proficiency in communicating with bilingual workers.
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