Carpenter Job Description
Carpenters bring blueprints to life. Using wood and other materials, they construct everything from theater sets to entire houses. Their position involves measuring, cutting, assembling, and checking to make sure finished structures are durable, functional, and pleasing to the eye. Carpenters work inside or outside, wherever jobs need to be done. Weather may influence the type of work, such as house construction during warmer months and kitchen remodeling during colder ones. Because their job involves a great deal of bending, standing, and lifting, carpenters should be in good physical shape and possess stamina. Injury rates are high for carpenters in comparison to other occupations.
About a third of carpenters are self-employed, and another 33 percent are employed by residential and non-residential building construction firms. The employment of carpenters is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Areas that have been damaged by recent hurricanes and other natural disasters will have a particular need for carpenters to aid in recovery efforts.
Carpenter Duties and Responsibilities
Turning ideas into reality, carpenters to perform various duties. Some of the core skills carpenters need are:
Without a solid framework, structures collapse. Carpenters spend much of their time constructing supports (especially for ceilings, walls, and floors) that won’t be seen when the product is finished. They measure each piece used to ensure everything fits together properly and test sturdiness before moving on to other phases of the project.
Houses and other buildings need more than just a shape. Carpenters are often called upon to do things that make a facility functional, such as fitting windows and doors, hanging drywall, and rolling insulation.
Repairing and Remodeling
Carpenters do not always build from scratch. Sometimes they fix structures that are broken or have problems, such as replacing boards on a wooden house after a severe storm. At other times, they may work to make existing items better or more modern, such as building new cabinets for a kitchen or putting in crown molding (decorative wood strips placed at the top of a wall where it joins the ceiling).
Self-employed carpenters buy and maintain their own tools; many employers require their carpenters to possess a personal set of tools to bring to projects as needed. For smaller projects, such as constructing a deck on someone’s home, carpenters may be in charge of purchasing the building material and transporting it where it needs to be.
Carpenters who are independent contractors take on tasks that would be designated to others if they worked for a company. Such jobs might include inspecting the work area, preparing a cost estimate, creating a schedule, ordering supplies, obtaining permits, and collecting payment.
Maintaining a Safe Workplace
Sharp tools, stacks of materials, and unfinished structures create a potentially hazardous environment. Carpenters must wear safety gear, use tools correctly, clean up after themselves, and notify coworkers of potential danger.
Because carpenters do a great deal of measuring, possessing an aptitude for numbers is a plus. Dexterous hands and adequate strength also help since carpenters spend much of their time moving material and manipulating tools. Some other skills bound to impress hiring managers include:
- Paying attention to detail to ensure blueprints are followed correctly and finished work is both aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound
- Communicating well and getting along with others since construction projects oftentimes involve a team
- Being aware of safety measures in order to prevent worksite injuries
- Displaying pride in one’s work
Carpenter Tools of the trade
What’s a carpenter without a hammer? Here’s a look at some of the items commonly used in this profession:
- Materials – wood, drywall, and other basic building components
- Power tools – tools powered by electricity, such as drills, sanders, nail guns, and electric saws
- Hand tools – manual tools, such as hammers, simple screwdrivers, and levels
- Fasteners – objects used to attach one thing to another, such as nails, adhesives, screws, and staples
- Safety gear – reflective vests, work boots, eyewear and other things worn for protection
Carpenter Education and Training
The majority of carpenters hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some have taken post-secondary classes or earned an associate’s degree at a technical or vocational school. Much of a carpenter’s training, however, comes on the job. New carpenters usually start out doing simple jobs under the supervision of experienced workers, taking on more responsibility, as they prove capable.
The median annual salary for carpenters, according to the BLS, is $43,600. Carpenters in the lowest 10 percent earn about $27,000 a year, and the highest paid make in excess of $79,400 a year. Carpenters in Alaska, Hawaii, and Illinois make the highest median salaries in the U.S. – $69,390, $68,870, and $60,790, respectively.
To learn more about what carpenters do and how to become one, check out these valuable resources:
Carpenter: Cool Vocational Careers – This easy-to-understand book offers young readers information on what the job entails and ways to evaluate if being a carpenter is a good career choice based on one’s personality and skill set.
Career as a Carpenter – What’s the difference between rough carpentry and finish carpentry? What kinds of work can carpenters find besides building houses? Who are some famous people who started out as carpenters (hint: one of them played Han Solo)? This book explores carpentry from virtually every angle.
Carpenters: Stories from People Who’ve Done It – The best insight often comes from those who actually have worked in a profession. This Kindle book explores how various people carved their niche (pun intended) in the world of carpentry, from making cabinets to designing theatrical sets.
Associated General Contractors of America – From industry trends to construction data, this organization’s website covers topics of concern to carpenters. Learn about educational opportunities, peruse the job board, or brush up on the latest news in health and safety.
The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America – With more than half a million members and a history spanning 135 years, this trade union is a go-to source for questions related to careers in carpentry. Check out its “Our Crafts” section for videos of carpenters in action.
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