California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers in California

May also be called: Acoustical Carpenters; Ceiling Installers; Drywall Finishers; Drywall Hangers; Metal Framers

Specialties within this occupation include: Lathers

What Would I Do?

Most interior spaces today are covered with drywall, a building material consisting of a thin layer of gypsum sandwiched between two layers of heavy paper. Currently, drywall is used to make walls and ceilings in most buildings because it is faster and cheaper to install than plaster.

Drywall Installers check blueprint plans for the location of rooms and hallways; then, cut and screw together metal channels to make floor and ceiling frames. Because drywall panels are manufactured in standard sizes, Installers must measure, cut, fit, and fasten the panels to the inside framework of buildings. Workers cut smaller pieces to go around doors and windows. Installers saw, drill, or cut holes in panels for electrical outlets, air-conditioning units, and plumbing. After making these alterations, Installers glue, nail, or screw the wallboard panels to the wood or metal framework, called studs. Because drywall is heavy and cumbersome, another worker usually helps the Installer to position and secure the drywall panel.

Ceiling Tile Installers, or acoustical carpenters, mount acoustical tiles, blocks, strips, or sheets of shock-ab­sorbing materials to ceilings and walls of buildings to reduce re­flection of sound or to decorate rooms. First, they measure and mark the surface according to blueprints and drawings. Then, they nail or screw moldings to the wall to support and seal the joint between the ceiling tile and the wall. Finally, they mount the tile, either by applying a cement adhesive to the back of the tile and then pressing the tile into place, or by nailing, screwing, stapling, or wire-tying the lath directly to the structural frame­work.

Lathers prepare building surfaces for plaster work. They apply the support base for plaster coatings, fireproofing, or acoustical materials. This support base, called lath, is put on walls, ceilings, ornamental frameworks, and partitions of buildings before plaster and other coatings are added. Lathers use handtools and portable power tools to nail, screw, staple, or wire-tie the lath directly to the structural framework or surface of a building. Many years ago, lath was made of thin wooden strips, but now, it is usually made of wire, metal mesh, or gypsum. Metal lath is used when the plaster coating will be exposed to weather, or when a surface is curved and not suitable for drywall.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Coordinate work with drywall finishers who cover the seams between drywall panels.Time Management
Measure and mark surfaces to lay out work according to blueprints and drawings, using tape measures, straightedges or squares, and marking devices.Mathematics
Fit and fasten wallboard or drywall into position on wood or metal frameworks, using glue, nails, or screws.Installation
Read blueprints and other specifications to determine methods of installation, work procedures, and material and tool requirements.Reading Comprehension
Measure and cut openings in panels or tiles for electrical outlets, windows, vents, and plumbing and other fixtures, using keyhole saws or other cutting tools.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Trim rough edges from wallboard to maintain even joints, using knives.Near Vision
Hang drywall panels on metal frameworks of walls and ceilings in offices, schools, and other large buildings, using lifts or hoists to adjust panel heights when necessary.Gross Body Equilibrium
Hang dry lines (stretched string) to wall moldings in order to guide positioning of main runners.Manual Dexterity
Inspect furrings, mechanical mountings, and masonry surface for plumbness and level, using spirit or water levels.Problem Sensitivity
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Unlike some construction jobs, Drywall Installers generally work indoors, protected from the weather. This means they can work when it is raining, snowing, hot, or cold. Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers spend most of the day on their feet, either standing, bending, stretching, or kneeling. Installers lift and maneuver heavy, cumbersome drywall panels. They are often required to purchase their own tools and equipment.

Hazards include falls from ladders and scaffolds, injuries from power tools, and cuts from sharp tools, such as utility knives. Drywall finishers are exposed to a great deal of dust when sanding joint compounds to a smooth finish. However, risks are minimized when safety precautions are followed. Most Drywall workers wear protective gear including masks, goggles, gloves, and hard hats to prevent injuries.

Installers generally work a 40-hour week, but hours may fluctuate depending on the workload.

Most Drywall Installers in California are not members of a trade union. However, some Drywall Installers may belong to the Northern California Counties Drywall/Lathing Union, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, or the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers will appeal to those who enjoy working on projects that require practical, hands-on problems and solutions. This occupation interests those who are attentive to detail and thorough in completing work tasks. Many of these occupations do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages for Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers in California differ widely depending on job duties, work experience, type of industry, and location of the work. Workers in large cities usually earn higher wages than those who work in smaller towns and rural areas.


The median wage in 2021 for Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers in California was $57,390 annually, or $27.59 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Benefit packages vary widely from company to company. Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers generally receive health insurance, vacation, and holidays. The type of benefit package is determined by company policy or union contract. Self-employed Drywall Installers need to purchase their own benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

Employment of Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers is expected to grow as new residential and commercial building increases. Most installation work is done indoors; therefore, these workers lose less work time due to severe winter weather conditions than other construction workers.

The development of easy-to-use materials, such as wood or plastic paneling, may encourage homeowners to undertake do-it-yourself remodeling or repair projects which may limit employment opportunities for Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers are expected to increase by 8.3 percent, or 3,000 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Most employers prefer to hire applicants with a high school diploma. Some employers are willing to train entry-level helpers on the job. However, completion of a formal apprenticeship, trade, or vocational training program enhances employment opportunities. Drywall Installers are often required to purchase their own tools and equipment.

Formal apprenticeship programs require applicants to be at least 18 years of age, or 17 years of age with written parental consent. A high school diploma or equivalent is required along with six months experience in the construction field. Applicants must be physically able to perform all phases of the work which includes lifting heavy materials in all types of weather.


The amount and type of work experience required varies from company to company. Before entering a Drywall/Lathing apprenticeship program, applicants must have six months experience in construction. In addition, 4,800 work hours and 576 hours of related classroom training are required to complete a four year apprenticeship program.

Early Career Planning

High school preparation courses in English, Spanish, mathematics, mechanical drawing, blueprint reading, and wood and metal shop are helpful for students interested in Drywall and Ceiling Tile installation occupations.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

Apprentices learn their trade while working on the job. Most apprenticeship programs require a high school diploma or equivalent and six months experience in the construction field. In addition, 4,800 work hours and 576 hours of related classroom training are required to complete a four year apprenticeship program.

Program completers receive a Drywall/Lathing Journeyman certificate, a United Brotherhood of Carpenters certificate, and a California Apprenticeship Council completion certificate. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.

Training Programs for Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers are also available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). Programs include carpentry, carpentry-plastering, and construction technology.  To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.


Individuals working as employees work under the license of the employer-contractor. Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers entering self-employment as Drywall Contractors must have at least four years of journey-level work experience. They must also pass a written exam and a fingerprint background check to obtain either a Drywall or Lathing and Plastering Specialty Contractor’s license. These licenses are issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board. Specialty contractor’s licenses are active for two years. Licenses may be renewed for a two-year period. 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.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

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 Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Building Finishing Contractors69.1%
Residential Building Construction6.6%
Nonresidential Building Construction6.0%
Building Foundation/Exterior Contractors2.6%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Jobs may also be found through registration with temporary employment agencies and through classified advertisements in newspapers, trade publications, and Internet job listings. Union members generally search for work by registering with their local hiring hall. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

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 Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers.

  • Acoustical Ceiling Tile Refinishing
  • Acoustical Drywall Services
  • Drywall Contractors
  • Sheetrock Contractors

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?

Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers generally begin their careers as helpers and advance to full journey level after several years of experience. From there, the Installer may move up to foreman, carpentry supervisor, or general construction supervisor positions. In larger firms, an Installer may become an estimator. Some Drywall Installers become contractors and open their own businesses.

Spanish-speaking workers make up a large part of the construction workforce in many areas. Therefore, for those who wish to advance, it is increasingly important to be able to communicate in both English and Spanish in order to relay instructions and safety precautions to workers with limited understanding of the English language. Knowing English well also makes it easier to advance.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers with links to more information.

Helpers--Painters, Paperhangers, Plasterers, and Stucco MasonsProfile
Insulation Workers, Floor, Ceiling, and WallGuide
Plasterers and Stucco MasonsProfile
Reinforcing Iron and Rebar WorkersProfile
Tile and Marble SettersGuide

Other Sources

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.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification47-2081
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers47-2081.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCI
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Drywall Installation/Drywaller 460404
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Drywall and Insulation095280