Carpenters are craftspersons with a wide range of skills who work with a variety of materials building and repairing structures and fixtures. Carpenters plan, construct, install, or make repairs on buildings, structures, fixtures, and boats using wood, plastic, drywall, fiberglass, plastic, or other materials. Carpenters may work independently or for general contractors. Some may even work for factories, large contracting companies, or unions. Many carpenters specialize their skills and work using only one particular skill, like woodworking construction. Carpenters also frame structures, erect scaffolds, construct brattices, and build forms for poured concrete. Carpenters generally follow instructions from supervisors or blueprints to design and build a number of projects.
Carpenters must be familiar with and follow local buildings codes, local construction ordinances, and other regulations which dictate where and how specific materials can be used. With most projects, carpenters create layouts and measure, mark, and arrange materials. Carpenters then use a variety of hand and power tools, including chisels, saws, planes, sanders, drills, and power tools to cut and shape materials. Carpenters then join the materials using staples, glue, nails, and other adhesives while checking for accuracy with levels, framing squares, plumb bobs, tape measures, levels, and surveying equipment. Carpenters also make the required adjustments to ensure precise and proper installation and function. Carpenters also install and finish prefabricated kits, like those for stairs, walls, or partitions. Carpenters also place, move, and install machinery within factories
Experienced and highly skilled carpenters may perform a wide range of projects within residential building, commercial construction, remodeling, or repair work. Carpenters often work as part of a team of general contractors installing or replacing windows, doors, and ceilings, forming concrete molds for foundations and other masonry work, or erecting frames for houses, garages, additions, and other buildings.
High school students interested in a career as a carpenter can prepare long before graduation. Courses like: English, Algebra, geometry, physics, physical education, carpentry, general shop, drawing, mathematics, mechanical drawing, and blueprint reading offer students basic knowledge of the field. Students may also work with a more experienced contractor or construction company to gain the hands on work experiences necessary for future apprenticeships or educational programs.
Qualifying as a skilled carpenter generally requires 3 to 4 years of on the job training paired with courses and classroom experiences. Some high school graduates may gain entry level employment as carpenter’s helpers and gradually advance while others may begin an apprenticeship. Most commercial contractors, industrial building contractors, and construction unions, offer apprenticeship programs. Competition for admission into an apprenticeship is highly competitive, involves a 3 year time investment upon acceptance, and requires candidates to be a minimum of 18 years old. Students must successfully pass an entrance exam demonstrating their carpentry skills and abilities before beginning the apprenticeship. Apprenticeships allow students to increase technical skills and expand knowledge by working closely with more experienced carpenters through the combination of hands on and classroom experiences. Apprenticeship programs provide students with the training necessary to practice classroom theories and techniques, apply math and problem solving skills, and understand the safety, first aid, freehand sketching, basic mathematics, blueprint reading, layout, and carpentry techniques like form building, framing, interior and exterior finishing processes required for employment. Completion of an apprenticeship offers individuals the ability to certify as a journeyperson. Individuals then advance to employment or continue studies within certification programs, trade schools, or community colleges.
Individuals who choose to further studies within trade or vocational schools or community colleges generally go on to two year programs. These programs offer students instruction based in a range of construction methods, safety methods, and design practices as well as the ability to apply classroom theories and techniques within hands on experiences. Courses within a two year program consist of: Algebra; geometry; physics; hand tool selection; tool care and proper usage; blueprint reading;, architectural drawing; identification and measurement of materials; machine woodworking; geometric layout; project budgeting, management, and estimating; building technology; building code requirements; roofing systems; framing and finishing; door and window layout, construction, and installation; and mechanical systems. Many two year programs also complete Spanish courses in order to communicate with workers who speak the language. Graduates from two year programs often establish careers as carpenters or continue studies within related educational fields, like carpentry management or engineering.
Carpenters who complete formal training, gain work experience, and complete required licensure or certification often find a number of employment and advancement opportunities. Many are promoted to supervisory or management positions within larger construction firms. Some may also work independently upon gaining necessary training and adequate funding.