How to Become a Carpenter

This article will explain how to become a carpenter with information on apprenticeships and training.

Getting Started

Carpenters learn both on the job and in school, and many people can begin their carpentry education in high school. If you are good in math, can sketch and are willing to work with hand and power tools, you can pursue a career in this field. It would also be helpful to brush up on your Spanish, since many construction sites work bilingually, so there is a need for supervisors who can provide direction and instruction in both English and Spanish. You should also take at least one basic first aid course.

If you have completed high school, you can look for an apprenticeship as a carpenter, look for a job as a carpenter's helper or assistant, or go to one of the trade schools, usually union affiliated, that teach carpentry. You can also take a test run at carpentry by taking a layman's home renovation class at an adult learning school, though this last option is probably not enough to get started on a real construction site.

You can also explore volunteering for an organization that builds affordable housing, such as Habitat for Humanity, and since many of these organizations employ skilled trades people to work alongside the volunteers, you can also find out about carpentry opportunities directly from the pros.

An apprenticeship as a carpenter usually takes three to four years to complete, and is a mixture of on the job training and classroom learning. There are many jobs for carpenters, and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least thirty percent of carpenters are self-employed.

Types of Carpenter Jobs

When the housing market is depressed, so are some of the more readily available opportunities for carpenters. On construction sites, carpenters assist in the framing and layout of the structure. They are responsible for producing the skeleton of the building, and they may also be responsible for designing some of the features of the structure, so carpenters are usually adequate artists, have good mathematical skills and can envision how items will be placed and what they will support.

If people aren't buying new houses, they will usually use their money to improve their existing home, so carpenters can also find work with contractors and can work independently on home renovation projects. There are plenty of smaller jobs, such as building sheds or garages, to more complex work, such as remodeling or rebuilding interior staircases, or framing doors and windows, that require a trained carpenter on site.

We tend to think of carpenters as wood workers, but carpenters also work with fiberglass, drywall, plastic and concrete. Any of these materials can be used to build a structure and carpenters usually have experience working with all of these materials, which means they can also supplement their income by working on projects that use these materials.

Carpenters can also find work on historical sites, working with period materials and tools to restore an old building. Some even work on ancient buildings, and can work internationally in Europe and Asia on castles, churches and temples. They can also work on international disaster relief projects to provide housing and schools. Some carpenters will teach classes on basic carpentry to laymen, either at a college or in a retail setting.