Every construction project begins with carpentry and that’s why at BlueRecruit we call it “the world’s second oldest profession.” Joking aside, we aren’t just the industry leader in matching skilled tradespeople with great jobs; we are passionate advocates for skilled trade careers. Part of our company vision is to develop the next generation of skilled tradespeople.
This blog post is about becoming a carpenter and we have written similar posts for people who are looking for career opportunities as plumbers, electricians, and construction workers. Each post takes a detailed look into the day-to-day job responsibilities, future hiring outlook and training opportunities available to people who want to advance their careers.
Let’s be honest for a second. Some people reading this post about carpentry have a pretty simple checklist for a job: 1) Low barrier to entry, 2) Quick start date, 3) Steady work. It’s okay if you are considering carpentry because you need a paycheck; we get it. We also want you to consider that carpenters can grow into lead carpenters, general contractors, and entrepreneurs.
So, take a few minutes to read this blog post and consider if you want to start a career in the world’s second oldest profession.
Carpenter Job Description & Job Application
There are lots of people who started in carpentry because of the factors I mentioned earlier. Most people have the basic skills to use a hammer, and they have probably tried a few home improvement projects, but professional carpentry is more complicated.
A carpenter is someone who works with wood. Before you reply, “I know that captain obvious,” there are several jobs in carpentry to choose from. The job titles vary because of the specialty and where the work falls in the building process.
1) Finish Carpentry includes all the work inside a house after framing, sheathing, wiring, plumbing, insulation, and drywall have been installed.
2) Rough Carpentry focuses on forming the foundations, frames, and other basics of building.
3) Joisters construct floor joists.
4) Cabinet Carpenters build cabinets for the kitchen, laundry, and bathrooms
5) Framers exclusively build frames for homes and are typically hired for specific projects
6) Roofers take care of the trusses, beams, and rafters that make a building’s roof structurally sound.
7) Ship Carpentry focuses on shipbuilding and that includes repairs and new construction.
In addition to those job opportunities, there are commercial and residential projects. Commercial carpenters will spend their time working on buildings and bridges. If you were to visit a commercial job site, you would see people working on wooden concrete forms for cement pillars or setting up scaffolding and shoring for projects. On the other hand, residential carpenters spend more time working with hand tools to build or remodel homes.
Carpenter Job Requirements and Duties
Now that you know the basic job titles, let’s look dig a little deeper into job requirements and day-to-day duties. Most job posts for carpenters include a pretty basic set of requirements. If you have a high school diploma or GED, a valid driver’s license, own hand tools and have completed the OSHA safety course, you can meet the basic needs of a potential employer.
Carpentry is an “earn as you learn” job. Without a bachelor’s degree, you can still make a good salary and have your choice of opportunities. But, there are some specific skills you’ll need to be a good carpenter. You must be able to read building plans and be good at math. For basic measurement and cutting, a little arithmetic and division are all you need, but once you get into more sophisticated work like roof structure, you have to be proficient with numbers.
You will also need to be comfortable working outside and have a great work ethic. A residential carpenter’s pay depends upon the square footage of the house he is working on, so the faster he works, the more money he makes. Speed is important, but construction managers and lead carpenters emphasize safety on the job site as well. You will work with a variety of tools, and if you aren’t careful, you can easily injure someone.
Carpenters should also be able to learn on the job. No day is the same, so you have to be able to analyze and adapt. The best carpenters are able to teach the less experienced carpenters around them so the team can work faster and more safely. They also communicate well with plumbers and electricians because they are one team in the eyes of the project manager.
Carpenter Job Salary
The average annual salary of a carpenter is $48,260. Carpenters with experience and skills earn $64,480, while the highest paid carpenters in the US are in Hawaii, and they earn $82,950!
Unfortunately, carpenters aren’t paid nearly as well as plumbers or electricians, so many young people are avoiding carpentry for more lucrative professions. While carpenters take pride in what they do, that pride isn’t enough to make up for a $12,000 difference in average salary. Plumbers, on average, make $59,800/yr, and Electricians make $60,040/yr. For comparison, the top 25% of carpenters make $64,480.
How to get a job as a carpenter?
How can you join the ranks of working carpenters? There are a few paths to consider. The first and best known is to work as an apprentice or helper. The job title is far less important than the learning. You will support the more experienced carpenters on a wide array of projects as you learn. At this stage of your career, the best ability you can have is availability. Being reliable and showing how interested you are in the field will help you advance quickly.
Another path is through education. Community colleges and vocational schools have associate’s degree programs that teach the fundamentals of carpentry and construction. There are also hybrid programs that include formal classroom instruction and plenty of time on job sites.
Most tradespeople rely on referrals for job opportunities. At BlueRecruit, we’ve built a platform specifically for tradespeople. Instead of setting up email updates that you will forget about, create a profile on our platform and interested companies will text you when they are ready to schedule an interview. (That was a shameless plug, but the boss gets on me if I don’t plug the platform every now and then.)
Carpenter Job Openings
There are plenty of jobs for a hard-working carpenter. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 942,900 people are working as carpenters today, and that should increase to 963,000 by 2030.
The top employment sectors are:
1) Self-Employed – 26%
2) Residential building construction – 22%
3) Non-residential building construction – 13%
4) Building finishing contractors – 12%
5) Foundation, structure, and building extractor contractors – 10%
A hard-working carpenter will always be able to find a job regardless of their skill level. Whether you are just starting your career or you want to own and operate your own business, this is the field for you. You can start earning right away but if you develop the right mix of business skills and craftsmanship, you will have lifetime employment.
If you still have questions about your career, be sure to visit our knowledge center to learn about your career options, interview techniques, salary negotiation tools and much more. And remember, Blue Collars make Green Dollars, so sign up on BlueRecruit today.