Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.
Carpenters typically do the following:
Carpenters are a versatile occupation in the construction industry, with workers usually doing many different tasks. For example, some carpenters insulate office buildings and others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Those who help construct tall buildings or bridges often install wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars and are commonly referred to as rough carpenters. Rough carpenters also erect shoring and scaffolding for buildings.
Carpenters use many different tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They commonly use hand tools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, nail guns, and welding machines.
Carpenters fasten materials together with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives, and check their work to ensure that it is precisely completed. They use tape measures on nearly every project to quickly measure distances. Many employers require applicants to supply their own tools.
The following are examples of types of carpenters:
Construction carpenters construct, install, and repair structures and fixtures of wood, plywood, and wallboard, using carpenter's hand tools and power tools.
Rough carpenters build rough wooden structures, such as concrete forms; scaffolds; tunnel, bridge, or sewer supports; and temporary frame shelters, according to sketches, blueprints, or oral instructions.
Carpenters hold about 1.0 million jobs. The largest employers of carpenters are as follows:
|Residential building construction||21|
|Nonresidential building construction||12|
|Building finishing contractors||11|
|Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors||9|
Carpenters work indoors and outdoors on many types of construction projects, from building highways and bridges to installing kitchen cabinets. Carpenters may work in cramped spaces. They frequently shift between lifting, standing, and kneeling, the result of which can be tiring. Those who work outdoors are subject to variable weather conditions, which may limit a carpenter's ability to work.
Carpenters have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. The most common injuries include strains from lifting heavy materials, falls from ladders, and cuts from sharp objects and tools. Carpenters often wear safety equipment such as boots, hardhats, protective eyewear, and reflective vests to protect themselves from injuries.
Most carpenters work full time, which may include working evenings and weekends. Extreme temperatures or inclement weather can adversely impact building construction timelines, in which case carpenters' work hours may be affected.
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Carpenters typically learn on the job and through apprenticeships.
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required. High school courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, and general vocational technical training are considered useful. Some technical schools offer associate's degrees in carpentry. The programs vary in length and teach basics and specialties in carpentry.
Carpenters typically learn on the job and through apprenticeships and learn the proper use of hand and power tools on the job. They often begin doing simpler tasks under the guidance of experienced carpenters. For example, they start with measuring and cutting wood, and learn to do more complex tasks, such as reading blueprints and building wooden structures.
Several groups, such as unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. For each year of a typical program, apprentices must complete 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Apprentices learn carpentry basics, blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety and first aid practices. They also may receive specialized training in creating and setting concrete forms, rigging, welding, scaffold building, and working within confined workspaces. All carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10- and 30-hour safety courses.
Some carpenters work as construction laborers or helpers before becoming carpenters. They learn to become carpenters while working under the guidance of an experienced carpenter. Laborers and helpers learn tasks that are similar to those performed by carpenters.
Many carpenters need a driver's license or reliable transportation, since their work is done on jobsites.
Carpenters do not need certification for the job. However, there are certificate programs that teach basics for carpenters interested in completing an apprenticeship, such as the Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) offered by the Home Builders Institute. Other programs offer certifications by specialty. For example, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers various levels of certificates for remodeling.
Carpenters are involved in many phases of construction and may have opportunities to become first-line supervisors, independent contractors, or general construction supervisors.
Business skills. Self-employed carpenters must bid on new jobs, track inventory, and plan work assignments.
Detail oriented. Carpenters make precise cuts, measurements, and modifications. For example, properly installing windows and frames provides greater insulation to buildings.
Dexterity. Carpenters use many tools and need hand-eye coordination to avoid injury or damaging materials. For example, incorrectly striking a nail with a hammer may cause damage to the nail, wood, or oneself.
Math skills. Carpenters frequently use basic math skills to calculate area, precisely cut material, and determine the amount of material needed to complete the job.
Physical strength. Carpenters use heavy tools and materials that can weigh up to 100 pounds. Carpenters also need physical endurance; they frequently stand, climb, or bend for many hours.
Problem-solving skills. Carpenters may need to modify building material and make adjustments onsite to complete projects. For example, if a prefabricated window that is oversized arrives at the worksite, carpenters shave the framework to make the window fit.
The median annual wage for carpenters is $43,600. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,070, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,480.
The median annual wages for carpenters in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Nonresidential building construction||$48,110|
|Building finishing contractors||44,300|
|Residential building construction||42,090|
|Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors||40,080|
The starting pay for apprentices is less than what fully trained carpenters make. As apprentices gain experience, they receive more pay.
Most carpenters work full time, which may include working evenings and weekends. Extreme temperatures or inclement weather can adversely impact building construction, in which case carpenters' hours may be affected.
Employment of carpenters is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Population growth should result in more new-home construction—the largest segment employing carpenters—which will require many new workers. The construction of factories and power plants is also expected to result in some new job opportunities in the next ten years.
The increasing popularity of modular and prefabricated components and homes, however, may limit the demand for more carpenters. Roof assemblies, bathrooms, windows, and even entirely prefabricated buildings can be manufactured in a separate facility and then assembled onsite. Installing prefabricated components reduces a labor-intensive and time-consuming aspect of a carpenter's job.
Overall job prospects for carpenters should be good over the coming decade as construction activity continues to grow. Prospective carpenters with a basic set of carpentry tools will have better prospects.
Carpenters and other occupations in the construction industry are subject to periods of unemployment as building construction slows during cold months. Additionally, the number of job openings is expected to vary regionally, because different areas of the country are experiencing more development than others.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2016||Projected Employment, 2026||Change, 2016-26|