How do I become a carpenter?


Over the next few years, the demand for qualified carpenters is predicted to explode. If you enjoy building things, now is an excellent time to start training. Here is a short guide to how to become a carpenter.

Step 1: Check the licensing requirements in your state

In most states, carpenters are not required to be licensed unless they are also doing the work of general contractors. However, some states do require carpenters to be licensed, especially if they are performing specialized work such as cabinet making. Check your state Department of Labor’s website to learn the requirements for the type of work you are interested in pursuing.

Step 2: Get a high school diploma or a GED

A high school diploma or GED is required to be eligible for most carpentry apprenticeship programs. You can even use this opportunity to start your career training by taking courses in math, shop, and mechanical drawing.

Step 3: Attend a technical school or community college (optional)

To become a carpenter, you will need to participate in an approved apprenticeship program. You can get a start on your coursework and technical training, while also earning a degree, by taking a carpentry program at a technical school or community college. This is not necessary in all states or for all carpenters, but having a formal education can make you a more attractive apprenticeship candidate.

Step 4: Complete an apprenticeship program

The vast majority of carpenters learn the skills of the trade in an apprenticeship program. These programs generally take three to four years to complete and combine classroom and technical training and on-the-job experience. Although the requirements vary, most states require apprentices to be at least 18 years old (17 in some states), have a high school diploma or GED, be a legal citizen or resident of the United States, pass a drug test, and prove that they can physically do the work. As an apprentice, you can expect to spend 2000 hours a year in training, which is equivalent to a full-time job, as well as take courses in the evenings or on weekends. During your training, you will earn a wage that is about one-third to one-half that of certified carpenters.

Step 5: Start working as a carpenter

One of the major benefits of apprenticeship programs is that they often lead directly to a job, especially those that are offered by contractors, unions, and carpenters’ associations. After working for a period of time for a general contractor, may carpenters go on to become self-employed as independent contractors.

Carpentry is a highly specialized skill, and the only way to learn it is through intensive training. For more information, visit your state’s Department of Labor website.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Carpenters. Occupational Outlook Handbook.

California Department of Consumer Affairs. Contractors State License Board.

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