Detailed Guide for Carpenters in California
May also be called: Apprentice Carpenters; Journeyman Carpenters; Lead Carpenters; Maintenance Carpenters
Specialties within this occupation include: Construction Carpenters; Rough Carpenters
What Would I Do?
Carpenters* work in almost every type of construction. They construct, erect, install, and repair structures made from concrete, steel, wood, and other materials. The jobs they do depend on the type of construction, the type of company, and the particular skills of the Carpenter. Working for a small home builder, a Carpenter might be involved in every part of a project, such as putting up the framework, walls, and roof, and installing attic ventilation units, cabinets, doors, hardwood flooring, molding, paneling, sky lights, and windows. In a larger operation, such as a high-rise office building where there is more opportunity for specialized work, a Carpenter might do only one task, such as roof framing or installing doors and windows.
In other types of construction, Carpenter jobs can be as different as constructing wooden forms for pouring concrete to building freeway bridges or parking garages. They may drive piles for docks and piers and install turbines to generate electricity from large power plants. Carpenters may also install solar, wind, hydro, and geo-recovery systems.
In addition, Carpenters may retrofit residential and commercial buildings using green construction technology. They may remove existing doors, windows, and flashing, and replace them with energy-efficient products. They caulk and seal holes or breaks to prevent energy loss. Carpenters also apply green technology during new construction. For example, they use efficient spacing methods while framing buildings to conserve lumber and eliminate waste. They reduce heat loss and conserve energy by installing the proper insulation for the climate zone. During the building process, Carpenters may conduct research on green products and their life cycles to determine which items would be the most cost effective.
Most carpentry involves certain basic steps. Carpenters read plans, identify and gather the needed materials, determine the equipment required, and measure and mark the materials for cutting. Working with hand tools and power equipment, Carpenters cut and shape the materials, and assemble and install them according to the plans.
Construction Carpenters construct, erect, install, and repair structures and fixtures of wood, plywood, and wall board, using hand tools and power tools. They examine blueprints, sketches, or building plans to organize the project layout, and determine dimensions and materials needed for the job. Construction Carpenters may also be referred to as Residential Carpenters or Commercial Carpenters.
Residential Carpenters construct all types of housing by starting from the ground level to the roof build-out. This includes all phases of the building of single homes, large development tract houses, multi-family apartments and condominiums, and fine custom homes. Some Carpenters are specialists in the fast and efficient construction of the frame, or “skeleton,” of a dwelling unit and are known as Residential Framing Carpenters. A Carpenter that only installs the exterior and interior trim including baseboards, door trim, crown molding, cabinets, windows, and doors are Residential Finish Carpenters.
Commercial Carpenters construct office buildings, hotels, shopping malls, stadiums, arenas, school campuses, airports, factories, sewage and power plants, and every other imaginable type of non-residential structure. Carpenters that specialize in the precision installation of commercial grade and code certified exterior and interior building components, such as high-end cabinetry and casework, select wood trims, matched wall paneling, and solid-surface countertops are referred to as Commercial Finish Carpenters.
Rough Carpenters build rough wooden or metal structures such as concrete forms; scaffolds; tunnel, bridge, or sewer supports; billboard signs; and temporary frame shelters according to blueprints, sketches, or oral instructions. They assemble and fasten these structures together using nuts and bolts, nails, or screws. Additionally, they install rough door and window frames, subflooring, fixtures, or temporary supports in structures undergoing construction or repair. Rough Carpenters may also examine structural timbers and supports. They may be required to keep job records and schedule work crews.
Tools and Technology
Carpenters use a variety of tools in the course of their work, including air quality testing devices, hammers, ladders, levels, power saws, recycled sheetrock, screwdrivers, and tape measures. They also use software, such as computer-aided design (CAD), project management, spreadsheet, and word processing.
Carpenters will play a crucial role in the emerging green economy through the construction of new green buildings, the installation of energy-efficient products, and retrofitting residential and commercial buildings using green construction technology. However, this should not lead to significant changes in the work or worker requirements.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.
Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Measure and mark cutting lines on materials, using ruler, pencil, chalk, and marking gauge.||Equipment Selection|
|Follow established safety and environmental rules and regulations to maintain a safe and clean environment.||Public Safety and Security|
|Verify trueness of structure, using plumb bob and level.||Near Vision|
|Shape or cut materials to specified measurements, using hand tools, machines, or power saw.||Arm-Hand Steadiness|
|Study specifications in blueprints, sketches or building plans to prepare project layout and determine dimensions and materials required.||Building and Construction|
|Assemble and fasten material together to construct wood or metal framework of structure, using bolts, nails, or screws.||Installation|
|Anchor and brace forms and other structures in place, using nails, bolts, anchor rods, steel cables, planks, wedges, and timbers.||Manual Dexterity|
|Erect forms, framework, scaffolds, hoists, roof supports, or chutes, using hand tools, plumb rule, and level.||Stamina|
|Build or repair cabinets, doors, frameworks, floors, and other wooden fixtures used in buildings, using woodworking machines, carpenter's hand tools, and power tools.||Management of Material Resources|
|Remove damaged or defective parts or sections of structures and repair or replace, using hand tools.||Repairing|
|Install windows utilizing flashing systems to protect windows, doors, and other non-roof detail areas from the negative effects of water and moisture.||Static Strength|
|Install energy-efficient or sustainable products, such as those made from recyclable materials, in new or existing structures.||Judgment and Decision Making|
|Follow practices to minimize solid waste at construction sites (e.g. sort, reuse, and recycle building refuse, such as lumber chips, concrete, gravel, and sheetrock).||Reading Comprehension|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Equipment Selection||Determining the kind of tools and equipment needed to do a job.|
|Public Safety and Security||Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.|
|Near Vision||The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).|
|Arm-Hand Steadiness||The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.|
|Building and Construction||Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.|
|Installation||Installing equipment, machines, wiring, or programs to meet specifications.|
|Manual Dexterity||The ability to quickly move your hand, your hand together with your arm, or your two hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble objects.|
|Stamina||The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.|
|Management of Material Resources||Obtaining and seeing to the appropriate use of equipment, facilities, and materials needed to do certain work.|
|Repairing||Repairing machines or systems using the needed tools.|
|Static Strength||The ability to exert maximum muscle force to lift, push, pull, or carry objects.|
|Judgment and Decision Making||Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.|
|Reading Comprehension||Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.|
Carpenters often work in dusty, noisy places that may be indoors or outdoors, at floor level, or on ladders or scaffolds. Those working outdoors are exposed to all types of weather conditions. Carpenters can be injured by falling objects, sharp tools, and power equipment, or from falling from high places. However, the risk of injury may be reduced by following proper safety procedures and wearing personal protective equipment and clothing.
Carpenters usually work as part of a crew. The work is sometimes strenuous, requiring prolonged standing, climbing, bending, or kneeling. Carpenters provide their own hand tools and work clothing. The employer provides ladders, scaffolds, and any heavy equipment needed for the job. Personal protective equipment is usually supplied by the employer. Jobs vary in length, from one-day home repairs to industrial projects that can last years. During the winter and rainy season there are fewer outdoor jobs for Carpenters, so they may take on small indoor jobs. However, most Carpenters work an eight-hour day, Monday through Friday, but there can be a lot of overtime.
Technological advancements with tools have improved productiveness with the introduction of laser leveling tools, battery-powered equipment, construction calculators, and even computers that generate a list of required materials from digital blueprints.
In larger areas, most journey-level workers and apprentices belong to unions, such as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, but smaller communities have many non-union workers.
Will This Job Fit Me?
The job of a Carpenter may appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
The median wage in 2016 for Carpenters in California is $51,430 annually, or $24.73 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
Benefits for union Carpenters typically include health, dental, and vision insurance; vacation; and retirement plans. Some non-union shops may also provide benefits.
What is the Job Outlook?
With the increased focus on environmentally sustainable building and remodeling practices, it is expected that there may be increased opportunities for Carpenters. However, during economic downturns, the number of job openings for Carpenters declines. Building activity depends on many factors that vary with the state of the economy, such as interest rates, availability of mortgage funds, government spending, and business investment.
Carpenters may also experience periods of unemployment because of the seasonal nature of many construction projects. Job opportunities for Carpenters also vary by geographic area. The areas with the largest population increases will also provide the best job opportunities for Carpenters and apprenticeship opportunities for persons seeking to enter into carpentry.
Projections of Employment
In California, the number of Carpenters is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Carpenters are expected to increase by 27.7 percent, or 33,200 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
|Estimated Employment and Projected Growth|
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|View Projected Growth for All Areas|
Annual Job Openings
In California, an average of 3,320 new job openings per year is expected for Carpenters, plus an additional 1,380 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 4,700 job openings.
|Estimated Average Annual Job Openings|
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|View Data for All Areas|
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
There are a number of ways to become a Carpenter due to the range of training options available. Completion of a formal apprenticeship or construction vocational or trade college program is the usual method of entry into this occupation. Additionally, Carpenters will need to be knowledgeable of the California Green Building Standards Code (or CALGreen). CALGreen will affect most new construction projects, including residential and commercial (non-residential) buildings.
The amount and type of work experience required varies from company to company. Some companies may provide on-the-job training for Carpenters to learn and perform green duties.
Early Career Planning
High school students interested in carpentry work should take courses in English, algebra, geometry, mechanical drawing, and wood shop.
Training programs for Carpenters are also available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). Applicants to the program must be physically able to complete all stages of carpentry work. Also, they must be a minimum of 18 years old or 17 years old with parental consent. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.
Apprentices learn their trade while working on the job. They also attend classes for technical instruction. Many Carpenter apprenticeship programs require that applicants be a minimum of 18 years of age, have a high school diploma or equivalent, possess a valid California driver license, and have a minimum of eighth grade math skills. Carpenters' apprenticeship programs usually require 48 months, 4,800 work hours, and completion of 612 hours of technical classroom instruction. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.
While continuing education is not required for Carpenters, they will need to keep current on updates and changes to the California Green Building Standards Code (or CALGreen).
Licensing and Certification
Employees work under the license of the employer or contractor. Those wishing to enter self-employment as a contractor must obtain a contractors license through the Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board. Refer to "Other Sources" for additional information. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.
Carpenters can receive voluntary certification, such as Envelope Professional, Green Advantage, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and Lead Carpenter. Certification is granted to individuals who meet the minimum education and work experience requirements, and who are able to pass an examination. These certifications are offered by various professional organizations and can demonstrate to an employer an increased knowledge of various types of skills. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
- Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Carpentry/Carpenter; Cabinetmaking and Millwork/Millwright; and Construction Trades, General.
- Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
The largest industries employing Carpenters are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Residential Building Construction ||24.3%|
|Building Foundation/Exterior Contractors ||11.9%|
|Building Finishing Contractors ||10.6%|
|Nonresidential Building Construction ||8.0%|
|Employment Services ||1.6%|
Finding a Job
Direct application to employers is one of the most common and effective job search methods. Jobs may also be found through classified advertisements in newspapers and online job boards. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Carpenters.
- Apprenticeship Programs
- Building Contractors, Commercial & Industrial
- Building, General Contractors
- Building & House Restoration & Preservation
- Framing Contractors
- Home Improvements
- Home Repair & Maintenance
- Housing Authorities
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
Increased skills make a Carpenter more valuable to the employer, and greater responsibility may be offered to the employee. In larger firms, positions such as construction superintendent, project manager, or estimator may be available. Another career path may be to become a self-employed Carpenter, perhaps supervising a small crew of Carpenters. Good business sense and an ability to accurately estimate construction material and labor costs are very important if a Carpenter desires to run his or her own business.
Some Carpenters become independent contractors. To advance, these workers should be able to identify and estimate the quantity of materials needed to properly complete a job. In addition, they must be able to accurately estimate how long a job should take to complete and what it will cost. General building contractors must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board.
Below is a list of occupations related to Carpenters with links to more information.
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||Guide|
|Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters||Guide|
|Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers||Guide|
|Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers||Guide|
|Helpers--Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters||Profile|
|Tile and Marble Setters||Guide|
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.