Carpenter

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Spotlights

Job Description

Carpenters build and repair building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • You get to build things and work with your hands!
  • Mobility: If you are in the union, there are various local clubs across the nation. So if you move to another city, you can get on the Out of Work list and get called on for work.
  • Flexibility: You decide how much you want to work. You create your own vacation. No such thing as a 2-week vacation.

“You are able to look at the world differently. You know how to do things, design things, make things…When I bought my house, I redesigned my own bathroom. You feel empowered. You can create and build on a regular basis.” Silvia Y. Ledezma, Journeyman Carpenter, Scaffold (Staging) Builder, Contra Costa County

The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities
  • Follows blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients.
  • Installs structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding.
  • Measures, cuts, or shapes wood, plastic, fiberglass, drywall, and other materials.
  • Constructs building frameworks, including wall studs, floor joists, and doorframes.
  • Helps put up, levels, and installs building framework with the aid of large pulleys and cranes.
  • Inspects and replaces damaged framework or other structures and fixtures.
  • Instructs and directs laborers and other construction trade helpers.
Different Types of Carpenters

Residential

  • Works on new-home, townhome, and condominium construction and remodeling.
  • Sample tasks: Builds and sets forms for footings, walls, roofs and decks; Frames interior walls, build stairs, and installs drywall, crown molding, doors and kitchen cabinets.

Commercial

  • Works on commercial office building, hospitals, hotels, schools and shopping malls construction and remodeling.
  • Sample tasks: Works with light gauge and load-bearing steel framing for interior partitions, exterior framing, and curtain wall construction.
  • Commercial carpenters can usually perform the tasks of residential carpenters as well.

Industrial

  • Works in civil and industrial settings where they put up scaffolding and build and set forms for pouring concrete. Example) tunnels, bridges, power plants, or sewer construction projects.
  • Sample tasks: Builds tunnel bracing or partitions in underground passageways and mines to control the circulation of air to worksites.
Skills Needed on the Job
  • Manual dexterity: good with hands
  • Hand eye coordination
  • Critical thinking and problem solving: will encounter unexpected problems and you will have to figure them out in a timely fashion.
  • Basic math: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus and statistics.
  • Computer skills: project planning, estimating software.
  • Attention to detail
  • Physical strength and stamina
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Can be dangerous because you are working with sharp objects and at great heights.
  • No structure: you have to manage your money and time because the work is project-based. You finish a project and it might be some time when you get on another project. Need to manage your time and finances wisely.
  • If you like structure and like the 2-week paycheck, then this is not the job for you. But if you want flexibility, to set your own hours, then this is a great career path.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Building, creating and fixing things!
  • Being outside in nature.

“I have been artist since I was 17 years old and I have always liked working with my hands – cutting, matting.” Silvia Y. Ledezma, Journeyman Carpenter, Scaffold (Staging) Builder, Contra Costa County

Why become a union carpenter?
  • Protection: wages, discrimination, on the job injury.
  • Out of work list
  • Benefits
  • Higher pay: over-time, double time.
  • Retirement (depending on union): After 5 years, in some trades/unions, you are vested and are eligible for company matching. After 30 years, you are fully vested at 100 percent of your pay.
2016 Employment
1,025,600
2026 Projected Employment
1,109,400
Education and Training Needed
  • High school diploma.
  • 12 weeks of pre-apprenticeship training.
  • 4 year on-the-job paid apprenticeship program where you will be working alongside journeyman carpenters, administered by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
    • Includes benefits and they give you credit for the training.
Basic requirements for apprenticeship program
  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school education or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work
  • U.S. citizen or proof of legal residency  
  • Pass substance abuse screening
How to find a local apprenticeship program

Click here to find your local apprentice training center.

Things to do in high school
  • Join carpentry program in high school or shop class. There are pre-apprenticeship schools you can take prior to applying for the apprenticeship program.
  • See if you like building things and being outside and working on your feet and with your hands.
  • Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.  
Education Stats
  • 43.4% with HS Diploma
  • 5.1% with Associate’s
  • 6.1% with Bachelor’s
  • 0.9% with Master’s
  • 0.3% with Professional
Typical Roadmap
Carpenter Roadmap gif
How to land your 1st job
  • Finish the apprenticeship program (note: you are working with pay while you are an apprentice)
    • When you are working alongside the journeyman, become friends with those working the career. Make relationships with the foreman.
  • Join local union and become member. Must pay union dues.
  • Sign up for the Out of Work list at the local union. You will then get dispatched from the local union to jobs in the area.
How to stay competitive
  • Hustle!: Don’t only depend on the out of work list. Attend the local union events. Make relationships with the foreman. Be proactive.
  • Be able to communicate with your team.
  • Be curious and constantly learn the new developments (software, techniques, news) of the career.
  • Language skills: Knowing Spanish is a big plus.

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Source: Interview, Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET

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