If you can dream it, a carpenter can (probably) build it. These tradespeople work primarily with wood in the building and renovations of homes and other structures. This profession could be a perfect fit, if you like building things and working with your hands, and you don't want to pursue a college education. Loving the work is important: The average carpenter wage is fairly modest, so learning this trade doesn't typically lead to great wealth.
A carpenter works with wood, other materials and tools to build, replace and improve various structures. These pros can read and follow blueprints and safely use a huge range of hand and power tools.
Some carpenters work on infrastructure projects, assisting with the building of roads and bridges by constructing wooden components. Others build the interior frames for new houses and buildings. Still others specialize in renovating old buildings, which might involve replacing crumbling beams with new structures. Carpenters also do interior and exterior design work for existing homes and buildings. They're hired by clients to build cabinets, install interior walls, build stairs or railings, create wooden decks and so on.
People often confuse carpenters with contractors. A contractor oversees an entire building project, which includes supervising subcontractors and managing budgets and permits. A carpenter usually focuses on specific building projects. He may work for himself and consult directly with clients about what they want done, or he may work under a contractor as part of a larger building crew.
In terms of formal education, a high school diploma or GED is all that's typically required of a carpenter. Some community colleges and vocational schools offer training programs for aspiring carpenters, but many people get into the field through on-the-job training. Sometimes a young person will start out as a carpenter's assistant and gain enough experience to strike out on his own after a few years. Candidates may also join formal apprenticeship programs that include both classroom and field training. A local carpenters' trade group can provide guidance about how to get started.
Carpenters are needed everywhere. They work long hours but typically can take nights, weekends and holidays off. One of the biggest issues that prospective carpenters should consider is safety. These professionals use power tools, work above the ground and have to endure a lot of physical wear and tear. Injuries are common among carpenters.
Years of Experience and Salary
Carpenters who work for themselves set their own rates for completing jobs. Word-of-mouth and skill play major roles in determining whether carpenters get work, so a young carpenter may actually be able to charge more than his experienced peers, if he's in demand. In major companies, it's common to pay a carpenter per hour rather than by job.
The median carpenter salary was $45,170, as of May 2017, which means that half of carpenters earned more and half earned less. The top 10 percent of carpenters earned more than $80,350. The work environment affects the average carpenter wage. The median salary was $49,960 for for carpenters working in nonresidential building construction and $43,660 for those working in residential construction, of May, 2017.
Job Growth Trend
As Baby Boomers age out of the workforce, many regions will experience a shortage of skilled trades workers. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that carpentry jobs will grow at an average rate between 2016 and 2026, construction industry experts say that there will be a major demand for trades workers such as carpenters, in the next few decades.