Carpentry is the largest of the building trade categories and over half the individuals working in it are self employed. Generally, carpenters work from blueprints or instructions; measuring, marking and cutting raw materials. Those materials may be wood, plastic, drywall, fiberglass or some other component material.
Cutting involves saws, drills, sanders and planes. Joining the pieces may include nails screws, staples or adhesives. Carpenters have to understand the basics of superstructure for buildings, reinforcement requirements for structures within the building and what is required to finish an interior so that it will look professional once the painters are done.
Carpenters who have learned algebra, geometry and mechanical drawing in high school will be off to a good start. Carpenters used to come up through an apprenticeship program, but today apprenticeship opportunities are far fewer than the number of carpenters needed in the workplace.
Interested individuals can get go through vocational-technical schools that cover the skills - both mental and physical - required by the profession. According to the Department of Labor, "Employers often look favorably upon these students and usually start them at a higher level than those without the training."
In 2006 there were 1.5 million carpenters employed in the United States.
The profession is expected to grow about as fast as the overall growth rate projected for all job categories over the next several years. Some of this need may be offset by the increased use of prefabricated buildings and composite materials.
Lowest 10% $11.24 $23,370
Median Salary $18.11 $37,660
Highest 10% 31.70 $65,940
Source: U.S. Department of Labor