12 Pros and Cons of Being a Carpenter (Plus Tips for Becoming One)
Updated March 10, 2023
Carpentry is a construction occupation that offers several pros and cons for new and experienced carpenters. Understanding these pros and cons can help you better understand whether carpentry is the right career path for you. In this article, we show you what a carpenter does, discuss 12 pros and cons of being a carpenter and explore several tips for becoming a carpenter.
What does a carpenter do?
A carpenter is a construction professional who creates wooden structures, furniture and other building elements. Carpenters understand techniques like precision sawing, drilling, hand sanding and choosing the right type of wood for specific projects. Carpenters often undertake personal projects for clients or work as part of a team for a construction or carpentry company.
Related: How To Become a Carpenter in 4 Steps
Pros of being a carpenter
Becoming a carpenter offers many benefits, including these six pros:
1. You can work with your hands
Carpentry is a physical occupation that allows you to work with your hands and directly affect the outcome of your projects. You can use hand tools and specific techniques to create unique furniture or aid in the construction of buildings or homes. Working with your hands can be an appealing feature for people who like to see the results of their work and use their hands to create unique works of art. Carpenters learn to use a variety of tools and techniques they can also apply in their personal lives.
2. You gain repair skills
Carpenters learn to repair damage to wooden objects, furniture and structures. This might include advanced carpentry and construction skills, which carpenters can apply in their personal lives. For example, a carpenter might use the skills they learn at their workplace to repair a crumbling wooden shed in their yard and avoid the cost of labor to hire someone else. These skills apply to many circumstances and may be invaluable to future employers. Some carpenters use these skills to start their own businesses.
3. You can work on your feet
Carpentry is typically a physically demanding job, which requires a lot of time on your feet. Spending time walking, crouching, bending, hammering and performing other various physical activities can be a great way to stay active and healthy. Carpentry can be an opportunity for people who want to get some exercise while working. Some carpentry jobs also require heavy lifting, which can help you build muscle and increase your fitness level.
4. You can work normal hours
Carpenters typically have the option to work a normal schedule, or eight hours per day, five days per week. Many companies offer different scheduling options and can offer overtime if you want to earn more money. This gives you the choice to spend weekends, holidays or other non-working days earning extra money through overtime or spending that time with family. If you work as an independent contractor, you can have even more control over your time and create a schedule that fits your needs. Contractors typically work 40-hour weeks but have the option to schedule personal time whenever.
5. You can earn higher wages
Carpenters can earn an average annual salary of around $55,742 per year. Joining a carpenter's union can grant you access to better salaries, benefits and representation. Some carpenters earn higher wages by gaining experience in niches like furniture or construction carpentry. Typically, more experienced carpenters earn more than entry-level carpenters, but this can also depend on your abilities and skill level. Some areas also offer better pay for carpenters if the demand is higher.
Read more: Ways To Earn More as a Carpenter
6. The job has minimal educational requirements
Carpenters typically hold a high school diploma or GED. Having a college degree may help you earn a higher position in management or as a supervisor, but doesn't necessarily guarantee a better starting wage as a carpenter. Carpentry is a career path that focuses more on skill than education, so you might save the cost of an expensive college education by choosing vocational programs instead.
Cons of being a carpenter
There are also several cons to consider before pursuing a job as a carpenter, including these six:
1. You can risk accidental injury
Carpentry can present certain hazards, as you work with heavy equipment, sharp hand tools and power tools. For example, you might use saws, drills or hand chisels, which can have sharp edges or rotating metallic parts that can cause injury. Carpenters learn important safety techniques before operating these tools and often earn safety certifications. They also observe strict workplace safety standards to minimize accidents and create a safer workplace for everyone. Most construction businesses require employees to complete safety training modules and work under an experienced carpenter before they can work on projects independently.
2. The job requires hard physical labor
Carpentry is a labor-intensive career path that requires physical fitness and stamina. You often stand, walk and crouch for long periods of time, if not your entire shift. You may also lift heavy objects, position heavy beams, furniture or machinery and use hand tools to shape and cut wood. Physical endurance is a key skill for carpenters and you can build endurance with more experience. You can also adopt an exercise routine outside of work that focuses on cardio workouts to build physical stamina to make the physical demands of the job easier.
3. The job outlook is below average
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for carpenters is around 2% growth through 2029, which qualifies as below average compared to other occupations. The BLS expects only around 20,000 new carpentry jobs to appear in over the next decade, but this is also an opportunity to earn higher wages by focusing your carpentry skills and making yourself more competitive. With fewer jobs available, you can focus on developing niche skills to give yourself a more competitive advantage over other applicants to gain one of these positions.
4. You might need three to five years of training
While you don't necessarily need a college degree to become a carpenter, the job typically requires between three and five years of apprenticeship training. Prospective carpenters spend their first few years gaining direct experience under a certified, experienced carpenter. While three to five years can be a big time commitment, it helps you develop your carpentry skills, industry knowledge and safety standards to operate as a certified carpenter. Apprenticeships can save you money and allow you to earn a living while you learn the job.
5. You may experience inconsistency in work opportunities
Carpenters typically experience some inconsistency during their careers. Availability of work relies heavily on the demand for professional carpenters, and sometimes, there isn't a strong demand. For example, if the housing market is performing poorly, demand for new housing can drop, reducing the need for residential carpenters. While inconsistent work can be a con of the job, it also presents an opportunity for carpenters to seek out new skills or training to increase their competitiveness in the industry. You can use this time to gain new certifications or seek better career opportunities in the field.
Read more: What Are Carpentry Skills? (With Tips)
6. You might work as a contractor
For carpenters that don't find work with established construction companies or carpentry unions, becoming a contractor is an option. Contractor work can be unreliable and creates a position where you're the manager, marketer and laborer. This can be demanding, but also creates an opportunity to expand your skills and create your own customer base. Contractors also have the advantage of setting their own wages and taking on projects they're passionate about instead of every project they're assigned.
Tips for becoming a carpenter
If you want to become a carpenter, here are some helpful tips:
Apply for an apprenticeship as soon as possible. Most states require carpenters to complete an apprenticeship before licensing. Apply for any local apprenticeships as soon as possible to begin your tenure as an apprentice.
Consider joining a carpenter's union. A carpenter's union can help you get more competitive wages, good benefits, legal representation and more steady work. Consider joining your local carpenter's union, where you might also gain an apprenticeship.
Choose a specialty. Choosing a specialty can help you focus your skills and make you a more competitive carpenter. For example, you can choose residential carpentry to take advantage of a housing market boost and rising demand for new homes.
Develop a mentality of safety on the job. Even before you become a licensed carpenter, it's a good idea to create a strong safety mentality. Focus on your surroundings and learning to operate equipment properly and safely to avoid injury.
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