How to Become a Carpenter

Five Parts:Developing Your Basic Skill SetMake Use of Vocational Training Programs in High SchoolBecoming an ApprenticeOther Ways to Become a CarpenterJob Opportunities for Carpenters

For thousands of years, carpenters have been producing awe-inspiring structures, beautiful pieces of furniture, and the everyday wooden items and buildings that are taken for granted. Although the path to entering this profession has, in many ways, stood the test of time, there are some nuances of which you should be aware while pursuing your career goals. There are also many doors that having carpentry skills will open for you. In this list, you will be given a rough idea of what being and becoming a carpenter looks like, as well as a few pointers to get you started-out on your journey.

Part 1
Developing Your Basic Skill Set

  1. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 1
    Realize what a carpenter is. A carpenter is someone who works with, builds, and fixes items and structures made out of wood. More than that, he or she is passionate about things built from wood. Carpenters are skilled with their hands and tend to work on and fix wooden structures like stairways and door frames, install things like cabinets and drywall, and work on building and repairing furniture.[1]
  2. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 2
    Get physically fit. This is a job that requires heavy lifting. You can expect to be on your feet most of the day doing active physical labor. You need a good sense of balance.
    • Aside from being able to lift heavy things, you also need to have great hand-eye coordination. Carpenters use tools that require a good eye to avoid getting injured or damaging the wood.
  3. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 3
    Examine your educational strengths. Carpenters need to be able to solve mathematical problems with ease. They also need good oral communication and language skills, and a good understanding of physical science can be helpful as well. A successful carpenter can see the big picture and not just the immediate assigned task. Other key carpenter characteristics include:
    • Being detail-oriented. One of the most important parts of carpentry is being able to measure and cut pieces of wood to exact measurements: an entire building could be affected by an ill-measured stairway. Carpenters also need the ability to look at a wooden structure and assess any problems with it.
    • Having problem-solving skills: Carpenters will face many problems while on the job. A board may break, or a tool may stall, and a carpenter will need to be able to recognize the problem and come up with a quick, effective solution.
  4. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 4
    Learn the basic tools carpenters use. While there are hundreds of carpentry tools, there are certain tools that every aspiring carpenter needs to become intimately familiar with. These include[2]:
    • A hammer. Hammering and pulling out nails is a big part of being a carpenter. A hammer and nails are important to any carpentry project.
    • A measuring tape. The ability to make precise measurements is one of the most important parts of being a great carpenter. If one measurement is off, the whole project could fail.
    • A saw. Carpentry wouldn’t be an art without the saw. There are many different kinds of saws. The most common is, fittingly, the universal saw. Practicing on one of these is a good place to start as an aspiring carpenter.
    • Marking tools. This is a fancy name for pens or pencils. Once you have made your measurement, you’ll need to mark where each piece of wood needs to be sawed, nailed, and so on.
    • A spirit level. Levels are the key to symmetry, straight lines, and general accuracy. If you place a spirit level on a plank you hold up to the wall, it will tell you whether or not it is perfectly horizontal.

Part 2
Make Use of Vocational Training Programs in High School

  1. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 5
    See if your school offers basic shop classes. High schools often offer shop classes that will teach you how to safely operate carpentry equipment such as saws and drills. It will also teach you the basics of simple carpentry and will allow you to get some carpentry experience under your belt.
    • If you have already taken the shop class at your school, ask your teacher if you could be the teacher’s assistant (TA) for the class. While you will have to help grade papers and projects, you will also have access to the shop class’ tools and you may be able to work on your own projects during down time.
    • Find out if your school’s drama department offers a set building class. While this may not seem like the most direct route to becoming a carpenter, these classes will teach you the basics of carpentry while also allowing you to be a bit more creative than most shop classes.
  2. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 6
    Talk to someone about training programs. Talk with your guidance counselor about getting into apprenticeships or vocational training programs. Chances are he or she will be able to help you find opportunities in your area that you may not have realized were available to you. Some schools offer Building Trades classes that show you all the various aspects of how to become a carpenter.
  3. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 7
    Find out if your community offers carpentry classes for beginners. Some towns have community centers that will put on free or cheap classes teaching people the basics of an art. If carpentry is not an option, talk with the person in charge of setting up the classes and ask if there is a potential for a carpentry class to be hosted in the future.
    • You could also run a simple internet search to find out if there are any carpenters in your area that put on workshops or any classes you could attend.
  4. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 8
    Join a volunteer group that will help you gain experience. Volunteer programs like Habitat for Humanity sponsor construction projects all the time that allow volunteers to get hands-on experience in the construction of buildings.

Part 3
Becoming an Apprentice

  1. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 9
    Learn about apprenticeships. Most new carpenters begin their formal training as apprentices. These apprenticeships normally last three or four years, with 144 hours practicing paid technical training and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.[3]
    • Technical training includes learning the basics of carpentry, how to read blueprints, what building code requirements are, safety regulations, and the math required to become a skilled carpenter.
    • Some apprentices will also receive specialized training. This includes rigging, learn how to build scaffolds, and working with concrete, among other topics.
  2. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 10
    Know what the requirements are to become an apprentice. To become an apprentice, you have to meet several requirements. These include[4]:
    • Having a high school diploma (or equivalent certification).
    • Being 18 or older.
    • Proof of residency in the country where you live (the US requires proof of citizenship.)
    • Passing a drug test.
    • Being physically able to do the hard work involved in carpentry.
  3. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 11
    Find an apprenticeship. Look for carpentry apprenticeship programs offered by professional organizations such as Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Home Builders. There are also quite a few contractor associations and unions that sponsor apprenticeships. Run an internet search for more information.
    • Look locally. Another option is to try to find carpenters in your area who may take you on as an apprentice. Look for carpenters, contractors, construction companies, shipbuilding companies, etc. who may be looking for an apprentice.

Part 4
Other Ways to Become a Carpenter

  1. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 12
    Become an on-the-job helper. If you are unable to participate in an apprenticeship, look for opportunities to become an on-the-job helper. As a helper, you do not need to necessarily need to have a large amount of previous knowledge about carpentry. You can find listings for these types of positions in classifieds in your newspaper, as well as with your state’s employment service office or website.
    • While being a helper will not necessarily guarantee a well-rounded carpentry education, it can be a great way to supplement carpentry classes. There is also the potential for the person or company you help to be fully invested in teaching you the ins and outs of carpentry.
  2. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 13
    Enroll in a specialized carpentry school. There thousands of schools that specialize in carpentry and help you attain your journeyman certificate. Look for schools in your area (or the area you would like to be in) by running an internet search with a phrase like “[Your State] carpentry schools”.
    • There are also trade schools that offer a variety of programs, including carpentry programs and courses. While these schools are not entirely focuses on carpentry, their programs can be just as credible and effective as those at schools dedicated entirely to carpentry.
  3. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 14
    Enroll in carpentry training classes offered by community colleges or universities. These classes are usually part of an apprenticeship program that can apply toward receiving your journeyman certificate (which certifies you as a professional carpenter.) You can expect to be in the classroom part of the time learning math, communication and construction skills, as well as general carpentry knowledge. The rest of your day may either be in a shop setting or on the job putting your skills to work.

Part 5
Job Opportunities for Carpenters

  1. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 15
    Find a job at an existing business that involves carpentry. This could be a construction company, or a remodeling agency who fixes the structural integrity of a building, among many other opportunities. Because carpenters learn what it takes to get through the entire construction process, carpenters who display that skill often get promoted to superintendents or construction foremen.
  2. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 16
    Create your own carpentry business. Perhaps you enjoy creating amazing pieces of wood furniture. Maybe you find that you’d rather be your own boss and think you have what it takes to start your own company. Great! You can learn more about starting your own business here.
  3. Image titled Become a Carpenter Step 17
    Keep your skills fresh. Take refresher courses periodically to learn about new pieces of equipment and construction techniques. You can find these courses at local community colleges. Equipment manufacturers often offer training, as well.
    • Keep up on new tools of the trade. New tools are constantly being developed to make carpentry projects more efficient. Even if you follow a different career path with the thought that you may go back to carpentry, it is still important to keep on the latest developments in the field. That way, if you do decide to pursue carpentry again, the transition back into that world will be much more fluid.


  • Many carpenters specialize in one task. If you have multiple areas of expertise, when the job market becomes tight, you may have more work options open to you.
  • Learning a second language, especially Spanish, can help you find jobs in the carpentry field.

Article Info

Categories: Tradesman Occupations