Carpentry is a rewarding career choice. Thousands of Americans complete their education and training to become journeyman carpenters every year. There are many specialties within carpentry that you can pursue, each requiring unique skills that can take years to truly master.
This article will discuss how to become a carpenter in the United States, including education, training, and carpentry certification. It will also look at the job outlook for ambitious carpenters and insurance considerations for your small business.
What is a carpenter?
Carpenters are skilled tradespeople who use wood and other materials to construct, renovate, and repair structures. They cut and shape building materials to form buildings, outdoor structures, and fittings.
As a carpenter, you may do various types of work depending on your experience level and skill. Examples of carpentry include:
- Rough or structural carpentry
- Finish carpentry
- Furniture making
- Sustainable or green carpentry
- Set building and scenic carpentry
Successful carpenters can read blueprints and building plans. You may work with other contractors and professionals on a job site, including architects, engineers, and builders.
Job Outlook for Carpenters
Carpentry is a popular career choice for people who enjoy working with their hands and want to learn a skilled trade. The top industries employing carpenters include residential building construction, non-residential building construction, and building finishing contractors, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
States with the highest employment levels for carpenters are California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania. However, non-metro regions of Maine, Montana, and Colorado also have high levels of employment for this trade.
The average annual salary for U.S. carpenters is $54,200, based on BLS data. The top-paying states for carpenters are:
- Hawaii ($80,810)
- Illinois ($69,490)
- New York ($67,120)
You don’t necessarily need to live in a big city to earn a decent salary as a carpenter. Non-metro areas in California, Missouri, and Alaska have average carpenter salaries above the national average.
How to get a carpenter certification
There is no standard carpenter certification in the United States. Anyone who has completed an apprenticeship and supplemental education is a “certified” carpenter, also called a journeyman carpenter.
To enter the field of carpentry, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. Math, mechanical drawing, and woodshop are standard high school classes that may be useful to students interested in carpentry.
After high school, aspiring carpenters need further training before they can begin work as journeyman carpenters. They may also need to obtain a carpenter’s license or certification.
You will need to complete carpenter schooling to work in the field. Training is available through vocational and technical schools that offer associate degrees in carpentry. There are also carpentry schools that focus solely on woodworking and other carpentry skills.
However, many carpenters learn their carpentry skills as an apprentice. Apprenticeships allow you to learn on the job while getting paid, an attractive incentive for many aspiring carpenters. They also provide you with firsthand experience that helps prepare you for working independently.
Apprentices typically need to complete an agreed upon number of hours of technical training and real-world experience. Minimum requirements are often set by a state or local government office. You will also need to pass a 10-hour safety course presented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Carpenters must have a carpenter license or general contractor license to work in certain states. Carpenter requirements vary by state and sometimes at the local level.
- A state license is required for California carpenters if they work on a project worth $500 or more. You must have a minimum number of years of carpentry experience, pass an exam, and have a bond in place.
- In Hawaii, carpenters need a specialty general building contractor license. To get a license, you must meet the carpentry experience requirements, pass relevant exams (trade, business and law), and show proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
- Carpenters in Ohio do not need a license, but there may be requirements at the local level you must follow.
- Pennsylvania does not have specific carpenter requirements, but all contractors must register with the Attorney General’s Office if they do at least $5,000 of home improvement work in a year.
Checking the requirements in your area is advisable before beginning carpentry work. There may be penalties for working without the proper carpentry certification.
Putting your carpentry skills to work
Many carpenters work as sole proprietors, small businesses made up of one person. Being your own boss provides you with the freedom to choose the projects you work on, who you work with, and to set your own prices. However, it also comes with responsibilities and risk.
Sole proprietor carpenters are responsible for all aspects of their business, including assuming liability for accidents or injuries on the job. If a client alleges that you damaged their property or injured them while you were working, you might need to compensate them for financial losses.
Business insurance, such as General Liability, can create a safety net for carpenters. Instead of paying to fix the situation from your own wallet, your insurance policies will cover different risks you may face. That way, your hard-earned money stays in your bank account where it belongs.
Considering insurance for your carpentry business? Compare policies now with BizInsure.