Look around! Whether you’re at work, school or home, your current environment was built by carpenters. (Unless you’re reading this on your phone while camped out in the woods — in which case, lucky you!)
You might call carpenters the MVPs of construction. The carpenter’s job description is highly flexible, because these versatile tradespeople often handle it all – from the building’s initial framing to its final finishes.
- Residential carpenters build homes and condos. This job is often the most versatile. Residential carpenters frequently do everything from framing the foundation to installing the kitchen cabinets.
- Commercial carpenters build larger structures, like office buildings, hotels, hospitals and schools. In some ways, their work is a lot like a residential carpenter’s. But because the buildings they work with are bigger, they often need different structural supports — like steel or concrete. Working with these materials draws on a different set of skills than working with wood.
- Industrial carpenters work on civil engineering projects. They build the really big structures – the ambitious projects like tunnels, bridges, dams, sewers and power plants. The work they do on these feats of civilization gives them a chance to make their mark.
Carpenters need to be big-picture thinkers with an eye for detail. They need to be able to work from a blueprint to envision how the whole project will come together.
But they also need to be careful and precise — the kind of person who measures twice and cuts once. That attention to detail helps avoid mistakes that can waste a lot of time and money further down the road.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CARPENTER IN GEORGIA
- Reads blueprints and sketches, and translates them into construction specifications (experienced tradespeople only)
- Ensures the project conforms to building codes
- Measures, cuts and assembles wood and other building materials
- Fastens wood and other building materials together with nails, screws, staples or adhesives
- Builds foundations, walls, roofs, doorframes and other structural features
- Fits and installs features like doors, stairs, windows and cabinets
- Uses tools like saws, tape measures, rules, levels, chisels, drills, nail guns and more
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A CARPENTER:
This is what top professionals in the trade say you’ll need to be.
- Detail-oriented. Being an excellent carpenter is all about getting the details exactly right — the first time.
- Hard-working. Sometimes long hours of physical labor on carpentry jobs mean you’ll need the strength and stamina to see a job through.
- Skilled at hand-eye coordination. When wielding a hammer or working the power tools, you’ll need to watch out for those fingers. Manual dexterity improves safety and helps ensure the final product is as good as it can be.
- A team player. A busy construction site will have you working alongside new people all the time. You’ll enjoy the work most if you’re friendly and cooperative when working with a team.
- Strong. Carpenters often carry heavy tools and materials. To be successful on the job site, you’ll need to pull your own weight — literally.
IS THIS YOU?
Here are a few pros & cons to consider as you decide whether becoming a carpenter is right for you.
- Durability. Take pride in your work. After all, you help build stuff that sticks around for a long time.
- Variety. Carpentry covers a bunch of different tasks, so two days working as a carpenter are rarely the same.
- Freedom. With 1 out of 3 carpenters self-employed, it’s a good trade for being your own boss.
- Carpenters often work outdoors, even if the sun is beating down hot or the wind is blowing hard.
- You have to be careful – carpenters sometimes suffer injuries. Most injuries are minor but annoying, like sprains and strains.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
How much do carpenters make?
The salary range for a carpenter in Georgia is $37,270 to $41,760 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015).
How do you become a carpenter?
Most carpenters learn on the job or through an apprentice program.
Most carpentry apprenticeships last three or four years. Each year of the apprenticeship will typically include 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours on the job.
But you’ll get paid for those work hours! So it’s a great way to earn money while you train.
During the technical training (aka carpenter school), you’ll learn things like…
- Carpentry basics (important)
- How to read those blueprints (so you can be a boss)
- Math skills
- Building codes
- On-the-job safety
- First-aid (because accidents happen)
To enter an apprenticeship to become a carpenter, you typically need to be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or legal resident. You’ll need a high school diploma or the equivalent. And you’ll have to pass a drug test.
Classes in math will help! Carpenters spend a lot of time measuring and calculating.
FIND A CARPENTER SCHOOL
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and are looking to study carpentry at one of Georgia’s technical colleges, why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? OK! Bring on the application >
OUTLOOK FOR CARPENTERS
Nationally, the demand for carpenters is projected to increase by about 6% by 2024, adding 60,400 job
A REAL CARPENTER REALLY SAID THIS
“Why do I love being a carpenter? Sometimes I drive past a building that my team worked on. I love remembering that I helped make that. I built those walls. It’s great knowing I’ve really made a difference in the life of this town.” — Tom Richardson, Griffin, Ga.
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Download this handy PDF for some facts on-the-go.