How to learn carpentry in the USA (2023)? Easy Steps

Carpentry involves the cutting, shaping, and constructing furniture, artifacts, buildings materials, etc. using wood, plywood, or timber. It is a skilled trade that is extremely important during the building construction process. We will not have our doors, windows, kitchen cabinets, bathroom countertops, etc. in place if there were no carpenters. Let’s take a look at how you can learn this. This can be just for fun or as a job.


In the U.S, carpentry is the fourth largest sector wherein employees are working, agriculture being the highest job-generating sector. To become an independent carpenter, a person has to undergo an apprenticeship for about four years.

In most of the countries across the globe, carpenters do not take any formal training or go to trade school. This is a skill that is passed on from one generation to the other. Let’s look at the process of becoming a certified carpenter in the U.S. In countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany Australia, South Africa, and a few other developed nations, a carpenter needs to pass the competency test. Nowadays you can learn a lot online as well but you need to practice this type of skill and a school is the best option to do this.

They sometimes work on the payroll of large contracting companies that have long-term building and furniture-making projects. Furniture companies like Ikea hire carpenters to come up with designing, manufacturing and installing wooden furniture, fixtures, floors, etc.

It takes about four years for a person to complete the on-job-training and formal education to become a skilled carpenter in the U.S. He has to go through a process to become a licensed carpenter and the state laws are different in each state. Let’s look at some of the broader aspects of picking up this trade as a career path.

Start with skills training-

If you are serious about taking up carpentry as your career option, the best thing would be to start early. Start attending workshops during your high school years. Along with picking up the on-job training, your ability to read drawings, physics and mathematics should be good.

Once you are 14 years old, you can take up a part-time job at a contractor’s place. After school start going there and start with the basic skills of using the axe, sharpening the tools etc.

Join a trade school-

After completing high school, join a good trade school so that you get to learn the theory part of carpentry. You will also get ample time in the laboratory to practice the skill of carpentry. Most carpentry programs will require two years of dedicated training. You will get to learn to read the blueprints, hand tool selection, caring for tools and the right way of using them will be taught in the trade school. You will get to understand the architectural drawings, learn machine woodworking, learn to use the measurement tools, project management, and estimation, learn the principles and procedures of building constriction etc.

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You will also learn the skill of framing and finishing, building technology, roofing systems, door, window layout and construction, and everything else a modern carpenter does today.

If you want to increase your employability and get a license to work in multiple states, get a formal academic program in carpentry. It is not mandatory to have formal school education to get a license in most states in the U.S, however, it is better to get one when you are young.

Join an apprenticeship program-

While you are doing your trade school course, you may join a contractor as an apprentice. If you had done carpentry workshops during your high school days, your employability will increase. This will help you to gain some experience in the field and by the time you graduate from trade school, you will land better jobs than your classmates.

You will have to work under supervision for about three years and then you will get certified to start working as a journeyman.

How to become a certified carpenter in the United States?

Photo by Austin Ramsey on Unsplash

A skilled craftsperson who works with wood, timber, plywood, veneer, etc, and is capable of erecting, installing, and repairing various building structures needs to go through a process to become a licensed carpenter. A licensed carpenter normally works as an independent contractor and takes on projects for new buildings, existing buildings, manufacturing furniture, movie sets, etc.

Increase your work experience-

You will need four years of on-the-job work experience before you get to apply for your license. These four years have to be within the last ten years. You need to have valid proof to show your employment records. Once you attain a license in one state and work there for a few years, you can apply for licenses in other states too. Independent contractors normally travel a lot and pick up projects in different parts of the country. It helps them to build a better portfolio and they get better-paying assignments.

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Acquire the license-

After fulfilling all the licensing requirements, you will need to take and pass the carpentry exam for your state. They will test you on your knowledge about the usage of carpentry tools, understanding of safety protocols, ability to read blueprints and architectural drawings etc.

Before submitting your licensing application, acquire your liability insurance and industrial insurance if you do not have them already. Pay the surety bond fees if your state requirement includes that. Now pay the fees for obtaining a license and submit your license application to your State Board of Contractors.

Once you achieve your license, you will be free to take up a job with a company or work as an independent contractor. However, in the initial years, it is better to work with a team of experienced carpenters who can help you when you get stuck somewhere. That will increase your learning and credibility.

Key skills needed to become a successful carpenter

  • Analytical skills
  • Need to be good with measurements and precision
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Inter-personal skills and good communication skills

You will start with an average salary of $35000-$45000 per year. As you start gaining experience, your earnings will increase. If you become a well recommended independent contractor after a few years, you might be able to earn more than $100,000 per year or more.


If you like to do DIY projects at home with wood and timber, you should seriously think about taking carpentry as your career path. They make good money and their job is always secured. During the COVID 19 global pandemic, many employees lost jobs. People working in the travel and entertainment industries lost jobs because there were travel bans and people could not travel.

During the 2008 global recession, people in the IT sector, banking sector, etc. all over the globe lost jobs. However, carpenters, electricians, plumbers are needed for our day-to-day functioning. Hence, those people will never find a dearth of work. All the best for your new career path!!!