How to Become a Carpenter

Carpenter Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $40,410
Avg. Pay / hour $19.43
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 8%

A carpenter is a craftsperson who is skilled at building structures or cabinetry.

When you become a carpenter, you have a qualification and trade you can use for life.

If you have good manual dexterity, attention to detail, and a strong work ethic, then you might consider carpentry as a career.

Broadly speaking, there are two different areas of carpentry that a carpenter may specialize in.

The first is structural carpentry, sometimes known as building, which involved creating the structures for building or houses.

A joiner or cabinet maker specializes in detailed work, such as cornice, joining, fine details, cabinets, or furniture.

Education Requirements to Become a Carpenter

If you are still in high school but have ambitions to become a carpenter, you should concentrate on doing well in math, and also shop if your school offers it.

It’s a good time to learn how to use woodworking tools.

After high school there are a couple of different ways to become a carpenter.

The first is to complete an apprenticeship.

These usually take four years to complete and combine on the job learning with classroom theory.

You won’t earn a lot of money, but will get good opportunity to learn your craft.

Apprenticeship places are few, and entry can be very competitive.

You could also look for an entry level job for a carpenter, or carpentry company.

While you will still be learning on the job, you will only be exposed to some types of carpentry and will not get the same level of opportunity offered in an apprenticeship.

The third way to become a carpenter is to complete a carpentry degree at vocational college.

This will give you a broad knowledge base, and open the door to many job opportunities later on.

To become a carpenter you will need good manual dexterity, good balance, and a decent level of fitness.

Problem solving and math skills are also important.

Many carpenters are self-employed and deal directly with clients, so developing good interpersonal skills is also an integral part of the job.

Carpenter Job Description

A carpenter completes a wide range of tasks, usually involving construction.

A carpenter can also modify and repair existing structures.

Most carpenters will specialize in a specific area.

For instance some will work on completing new homes, others renovations, and some repairs.

Others may work in woodshops, while others may work with joinery and fine detail or making furniture.

When you become a carpenter, you should prepare yourself for work which is physically demanding.

You could find yourself spending long days on your feet, or bending over in awkward positions.

Much of the work is done outside.

Here are some of the tasks a carpenter may complete:

  • Reading blueprints
  • Working out mathematical equations
  • Ordering stock and supplies
  • Maintaining a set of tools
  • Completing structures
  • Completing repair work
  • Joinery and cabinet making

Carpenter Salary and Career Path

Most carpenters will begin their career as an apprentice, or a laborer.

Once you have gained the necessary skills needed, you can expect to be given more responsibility and more difficult tasks.

Many carpenters are self-employed.

After a few years on the job you may decide to go out on your own.

This can mean a greater income, but also the challenge of finding work, as well as keeping your own books and records.

You also need to work closely with your clients in this instance.

The median salary for a qualified carpenter is $38,000 a year.

Those with specialized skills in areas such as cabinet making or joinery could expect to earn more.

Many carpenters move on to become building supervisors, builders, and project managers.

Some open their own companies and consultancy firms in this field.

Some similar roles to a carpenter that you might be interested in include:

If you’re looking for a trade and degree that will secure you employment for many years to come, then working as a carpenter might be a good career path for you.

When you become a carpenter, you attain a secure income now, and also the option to explore similar career paths, such as a builder of project manager, later on in life.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$60,190
New Hampshire$51,430
New Jersey$71,550
New Mexico$44,540
New York$66,420
North Carolina$41,940
North Dakota$49,210
Rhode Island$59,960
South Carolina$43,970
South Dakota$40,260
West Virginia$43,610
Puerto Rico$22,970
Virgin Islands$47,200

The top earning state in the field is Hawaii, where the average salary is $79,200.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Hawaii - $79,200
New Jersey - $71,550
Alaska - $68,180
Illinois - $66,530
New York - $66,420
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Carpenters, OCC Code 47-2031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a carpenter do?

Carpenters construct structures, walls, floors, and doorframes made primarily from wood.

As a carpenter, you will have to read blueprints and plans, measure and cut the materials used, install structures and supervise laborers to make sure that the structures and frameworks comply with the building plans.

You will use a variety of tools, including levels, chisels, sanders, circular saws, and welding machines.

The exact responsibilities of a carpenter depend on the type of project.

Construction carpenters construct, install and repair structures made of wood, wallboard and plywood while rough carpenters follow blueprints and sketches to build wooden structures, including concrete forms, tunnels and bridge supports.

If you want to become a carpenter you will need dexterity, math skills, physical strength, and problem-solving skills.

How much does a carpenter make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for carpenters was $46,590, as of May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary depending on the region, the employer and the carpenter’s level of expertise and experience.

As a carpenter, you can make anywhere between less than $30,000 and more than $80,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become a carpenter?

This trade can typically be learned through apprenticeships or on-the-job training.

Most employers also require a high school diploma.

Some technical schools offer associate’s degree programs in carpentry.

Tuition costs vary widely depending on the program’s duration and the institution that offers the program; carpentry school can cost you anywhere between $4,000 and more than $30,000.

Apprenticeships may be sponsored by unions and contractor associations and typically consist of 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and 144 hours of technical classes each year.

During this period, trainees learn blueprint reading, carpentry basics, building requirements, safety, and first aid.

As a carpenter, you may also need a driver’s license as you may have to drive to and from construction sites.

What is the demand for carpenters?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for carpenters is expected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028.

This growth is explained, in part, by the fact that more homes are expected to be constructed as the population grows.

However, this profession is sensitive to the local economy and the time of the year and job openings may vary year by year and region by region.

Carpenters may face unemployment during cold months when construction is slow.

How long does it take to become a carpenter?

Carpenters can learn their skills through on-the-job training or by attending an apprenticeship or a technical school.

The exact program duration depends on the educational path you choose to pursue.

An associate’s degree in carpentry can typically be earned after 2 years of post-secondary training, while apprenticeships are typically 4-5 years long.

Carpenters must also pass safety courses offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, these courses are 10 and 30-hours long.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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