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Carpenter and Carpentry Careers, Jobs and Training Information

Carpentry Career and Job Highlights

Within the construction industry, carpenters have the highest number (almost one third) of self-employed people. There is a high demand for carpenters, and so there are excellent opportunities for those entering the field. Well-rounded carpenters with diverse skills will be in highest demand.

Carpentry Career Overview

Carpenters work in many areas within the construction industry. Their job consists of cutting, sizing, and constructing wood or other substances for building residences, businesses, roads, factories, water vessels, piers, bridges, and many other constructions. Their daily work varies based on where they work. A growing number of building managers are hiring sub-contractors who specialize in things like building scaffolds, building with concrete, installing trim, etc. However, carpenters who are employed by the main contractor in a project, not a specialized sub-contractor, may be called upon to perform a number of different jobs like wall-framing, installing windows, constructing stairs, laying floors, making cabinets, or ensuring proper ventilation by making brattices.

Carpenters have to be conversant with building regulations because they often specify the materials that can be used in construction. Although every job carpenters perform has its own demands, most jobs have the same basic procedure. Firstly, carpenters measure, mark, and organize materials for the layout, which is based on a blueprint. They next size, form, and cut the material, whether it’s wood or fiberglass or drywall. To do this they use a variety of hand tools, like chisels, hammers, and sanders; and power tools, like sanders, saws, and drills. They then connect all of the pieces together using adhesives or nails, depending on the material. Finally, they review their craft. They make sure everything is straight and smooth using levelers, sanders, rulers, and squares. Some jobs don’t use all of these steps. For example, jobs that have pre-made pieces, like stairs, don’t need layouts and the cutting and assembly is simpler. Pre-made pieces are specifically made to be easy to use and so usually they can be assembled in only a few steps.

Some carpenters spend most of their time remodeling. This requires a lot of skills in all areas as they have to do a little bit of everything. This means that people who are well-rounded have an edge because they can transfer between remodeling, commercial, and residential construction.

Not all carpenters work in construction. Some are more involved in installing a variety of materials like glass, tiles, doors, and windows. Other might maintain and repair furniture, cabinets, hardwood floors, etc. They might also install locks, partitions, or windows, depending on where they work. Manufacturing firms hire carpenters to install or move machinery.

Carpenter Career Training and Job Qualification

Most carpenters pick up their skills while on the job, but many learn at institutions or through programs like vocational schools or apprenticeships.
The majority of employers of carpenters advocate an apprenticeship because they often provide the most comprehensive training. Local unions like the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the National Association of Home Builders, and the Associated General Contractors Incorporated all sponsor apprenticeships or run programs. Other programs that provide instruction and practical experience are run by local branches of the Associated General Contractors Incorporated and the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Apprenticeships provide practical experience in real work settings. They teach basic design principles and familiarize students with the work of carpenters like framing, interior and exterior finishing, and layout. They also gain experience in using carpentry tools, materials, and equipment. They also learn how carpentry fits in with other construction jobs. In the classroom students learn about safety issues, basic medical skills, interpreting blueprints, mechanical drawing, math, and technique.

Candidates to apprenticeships have to be older than eighteen and many unions test for ability to learn. Most apprenticeships last between three and four years, depending on skill level and aptitude of the student.

Though apprenticeships provide more comprehensive training there are a restricted number of apprenticeships and so many carpenters gain their skills elsewhere. Many employers provide training for their employees, but the nature and thoroughness of that training depends on the size of the establishment. The only instruction a new carpenter receive from small, residential contractors might be in something like rough framing. However, a large contractor might offer training in many different areas. Even though an increasing number of contractors are specializing, it is still beneficial for individuals to gain as many skills possible.

Becoming a carpenter involves a number of qualifications. A high school diploma isn’t necessary but it is advantageous, especially if that education involved math, shop, or sketching. Good carpenters have a few other attributes as well. Manual adroitness and excellent hand-eye coordination are, of course, important. Also, being a carpenter can be physically demanding and so carpenters have to be fit. Math skills, like being able to do mental arithmetic quickly, are also desirable. Many professionals recognize that carpenters can gain valuable experience in the Job Corps or in the Armed Forces.

Advancement opportunities for carpenters are better than in other construction professions because they are involved in so many different areas of construction. They might become supervisors or general construction supervisors. Many decide to work for themselves, which is very difficult but often very rewarding. Being self-employed, rather than working for a contractor, involves the ability to assess the type and amount of materials that a job requires, gauging how much time a job will take, and estimating cost.

Carpentry Job and Employment Opportunities

Forecasts show that carpenters will have very good prospects in coming years. Most openings for new carpenters will be created by retirements and career changes. Many career changes are a result of the fact that it is common for workers without formal education become carpenters and then decide to find other, more comfortable employment. Also, there will be less competition as many workers would rather work in a less physically demanding job.

Employment growth is predicted to occur at the same rate as the mean for all industries. Increasing demand for new factories, residential, and professional structures will call for more carpenters involved in construction. These is especially true as the generation of baby boomers reaches their highest earning capacity and wants larger and better homes, and as many want vacation houses. Also, many buildings will be scheduled for restoration and modernization. Aside from building large residences, many carpenters will be needed to work on the large number of starter homes, apartments, and rental housing required by the stream of immigrants coming to the United States and by the new young adult population made up of children of baby-boomers.

Even though the industry is growing the employment growth caused by this will be counterbalanced as more work is automated. An increasing amount of construction is done using prefabricated and manufactured materials like pre-cut stairs, doors, and windows, which are easy and cheap to put in. Previously complex jobs, like building roofs, can be done in a single operation. There are many other technological advances, therefore much of the traditional work of carpenters is done using modern adhesives, pneumatic tools, etc.

The construction industry is notoriously unstable. Projects are temporary and the industry is extremely sensitive to economic cycles. Higher interest rates, mortgage rates, weather, the time of year, and investment trends can all decrease the number of new buildings needed. Thus, carpenters might find themselves between jobs or unemployed for periods of time. Carpenters can maximize their employability by gaining lots of diverse skills and learning about new technology, materials, and techniques.

Historical Earnings

Carpenters are paid hourly. The majority of carpenters in 2002 earned between roughly $12.60/h and $22/h with a median of $16.50/h. Those on the lowest tenth of the pay scale made under $10/h and those on the highest tenth made over $28/h.