Did you know you can learn to become a carpenter through distance learning? Working in many areas of the construction industry, carpenters make up the largest group of building trade workers. While their tasks can be as varied as building bridges to installing kitchen cabinets, work generally consists of cutting, sizing, and constructing structures made from wood or other materials. Carpentry work can be divided into two broad categories: rough carpentry and finish carpentry.

Rough carpenters begin a project.

  • They are the ones who frame a building’s interior and exterior walls and partitions.
  • They work from blueprints that contain specific instructions on how the building should be assembled.
  • Additionally, some rough carpenters may build wooden forms that are filled with concrete. The forms are used as molds for building concrete bridges, highways, and building foundations.

Finish carpenters generally install windows, fit doors, build stairs, install cabinets and moldings, lay hardwood floors, panel rooms, and perform other similar tasks. They may be called trim carpenters. Some finish carpenters called cabinetmakers specialize in building custom-designed cabinetry, furniture, counters, shelves, and other products for homes, stores, or offices.

Carpentry work is strenuous, requiring prolonged periods of standing, climbing, bending, and kneeling. Regardless of the type of carpentry, most workers perform a variety of tasks. Following the blueprints or plans, they must cut materials using both hand tools such as chisels, planes, and saws as well as power tools such as electric saws, drills, and sanders. Then, carpenters must connect the materials using nails, screws, staples, or adhesives. Finally, each worker must check the accuracy of their work and make any adjustments that are necessary.

Carpenters become skilled at their trade through on-the-job training, vocational or technical college training, or formal apprenticeship programs. Those interested in a career in carpentry can take classes in mechanical drawing, general shop skills, and blueprint reading during high school. After high school, individuals can start their carpentry career as a carpenter’s helper. Trade or vocational schools and community colleges provide training in the field of carpentry. There are also a limited number of formal apprenticeship programs available, which last approximately three to four years and combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction.

Salaries vary depending upon the individual’s skill set and geographic location. Areas with the largest population increases will also have an increased need for carpenters. The median hourly wage for carpenters is $18.72. The middle 50 percent earn between $14.42 and $25.37 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $11.66 per hour and the highest 10 percent earn more than $33.34 an hour. Both weather and economic conditions can impact total earnings. For example, bad weather and recessionary factors may cause a reduction in hours, while busy periods may lead to increased earnings due to overtime.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest number of carpenters are as follows:

  • Nonresidential building construction $21.08
  • Building finishing contractors $19.37
  • Residential building construction $18.24
  • Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors $17.67

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook expects average employment growth of about 13 percent over the next 10 years. While all jobs in the construction industry are sensitive to economic fluctuations, population growth over the next decade should stimulate growth as more construction will be needed to meet the population’s housing needs. Additionally, the public’s interest in energy conservation is expected to stimulate demand for the construction or remodeling of buildings that are more energy efficient. Some of the increased demand may be offset by the increasing use of prefabricated components. Job prospects are expected to be good for workers with the widest range of training and skills.

Advancement opportunities are available to those who are motivated, become certified in specialty areas by taking courses, or are capable of supervising others. Since an increasing number of construction workers speak Spanish, those wishing to advance should also have the ability to converse with workers in Spanish in order to relay instructions and solve possible problems.