Carpenters

by Kate Williams

What Carpenters Do

Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

Work Environment

Carpenters work indoors and outdoors on many types of construction projects, from installing kitchen cabinets to building highways and bridges.

How to Become a Carpenter

Carpenters typically learn on the job and through apprenticeships.

Pay

The median annual wage for carpenters was $48,330 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of carpenters is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029.

Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

Duties

Carpenters typically do the following:

  • Follow blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients
  • Install structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding
  • Measure, cut, and shape wood, plastic, and other materials
  • Construct and install building frameworks, including walls, floors, and doorframes
  • Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
  • Instruct and direct laborers and other construction helpers

Carpenters have many different tasks. Some carpenters insulate office buildings; others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Still others focus on production or commercial work to help construct tall buildings or bridges, installing wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars. These carpenters also erect shoring and scaffolding for buildings.

Carpenters use many different tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They use handtools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, nail guns, and welding machines. On large projects, carpenters may use rigging hardware and cranes as part of the installation process. Carpenters may also use smart phones, tablets, and other personal electronic devices to assist with planning, drafting, or other calculations. 

Carpenters fasten materials with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives and check their work to ensure that it is correct. They use tape measures or laser measures on nearly every project to quickly determine distances. Many employers require carpenters to supply their own tools on the job.

The following are examples of types of carpenters:

Construction carpenters construct, install, and repair structures and fixtures of wood, plywood, and wallboard, using carpenters’ handtools and power tools.

Rough carpenters build rough wooden structures, such as concrete forms; scaffolds; tunnel, bridge, or sewer supports; and temporary frame shelters, according to sketches, blueprints, or oral instructions.

Wood flooring installers put in a variety of materials, including plank, strip, end-grain, and parquet flooring. These wood products may be nailed in place or glued down. Floor sanders and finishers may smooth the flooring onsite or it may be prefinished prior to installation.

Carpenters held about 1.0 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of carpenters were as follows:

Self-employed workers 28%
Residential building construction 21
Nonresidential building construction 13
Building finishing contractors 12
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 10

Carpenters work indoors and outdoors on many types of construction projects, from installing kitchen cabinets to building highways and bridges. Carpenters may work in cramped spaces and frequently alternate between lifting, standing, and kneeling. Those who work outdoors are subject to variable weather, which may affect a project’s schedule.

Injuries and Illnesses

Carpenters sometimes get injured on the job, such as from strains caused by overexertion due to lifting and moving materials. Other common injuries result from falls, slips, trips, and contact with objects or equipment. Workers often wear equipment such as boots, hardhats, protective eyewear, and reflective vests as a safeguard against injuries.

Work Schedules

Most carpenters work full time, which may include evenings and weekends to meet clients’ deadlines. Extreme temperatures or inclement weather may impact building construction timelines, which in turn may affect carpenters’ work hours.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of carpenters.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

High school diploma or equivalent $60,710

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

See How to Become One $36,000

Drywall Installers, Ceiling Tile Installers, and Tapers

Drywall and ceiling tile installers hang wallboard and install ceiling tile inside buildings. Tapers prepare the wallboard for painting.

No formal educational credential $47,360

General Maintenance and Repair Workers

General maintenance and repair workers fix and maintain machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,080

Insulation workers

Insulation Workers

Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings or mechanical systems.

See How to Become One $44,180

Roofers

Roofers replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings.

No formal educational credential $42,100

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers assemble, set up, and maintain rooftop or other systems that convert sunlight into energy.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,890

Flooring Installers and Tile and Marble Setters

Flooring installers and tile and marble setters lay and finish carpet, wood, vinyl, and tile.

No formal educational credential $42,050

Woodworkers

Woodworkers manufacture a variety of products such as cabinets and furniture, using wood, veneers, and laminates.

High school diploma or equivalent $32,690

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities in this trade, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local contractors or firms that employ carpenters, or local union–management carpenter apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For more information about carpenters, including training opportunities, visit

Associated Builders and Contractors

Associated General Contractors of America

Home Builders Institute

National Association of the Remodeling Industry

NCCER

National Wood Flooring Association

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Carpenters Training Fund

For more information about pre-apprenticeship training, visit

Home Builders Institute

National Building Trades Union

For information about opportunities for military veterans, visit:

Helmets to Hard Hats

O*NET

Carpenters

Construction Carpenters

Rough Carpenters


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Carpenters,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/carpenters.htm (visited ).


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