What does a Carpenter do?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: January 3, 2023  •  7 min read  •  Trade & Vocational
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According to estimates, there are over a million carpenters in the US. Currently, the carpentry market is expected to grow by 8.2% by 2026.

Are you thinking of choosing a carpentry career?

If so, it’s essential that you know what’s involved in the job and what working environments and salary you can expect as a carpenter.

Carpentry is a unique field and requires a specific set of skills and personality traits.

What Does a Carpenter Do?

So, is carpentry a good career fit for you?

What Is a Carpenter?

Before we get into all the aspects of this career, let’s look at what a carpenter is, exactly? If you were wondering, a carpenter is a craftsman who cuts, shapes, and installs building materials.

Carpenters are typically self-employed; however, many carpenters also work for construction businesses and other companies that require woodworking jobs to be carried out.

Carpentry Job Description: What Types of Work Do Carpenters Do?

Carpenters typically work with wood, but they often shape other materials as well.

Carpenters typically follow blueprints or other specs to create constructions out of wood. These can be anything from cabinetry to scaffolding, floors, building frameworks, bridge supports, and more.

Part of a carpenter’s job description can also be to install ready-made units and wood products.

Besides carrying out new installations, carpenters also inspect old constructions and fix wooden structures and components.

As far as tools go, most carpenters work with both hand and power tools, including:

On large construction sites, carpenters may also have to use rigs and cranes to hoist wooden beams and components.

In the planning stages of projects, carpenters also often utilize computers and design software for drafting and calculations.

In many cases, employers and clients require carpenters to use their own tools on job sites.

Rough Carpenters and Fine Carpenters

Carpenters often specialize in one of two carpentry careers. These are rough carpentry and fine carpentry.

Fine carpenters typically construct things like cabinetry, musical instruments, and custom items.

Rough carpenters deal in things like framing and structural components.

While rough carpentry is concerned more with function and durability, fine carpentry encompasses more of an artistic touch.

How to Become Trained as a Carpenter

Unlike many other professionals, you don’t need a degree to start a career in carpentry.

The basic requirement for becoming a carpenter is a high school diploma. There are various skills taught in high school that are invaluable in carpentry, such as mathematics.

Although you can begin a carpentry career with just a high school diploma, many carpenters choose to complete an apprenticeship.

During an apprenticeship, you will learn while on the job. This is ideal if you gravitate towards hands-on learning. During an apprenticeship, you will learn how to install trim, molding, roof beams, and framing. You might also learn fine carpentry work.

If you wish to qualify as a carpenter, certain vocational-technical schools or community colleges also offer associate’s degrees in carpentry. These degree programs sometimes offer specialization, meaning you can choose what area of carpentry you want to get into.

Additionally, most carpentry training programs at technical schools also require you to complete an apprenticeship program, which usually lasts 3-4 years.

During this time, you’ll receive additional practical training, as well as instruction in safety, first-aid, and building code requirements.

Most training programs and apprenticeships require you to be at least 18 years of age, hold a high school diploma, be physically fit, and be a US citizen or resident. You may also need to pass a substance abuse test.

Last but not least, take note that all carpenters need to complete the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety course. You can do this through an employer or by directly applying to the United States Department of Labor.

Besides working with wood, there are many other things that go into a successful carpentry career.

Business Skills

As mentioned above, a lot of carpenters are self-employed. Being self-employed has many perks. However, if you become a self-employed carpenter, you will need to have some business skills.

For instance, you need to be able to bid on jobs, deal with clients, manage other workers, track inventory, manage spending, generate estimates, and more.

Good Communication

Depending on where you work as a carpenter, you’ll have to communicate clearly and effectively with various people.

For instance, if you are installing cabinets for a client, you’ll need to communicate various things. Such as how the finished product will look, when it will be completed, the estimated price, etc.

You might also need to explain to clients why a vision of theirs isn’t feasible. In other situations, you may need to communicate to them how they can save on costs.

If you are working as part of a team with other carpenters, you’ll also need to be able to communicate well. Collaboration is the secret sauce to streamlining construction projects.

If you can communicate effectively with your team members, you can avoid several mishaps and unnecessary complications.

Mathematics and Computer Literacy

Math proficiency is an important skill to have. If you embark on a carpentry career, you will need to have some basic math skills. Carpentry involves a lot of measurements and calculations.

As we mentioned above, many carpenters use computers and specialized software to analyze blueprints and create drafts. You may have to try new programs and use technology that you are unfamiliar with. But doing so will be a useful attribute.

Driving Ability

Whether you become a self-employed carpenter or work for a company—there may be many situations where you will need to drive.

Not being able to drive can seriously hold you back as a carpenter. If you’re unsure of your driving skills, check out our video course on defensive driving.

Good Hand-Eye Coordination

To avoid injuring yourself and others on the job, it’s also essential that you have good hand-eye coordination as a carpenter.

Are you naturally clumsy? If so, carpentry might not be the ideal career for you.

Personality Traits You Need for a Carpentry Career

Besides certain skills, there are also various personality traits that you will need for a successful carpentry career.

These include being able to problem-solve, paying attention to detail, and persevering.

A Tendency to Problem Solve

Carpenters encounter a lot of unforeseen problems in their work. They often have to modify materials, make adjustments, and come up with solutions. If you have strong problem-solving abilities, these will come in handy as a carpenter.

Attention to Detail

Both rough and fine carpentry requires precision. Fine carpentry needs tight joints and a smoother finish, and rough carpentry needs to be load-bearing and sturdy.

If you’re someone that goes the extra mile and pays attention to detail, then you’ll most likely make an excellent carpenter.


Carpenters have to deal with the unforeseen, make accommodations, and devise solutions. This requires perseverance and the willingness to carry on, even when the solution is not clear-cut. Is perseverance a strong point of yours? If so, this will be a valuable strong point in your carpentry career.

Frequently Asked Questions about Carpentry:

What Is the Work Environment Like?

Fine carpenters typically work in indoor settings, such as in a woodworking factory or a workshop.

Rough carpenters, on the other hand, often work outdoors and are exposed to the elements. Because of this, they frequently have to work around weather conditions.

In some situations, both rough and fine carpenters have to work in tight spaces on installation projects.

How Long Are the Hours?

One of the potential drawbacks to a carpentry career is the hours. Although some carpenters work typical hours, others have to work after hours and on weekends.

This can be due to tight turnarounds on projects, client deadlines, and inclement weather.

How Much Do Carpenters Earn?

According to estimates, carpenters earn an average salary of $57,340 per year.

However, this is just a rough figure. The exact amount you’ll earn will depend on your specialty, the area you work in, etc.

Kickstart Your Carpentry Career With the Right Resources

Carpentry is a stimulating career choice. It’s also a field that is likely to see steady demand in the future.

Are you ready to begin your carpentry career? If so, the first thing you may want to do is look into courses and training programs.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.