When wooden frameworks of new homes or buildings suddenly rake the sky seemingly overnight, it's carpenters who have been busy at work constructing them. These building specialists read blueprints and building plans to meet the specifications of their clients, and they use many tools such as hammers, levels, drills and planes to shape various structures. If you are physically fit, detail-oriented and have basic math skills, carpentry work may be a good career for you.
Residential Carpenter Duties
Residential carpenters build the foundations of homes, townhouses and condominiums, or work on remodeling projects for these residential structures. They construct interior wall studs, stairs, cabinets and doorways, and install drywall, doors and crown molding. If you are a highly experienced carpenter, you may also lay tiles or other types of floors. There are usually other carpenters working with you on residential projects, so your duties may vary. Some carpenters specialize in laying concrete for driveways, sidewalks, porches and garages.
Commercial and Industrial Carpenter Duties
Commercial carpenters build or remodel office complexes, hospitals, schools, hotels and shopping centers. As a commercial carpenter, you may also work on on the interiors of buildings, making office cubicles, conference tables, seats, bookcases and other required fixtures. Constructing parking lots and walkways, ceilings and walls, interior and exterior steel framing and curtain wall structures are other responsibilities of commercial carpenters. Industrial carpenters build bridges, dams, power plants and sewer systems.
Carpenters generally work on weekdays, but evenings and weekends are sometimes required to meet deadlines. As a carpenter, you will work both inside and outside of homes or buildings during hot summers and cold winters. You might also spend considerable amounts of time in cramped spaces, working on your feet and knees, and lifting and transporting heavy objects.
Qualifications, Education and Training
In general, a carpenter must be at least 18 years old and have a high school education or GED. Before being hired as a carpenter, you must pass a substance abuse screening test. You then work three to four years as an apprentice under the supervision of an experienced carpenter. The training includes 144 hours of paid technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A two-year associate degree in carpentry at a technical college can substitute for two years of apprenticeship. Many carpenters work for unions after completing their apprenticeship.
Average Salary and Job Outlook
Carpenters earned an average hourly wage of $21.31 or $44,330 per year as of May 2011, according to the BLS. The top 10 percent made over $34.56 per hour or $71,890 per year. The top-paying states were Hawaii, Alaska and California -- $66,950, $62,350 and $56,550 per year, respectively. The BLS also reported that jobs for carpenters are expected to show an increase of 20 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is at a faster clip than the 14 percent national average for all occupations.
2016 Salary Information for Carpenters
Carpenters earned a median annual salary of $43,600 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, carpenters earned a 25th percentile salary of $33,770, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $58,700, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,025,600 people were employed in the U.S. as carpenters.