Commercial and industrial carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.
Carpenters have many different tasks. Some carpenters insulate office buildings; others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Still others focus on production or commercial work to help construct tall buildings or bridges, installing wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars. These carpenters also erect shoring and scaffolding for buildings.
Carpenters use many different tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They use hand tools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, nail guns, and welding machines. On large projects, carpenters may use rigging hardware and cranes as part of the installation process. Carpenters may also use smart phones, tablets, and other personal electronic devices to assist with planning, drafting, or other calculations.
Carpenters fasten materials with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives and check their work to ensure that it is correct. They use tape measures or laser measures on nearly every project to quickly determine distances. Many employers require carpenters to supply their own tools on the job.
The median annual wage for carpenters was $48,330 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $84,690.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for carpenters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
- Nonresidential building construction $53,040
- Building finishing contractors $49, 440
- Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors $46,850
- Residential building construction $46,290
The starting pay for apprentices is less than what fully trained carpenters make. As apprentices gain experience, they receive more pay.
Most carpenters work full time, which may include evenings and weekends to meet clients’ deadlines. Extreme temperatures or inclement weather may impact building construction timelines, which in turn may affect carpenters’ hours.
Carpentry Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 89,000 openings for carpenters are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Overall job prospects for carpenters should be good as construction activity continues to increase. Prospective carpenters with a set of basic carpentry tools will have the best prospects.
Education, Training, and Certification
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to enter the occupation. Certain high school courses, such as mathematics and mechanical drawing, may be useful. Some vocational-technical schools offer associate’s degrees in carpentry. The programs vary in length and teach basics and specialties in carpentry.
Carpenters typically learn on the job or through apprenticeships. They often begin doing simple tasks, such as measuring and cutting wood, under the guidance of experienced carpenters or other construction workers. They then progress to more complex tasks, such as reading blueprints and building wooden structures.
Several groups, such as unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. For each year of a typical program, apprentices must complete a predetermined number of hours of technical training and paid on-the-job training. Apprenticeship program requirements differ based on the type of program and by region. Apprentices learn carpentry basics, blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety and first aid practices. They also may receive specialized training in creating and setting concrete forms, rigging, welding, scaffold building, and working within confined workspaces. All carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) 10-hour safety course.