Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 carpenter Jobs

  • Carpenter - Interglass - Medley, FL

    Work Environment: Employee must lift up to 70 lbs., moderate noise level and temperature, requires good vision and hearing. Company Essentials

  • Carpenter - Kustom US - Seattle, WA

    Experienced carpenter with proficiency in framing, drywall, and trim. Must be versatile and able to work independently. Requirements

  • Skilled Carpenter - Westover Companies - King of Prussia, PA

See all carpenter jobs

What Carpenters Do[About this section] [To Top]

Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures—such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, rafters, and bridge supports—made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.

Duties of Carpenters

Carpenters typically do the following:

  • Follow blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients
  • Install structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding
  • Measure, cut, and shape wood, plastic, and other materials
  • Construct building frameworks, including walls, floors, and doorframes
  • Erect, level, and install building framework with the aid of rigging hardware and cranes
  • Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
  • Instruct and direct laborers and other construction helpers

Carpenters are one of the most versatile construction occupations, with workers usually doing many different tasks. For example, some carpenters primarily insulate office buildings and others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Those who help construct tall buildings or bridges often install the wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars and are commonly referred to as rough carpenters. Other carpenters erect shoring and scaffolding for buildings.

Carpenters use many different hand and power 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 do a final check of their work to ensure that it is completed according to specifications. They use a tape measure on nearly every project to make sure that the pieces being cut are the proper size, which reduces waste and saves time. Many employers require applicants to supply their own tools.

The following are examples of types of carpenters:

Residential carpenters typically specialize in single-family, townhome, and condominium building and remodeling. As part of a single job, they might build and set forms for footings, walls, and slabs, and frame and finish exterior walls, roofs, and decks. They also frame interior walls, build stairs, and install drywall, crown molding, doors, and cabinets. In addition, residential carpenters may tile floors and lay wood floors and carpet. Fully trained carpenters can easily switch from new homebuilding to remodeling.

Commercial carpenters typically build and remodel commercial office buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools, and shopping malls. Some specialize in working with light-gauge and load-bearing steel framing for interior partitions, exterior framing, and curtain wall construction. Others specialize in working with concrete forming systems and finishing interior and exterior walls, partitions, and ceilings. Most commercial carpenters perform many of the same tasks as residential carpenters.

Industrial carpenters typically work on civil engineering projects and in industrial settings, where they build scaffolding and create and set forms for pouring concrete. Some industrial carpenters build tunnel bracing or partitions in underground passageways and mines to control the circulation of air to worksites. Others build concrete forms for tunnels, bridges, dams, power plants, or sewers.

Work Environment for Carpenters[About this section] [To Top]

Carpenters hold about 945,400 jobs. The industries that employ the most carpenters are as follows:

Residential building construction 20%
Nonresidential building construction 12
Building finishing contractors 11

About 1 in 3 carpenters are self-employed. Most carpenters work in the construction industry, where they account for the largest share of the building trades occupations.

Because carpenters are involved in many types of construction, from building highways and bridges to installing kitchen cabinets, they work both indoors and outdoors.

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.

Injuries and Illnesses

Carpenters have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Although a few types of accidents are potentially fatal, the most common injuries include muscle strains from lifting heavy materials, falls from ladders, and cuts from sharp objects and tools.

Carpenter Work Schedules

Nearly all carpenters work full time, which may include working evenings and weekends. Overtime is common in order to meet deadlines. Extreme temperatures or inclement weather may cause delays and limit the number of hours of work.

About 1 in 3 carpenters are self-employed. Self-employed workers often work in residential construction and may be able to set their own schedule.

How to Become a Carpenter[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Carpenters near you!

Although most carpenters learn their trade through an apprenticeship, some learn on the job, starting as a helper.

Carpenter Education

A high school diploma or equivalent is required. High school courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, and general vocational technical training are considered useful.

Carpenter Training

Most carpenters learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship program. For each year of a typical program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. In the technical 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, working within confined workspaces, and fall protection. All carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10- and 30-hour safety courses.

After finishing an apprenticeship, carpenters are considered to be journey workers and may perform tasks on their own.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. The basic qualifications for a person to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work
  • U.S. citizen or proof of legal residency
  • Pass substance abuse screening

Some contractors have their own carpenter training program, which may be an accredited apprenticeship program.

Although many workers enter apprenticeships directly, some carpenters start out as helpers.

Some workers can earn certificates before entering an apprenticeship. The National Association of Home Builders offers Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) through the Home Builders Institute. PACT is available for several different groups, from youths to veterans, and covers information for eight construction trades, including painting.

Workers typically learn the proper use of hand and power tools on the job. They often start by working with more experienced carpenters and are given more complex tasks as they prove that they can handle simpler tasks, such as measuring and cutting wooden and metal studs.

A number of 2-year technical schools offer carpentry degrees that are affiliated with unions or contractor organizations. Credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree.

Advancement for Carpenters

Because they are involved in all phases of construction, carpenters usually have more opportunities than other construction workers to become first-line supervisors, independent contractors, or general construction supervisors.

Carpenters seeking advancement often take additional training provided by associations, unions, or employers. Communication in both English and Spanish also is helpful for relaying instructions to workers.

Important Qualities for Carpenters

Business skills. Self-employed carpenters must be able to bid on new jobs, track inventory, and plan work assignments.

Detail oriented. Carpenters perform many tasks that are important in the overall building process. Making precise measurements, for example, may reduce gaps between windows and frames, limiting any leaks around the window.

Dexterity. Carpenters use many tools and need hand-eye coordination to avoid injury or damaging materials. Striking the head of a nail, for example, is crucial to not damaging wood or injuring oneself.

Math skills. Carpenters use basic math skills every day to calculate volume and measure materials to be cut.

Physical stamina. Carpenters need physical endurance. They frequently stand, climb, or bend for long periods.

Physical strength. Carpenters use tools and materials that are heavy. For example, plywood sheets can weigh 50 to 100 pounds.

Problem-solving skills. Because construction jobs vary, carpenters must adjust project plans accordingly. For example, if a prefabricated window arrives at the worksite slightly oversized, carpenters must shave framework to make the window fit.

Carpenter Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for carpenters is $40,820. 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 $25,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,750.

The median annual wages for carpenters in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Nonresidential building construction $45,620
Building finishing contractors 41,100
Residential building construction 38,990

The starting pay for apprentices usually is between 30 percent and 50 percent of what fully trained carpenters make. As apprentices learn to do more, they receive pay increases.

Nearly all carpenters work full time, which may include working evenings and weekends. Overtime is common in order to meet deadlines. Extreme temperatures or inclement weather may cause delays and limit the number of hours of work.

About 1 in 3 carpenters are self-employed. Self-employed workers often work in residential construction and may be able to set their own schedule.

Job Outlook for Carpenters[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of carpenters is projected to grow 6 percent through 2024, 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 stimulate the need for many new workers. Home remodeling needs should also spur demand for carpenters.

In addition, the need to repair and replace roads and bridges should increase employment of carpenters. Much of this growth, however, depends on spending by federal and state governments as they attempt to upgrade existing infrastructure.

The construction of factories and power plants also may result in some new jobs.

However, moderating some of the growth will be the increasing use of modular and prefabricated components. Roof assemblies, walls, stairs, and complete bathrooms are just a few of the prefabricated components that can be manufactured in a separate facility and then assembled onsite by carpenters. Installing prefabricated components replaces the most labor-intensive and time-consuming onsite building activities.

Carpenters Job Prospects

Overall job prospects for carpenters should be good over the coming decade as construction activity continues to grow. There remains a need to replace many carpenters who left the occupation since 2006. Prospective carpenters with a basic set of carpentry tools will have better prospects.

The number of job openings is expected to vary by geographic area. Because construction activity parallels the movement of people and businesses, areas of the country with the largest population increases will require the most carpenters.

Employment of carpenters, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. On the one hand, workers in these trades may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, peak periods of building activity may produce shortages of carpenters.

Employment projections data for Carpenters, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Carpenters 945,400 1,005,800 6 60,400

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Explore more careers: View all Careers or Browse Careers by Category

Search for jobs: