Carpenters held about 948,500 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of carpenters were as follows:
|Residential building construction||23|
|Building finishing contractors||12|
|Nonresidential building construction||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.
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.
Carpenters typically need a high school diploma and learn on the job or through apprenticeships.
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to enter the occupation. Certain high school courses, such as mathematics and mechanical drawing, may be useful. Some vocational-technical schools offer associate’s degrees in carpentry. The programs vary in length and teach basics and specialties in carpentry.
Carpenters typically learn on the job or through apprenticeships. They often begin doing simple tasks, such as measuring and cutting wood, under the guidance of experienced carpenters or other construction workers. They then progress to more complex tasks, such as reading blueprints and building wooden structures.
Several groups, such as unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. For each year of a typical program, apprentices must complete a predetermined number of hours of technical training and paid on-the-job training. Apprenticeship program requirements differ based on the type of program and by region. Apprentices learn carpentry basics, blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, and safety and first aid practices. They also may receive specialized training in creating and setting concrete forms, rigging, welding, scaffold building, and working within confined workspaces. All carpenters must pass the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) 10-hour safety course.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Some carpenters work as construction laborers or helpers before becoming carpenters. Laborers and helpers learn tasks that are similar to those of carpenters.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Carpenters may need a driver’s license to travel to jobsites.
Optional programs offer certification by specialty that may allow carpenters to find additional work opportunities or lead to career advancement. For example, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers various levels of certification for remodeling. The National Wood Flooring Association offers certification for installers, craftsman, and master craftsman.
Carpenters are involved in many phases of construction and may have opportunities to become first-line supervisors, lead carpenters, independent contractors, or general construction supervisors.
Carpenters typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking, and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building, Thinking, or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a carpenter, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Carpenters should also possess the following specific qualities:
Business skills. Self-employed carpenters must be able to bid new jobs, track inventory, and plan work assignments.
Detail oriented. Carpenters perform many tasks that are important in the overall building process. Making precise measurements, for example, may reduce gaps between windows and frames, limiting any leaks around the window.
Manual dexterity. Carpenters use many tools and need hand-eye coordination to avoid injury. Striking the head of a nail, for example, is crucial to not damaging wood.
Math skills. Because carpenters use basic math skills every day, they need to be able to calculate volume and measure materials to be cut.
Physical stamina. Carpenters need physical endurance. They often lift heavy tools and materials while standing, climbing, or bending for long periods.
Physical strength. Many of the tools and materials that carpenters use are heavy. For example, plywood sheets can weigh 50 to 100 pounds.
Problem-solving skills. Because all construction jobs vary, carpenters must adjust project plans accordingly. For example, they may have to use wedges to level cabinets in homes that have settled and are sloping slightly.
The median annual wage for carpenters was $48,260 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,940.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for carpenters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Nonresidential building construction||$59,020|
|Building finishing contractors||48,800|
|Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors||48,080|
|Residential building construction||47,820|
The starting pay for apprentices is less than what fully trained carpenters make. As apprentices gain experience, they receive more pay.
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’ hours.
Employment of carpenters is projected to grow 2 percent from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations.
Despite limited employment growth, about 91,200 openings for carpenters are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Population growth should result in more new-home construction—one of the largest segments employing carpenters—which will create some jobs for carpenters. Construction of factories and other nonresidential buildings also is projected to result in some new jobs over the decade.
However, the popularity of modular and prefabricated components for homes and businesses reduces the need for carpenters to build new structures. Roofs, insulation, walls, and other components, as well as entire buildings, may be manufactured in a separate facility and then assembled onsite.
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
National Association of the Remodeling Industry
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
National Building Trades Union
For information about opportunities for military veterans, visit: