Career Stats

H.S. Diploma
View all jobs →

Would you like to post jobs on this career? Find the best candidates using Sokanu's new psychometric job platform. Visit today.

Find your perfect career

Would you make a good carpenter? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!

Take the free career test

What is a Carpenter?

A Carpenter is a specialized type of Woodworker. Also known as: Construction Carpenter, Journeyman Carpenter, Apprentice Carpenter, Trim Carpenter, Finish Carpenter, Rough Carpenter.

Carpenters are skilled craftsmen who work in the construction industry fabricating primarily wood constructions; from the entire framework of a building to ornate woodwork on stairs and trim. Some carpenters pre-fabricate cabinets and other structures in shops or factories while others work on construction sites, cutting, joining, and installing structural elements. Many specialize in one aspect of construction. Carpenters working as independent contractors, however, have the ability to work on a wide range of projects.

What does a Carpenter do?

A carpenter's unique job duties vary depending on whether they work in rough carpentry or finish carpentry. In addition, there are many areas in which carpenters can specialize in making specific types of wood products or engaging in specialized carpentry processes.

Rough Carpenters -
typically work outdoors on large construction projects. They use blueprints to decide what amount and type of materials are needed for the job. After materials are selected, rough carpenters cut materials according to specifications. They may use hand saws, power saws, or woodworking machines. After cutting the materials to a specified size, a carpenter will then join or assemble them as elements of a larger structure. Sometimes, in order to move these elements into place, carpenters must build scaffolding or other temporary supports. Carpenters may even build sleds to haul timber through wooded areas and rough terrain where motorized vehicles cannot go.

Finish Carpenters -
are primarily involved in making cabinetry, furniture, models, and instruments. They also create ornate, detailed, and fine wood products for a variety of uses. They must be detail-oriented and work on a small scale efficiently. Their work is often performed in a shop, though some finish carpenters travel to construction sites to fit and install trim, fine cabinets, and other household furnishings.

Finish carpenters may specialize in several areas. Those who concentrate on moulding and trim for doors, window casings, and mantels are known as trim carpenters. Cabinetmakers, as the name implies, primarily create cabinets, but also fabricate and refine wardrobes, storage chests, and dressers. Scenic carpenters work in the film industry, crafting elaborate sets.

Even ships require carpenters, often called shipwrights, who make emergency repairs when necessary. Other areas of specialization include the repair of stringed instruments by luthiers, and the focus on environmentally friendly and energy-efficient designs, performed by 'green' carpenters. These carpenters strive to use sustainable and recycled materials in their projects.

What is the workplace of a Carpenter like?

Depending on their unique job duties, carpenters may work either indoors or outdoors. Rough carpenters work mostly outdoors, while finish carpenters work indoors in shops or factories. Their jobs are physically intensive, requiring many hours of standing while cutting, joining, and working wood materials. Since carpenters use sharp and heavy equipment, they should be safety-conscious and follow company or workplace safety standards at all times.

How can I become a Carpenter?

No formal training is required to enter the field of carpentry, though a high school diploma or equivalent is preferred in most cases. Aspiring carpenters should take woodworking, mechanical drawing, or drafting courses in high school in order to gain skills that are necessary for the job. These skills also give candidates an edge when trying to gain acceptance into apprenticeship programs.

Unions typically offer apprenticeship training programs for aspiring carpenters. At 17 years of age, students are allowed to apply for these programs. Applicants are chosen based on their performance in both oral and written tests. After acceptance into the apprenticeship, prospective carpenters will spend three to four years in the classroom, learning about carpentry principles. They will also receive hands-on training from experienced carpenters. Classroom instruction consists of structural design, blueprint reading, and framing systems courses. At job sites, apprentices shadow lead carpenters, learning through observation and experience.

Prospective carpenters may also opt to receive direct, on-the-job training from contractors. However, those who do so often take a much longer period of time to achieve the skills needed to progress in the field. Moreover, they will not earn higher union wages or receive many other benefits from being part of a union. Some vocational and technical schools now offer degrees and coursework in carpentry. Candidates for carpentry positions with these credentials often experience more and higher-paying entry-level opportunities, though still lack some of the benefits from completing an apprenticeship through a union.

In addition to education, carpenters must possess skills that will allow them to endure the physical demands of the carpentry profession. Carpenters must possess a high degree of manual dexterity in order to perform complex woodworking procedures. They must be in good physical shape and be able to endure long hours of manual labor. They should also have a strong grasp of mathematics and be able to effectively organize and make plans for construction.

  • The Training Required To Become A Carpenter - How To Join A Carpentry Apprenticeship

    A high school education is not mandatory for a career as a carpenter, but most contractors and developers prefer applicants with a diploma or a GED.

  • How To Become A Carpenter

    On the job apprenticeship programs are available where they work side by side with a skilled tradesman who mentors them. There are also vocational schools, technical colleges, and online or traditional colleges available.

  • Videos


    Title Company Location Info

    Further Reading

    • What Personal Skills or Qualities Are Needed to Become A Carpenter

      In addition to being an eager learner, you’ll need to possess certain personal qualities and soft skills to be successful.

    • A Day In The Life Of An Antarctic Carpenter

      I've been interested in the Antarctic and subantarctic since I was a child growing up with the stories of my father's friend, who was involved with the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions.

    • What Is A Carpenter?

      A carpenter is a craftsman skilled in woodwork.

    • "You're Too Smart To Become A Carpenter"

      One hot afternoon this summer, I looked at an old friend for the last time, his head pillowed on the white fabric of his casket, his familiar glasses perched on his owlish nose. Despite the fact he'd lived to 85, and that there was nothing remotely tragic about his death, tears I could not stop welled out...

    Similar Careers

    Collections With This Career

    Most In-Demand Careers
    Over the coming decades, some careers are expected to be more in demand than others. Occupations that are expected to have above-average opportunities are highlighted in this collection. Read More
    ISTP Careers
    Naturally quiet people, ISTP personalities are happiest when they are centred in action-oriented tasks which require detailed exploration and technical skill. Read More