If you love working with your hands, then carpentry might be an exciting career path. However, it takes much more than being a talented woodworker to start a carpentry business. You must complete formal training to establish yourself as a journeyman carpenter who is able to work independently on projects.
Carpentry and woodworking apprenticeships are designed to provide you with paid on-the-job training and education in the art of carpentry. The tradition of learning a craft under a “master” tradesperson has been practiced for centuries but has become formalized in recent decades. To become a carpenter, you will need to meet and complete a set of carpentry apprenticeship requirements set by trades unions and your state or local government.
Let’s look at the steps necessary to become a carpenter apprentice.
What is a carpenter apprentice?
A carpenter apprentice is a person training to become a fully qualified carpenter. During the apprenticeship, you will work with a licensed carpenter to learn the art of woodworking. They will pass on their knowledge and skills of the trade while providing you with valuable hands-on experience.
Apprenticeships generally last 3-5 years and include a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. You will be paid during this period, which is one reason why apprenticeships are a popular way to learn the carpentry trade.
What’s the job outlook for carpenters?
Carpentry and woodworking apprenticeships may lead to solid employment opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics counted almost 943,000 carpentry positions in 2020 and estimates that these jobs will grow by 2% by 2030. States with the highest employment levels for carpenters are:
- New York
As of May 2021, the average annual salary for a carpenter was $55,190 ($26.53 per hour). However, there is greater earning potential in some states. For example, carpenters in Hawaii earn on average $79,200 per year.
Carpenters are needed in a wide variety of industries. Though residential and commercial construction are some of the biggest employers of carpenters, you might also find work in areas like electrical power distribution, manufacturing parts for aerospace programs, or film and television set building.
What education do I need to become a carpenter apprentice?
You typically need a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) credential to apply for a carpentry apprenticeship. Classes in mechanical drawing, woodshop, and math (particularly Algebra and Geometry) are beneficial for aspiring carpenters.
Though a high school education is all that’s required, community college or adult education courses can come in handy. Refresher courses in math or basic home maintenance instruction could help you hit the ground running on day one of your apprenticeship.
How do I find a carpenter apprenticeship?
Before you begin applying to apprenticeship programs, you must meet the basic carpentry apprenticeship requirements. These vary from state to state, but generally you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent (GED)
- Have at least six months of full-time work experience in a construction trade or have graduated from a pre-apprenticeship program
- Prove you can legally work in the United States
- Must be able to read and understand English
There are several ways to find and apply for a carpentry or woodworking apprenticeship:
- Through a carpentry union – There are two main carpenter’s unions in the U.S. that offer apprenticeships: the Laborers’ International Union of North America and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. You might also find programs through independent regional unions in your area.
- Online job boards – You may also find apprentice sponsors through online job seeking sites. These are typically listed under “apprenticeship” or “on-the-job training” categories.
- Personal contacts – Ask your family and friends if they know a professional carpenter who may be willing to sponsor you as their apprentice.
Remember, applying to be a carpenter apprentice is the same as applying for other types of employment. You should take your time when filling out the application and present yourself professionally during the interview.
What will I learn as a carpenter apprentice?
During your journey to become a carpenter, you will learn essential skills of the trade, including:
- The qualities of different types of wood
- Basic to advanced carpentry techniques
- Freehand design sketching
- Reading building plans and blueprints
- Installation, construction and repair of frameworks, structures, and fixtures
- Construction safety
- Building codes and OSHA regulations
- How to handle and dispose of hazardous materials
- Green building techniques
Most carpentry apprenticeships take 3-5 years to complete the required number of work experience and classroom instruction hours. The exact number of years or hours you will spend as an apprentice depends on the minimum requirements set by your state.
Many apprenticeships are full-time, but you may find some part-time carpenter apprenticeships. Keep in mind that it will take longer to become a fully licensed carpenter if you take up a part-time apprenticeship.
Do carpenters need insurance?
After completing your carpentry apprenticeship, you will be considered a journeyman carpenter. You will be eligible to apply for a carpentry license (if one is required in your state) and become a licensed carpenter.
At this point, you may need to buy different types of business insurance. Some policies, such as General Liability or Workers’ Compensation, may be required by your state to obtain a business or carpenter’s license. Even if insurance is not mandatory, you might still consider having certain coverages.
Business insurance helps protect your company from common risks. Accidentally damaging a client’s property, a workplace injury, or needing to replace stolen tools can all be expensive. Rather than paying the costs associated with these and other events from your own pocket, your insurance policy would cover them for you. This could mean the difference between staying in business or needing to pack up shop permanently.
Crafting Your Career Path
Becoming a carpenter apprentice is the first step to becoming a fully licensed carpenter. Though you will need to put in many hours of hard work and study, you will benefit from the hands-on experience you receive while earning a wage. If you’re ready to start your carpentry career, search carpentry apprenticeship requirements in your area to check that you qualify and begin the application process.
Want to learn more about insurance for carpenters? BizInsure can help. We’re proud to help carpenters across the U.S. find insurance that fits their business needs.