Carpenters - The Life of a Carpenter

How To Become a Carpenter

If you think you want to learn how to become a carpenter, you should first know some of the responsibilities you will have and the skills you will need to complete the job. If you are a young person and are still in middle school or high school, often times there are shop classes offered that will help introduce you to carpentry skills through woodworking projects. These classes can help prepare you for a career as a carpenter. Other classes which may also be helpful in the carpenter trade include Algebra, Geometry, Business Mathematics, Technology, Physics, and even Physical Education, since carpentry can be a fairly physical job. Some high schools offer drafting classes which include some computer design. You may have a class that includes designing and reading blueprints. This will give you a taste of what carpentry is all about, and to help you decide if it is the right career for you. Before you commit to being a full time carpenter, you may want to do a couple of projects first. One of the more simple projects could be building a dog house from scratch. Following detailed step by step dog house plans won't be too difficult, but will give you some hands on experience. Another project that would give you an idea if carpentry is for you would be to follow a storage shed plan and construct your own shed.

Carpenters often learn their trade through a variety of forums. These include on the job apprenticeship programs, 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. If you like to work with your hands, are willing to work hard; becoming a carpenter might be a good fit for you. The work of a carpenter can be strenuous; requiring a great deal of strength and stamina, so physical ability can play into a successful career as a carpenter. Some of the physical requirements to be a carpenter include manual dexterity, good eye-hand coordination, physical fitness, and a good sense of balance. One also needs to have the ability to solve mathematical problems quickly and accurately.

Carpenter Schools & Training

There are several roads you can take if you choose to become a carpenter. You may be able to get right into an apprenticeship with a construction company, but that’s not too likely. You will probably need to enter into some kind of carpenter school.

Those who are interested in knowing how to becoming a carpenter may want to enter a certificate program. These are trade schools that can be completed often times in a year or less. The only entrance requirement for most of these certificate carpenter programs is a high school diploma or equivalent. Students learn how to work efficiently and safely on a construction site. Many of the skills they learn include framing windows and doors and how to lay out walls and rafters. Another aspect of carpentry that is taught is estimating materials for a job. There are some programs that may offer a specialized certificate for interior finishing, exterior finishing or framing.

Although there would probably be some classroom instruction, most of the training would be more hands-on. This would either take place in a carpentry shop or in some kind of lab environment. Some of the course topics that may be covered during one of these programs would include carpentry tools, construction materials, and techniques of carpentry. Other classroom teaching may include woodworking calculations and how to read blueprints. There may be some emphasis on computer programs that are designed for construction and for designing buildings. Often times, building codes and various laws will be discussed. Various career options will be covered so the student gains insight into what area they may have more interest. Such topics as finishing techniques, wall construction, and stair construction will probably be covered. There may even be some time spent on concrete construction.

Those who graduate from a certificate program for carpentry can possibly find work with a contractor, lumber supply company or even a construction firm. Some may enter into an apprenticeship program where they get valuable experience on the job. They may also have an opportunity to advance into a higher paying position as they gain skills and experience. Others may become a handyman or a carpentry assistant. By working with a master carpenter, some will learn the art of finish carpentry. Others may choose to go on for an Associate Degree in Carpentry.

Carpenter Apprenticeship Positions

Students who enter formal apprenticeship programs generally spend three to four years learning career skills. As they work alongside experienced carpenters, they master their technical skills while expanding their knowledge. Some apprenticeship programs combine classroom instruction with work experiences that teach them the proper use of tools, form building, rough framing, and finishing work. Classroom instruction includes safety, first aid, blueprint reading, freehand sketching, and basic mathematics. Some classes may teach interpersonal relations and professional development, as well as carpentry techniques. A number of apprenticeship programs are offered through construction unions as well as commercial or industrial building contractors. Apprenticeship programs are not real prevalent and difficult to find. Completion of an apprenticeship program will allow an individual to qualify for employment as journeymen.

Associate Degree in Carpentry

The prerequisite for getting into an associate program often times is only having a high school diploma. In an associate degree program, students learn about every aspect of a construction project. In this program, there will be both generic and specialized material covered. They may even learn management responsibilities that would include scheduling a project, cost estimates and calculations. From the associate program, a student may be able to directly enter the carpenter field. Some will still have to go through an apprenticeship program. Course studies will include most of what is covered in a certificate program. In addition, there will be general education courses in mathematics, composition, as well as computers. Some other areas of construction that will probably be covered include cabinet building, molding, rafter assembly and foundations. There may also be classes on construction management and even welding.

The Career Roadmap For Becoming A Carpenter

Carpenters complete a variety of construction projects while working with wood along with other materials. If you want a career as a carpenter, you will be required to be able to read blueprints, lay out projects, and cut wood. You will also need to have the ability to assemble different materials. It is the responsibility of a carpenter to ensure their work is accurate and that they are in compliance with all local building standards.

Here is the roadmap to a successful carpentry career:

Step 1: Complete Your High School Education

The first step toward becoming a carpenter is earning a high school diploma. Without this, you don’t have much of a chance. Those who are interested in becoming a carpenter should try to take geometry, physics, algebra, English, mechanical drawing along with wood shop in High School.

Step 2: Gaining Work Experience

It’s very valuable to be able to get some good hands-on experience. If you can assist a skilled carpenter, you will in turn develop good carpentry skills. Even though you may not be doing the actual job of a carpenter, you gain insight into the profession. Even though a carpenter helper often performs unskilled tasks like cleaning up work areas, gathering materials, and erecting scaffolding, you learn a lot by being on site.

Step 3: Obtaining Vocational Training

Some are able to actually complete training courses through a vocational school or community college while working as a carpenter helper. The formal training in conjunction with experience on the job will help drill in those skills. The educational coursework will include building codes, reading of blueprints, framing a roof, building materials, carpenter tools and building layouts.

By completing these carpenter training programs, you will achieve the educational foundation you need to become a journeyman. Your career opportunities will increase as you get experience, formal education and certifications.

Step 4: Completing an Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships generally take about three to four years to complete. These offer on-the-job training in addition to classroom instruction. This is a good path to take to become a carpenter. Being admitted to an employer's carpentry apprenticeship program is a huge step forward. As an apprentice, you will be educated in rough framing, drywall, stair construction, metal framing, and interior finish work.

Step 5: Maintaining a Good Work History

As with any career, employers prefer hiring carpenters who have a reliable work history. Having a formal education can help a person move forward with opportunities. If you learn the trade well, you may be able to pursue a leadership position. If you are good enough, you may end up being a foreman or independent contractor.

How Much Can I Earn As A Carpenter?

A person can make a good living as a carpenter. But not all carpenter jobs pay the same. Salary range will vary greatly from one area of the country to another. In May 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the mean wage of a carpenter was $43,890. There are carpenters that make well over $100,000 per year. Other figures indicate the medium range for carpenters to be anywhere from $36,000 to about $43,000. Some homebuilders and general contractors may make much more than that, depending on how the housing market is at the time and in their part of the country.

This information was intended to give you an idea how to become a carpenter. As you can see, there are a few routs one can take in becoming a carpenter. If you enjoy working with your hands and like doing physical labor, carpentry may be for you. As with any trade, it is always wise to talk with a carpenter who has been in the trade for some time. Ask as many questions as you can. Pick their brain. Maybe even have them show you one of their job sites and explain what they are doing. Good luck as you pursue your goal of becoming a carpenter. I wish you a very rewarding career.