How to become a Carpenter

learn how to become a carpenter

Living in the U.S. today, you probably realize that a basic bachelor's degree has become nothing more than a glorified high school diploma. 

Due to this, many have decided to go a different route in search of a career. 

Can we say Trade School anyone?

Because trade school is faster and far cheaper, some believe it is a better option with more chances of finding employment. 

Our new series will dive into different trade school occupations. These posts have been thoroughly researched, and contain more information than most. Be sure to bookmark it and come back to read as you have time.

Many felons find success with carpentry, so today we are discussing how to become a carpenter and what this career consists of. 

Types of Carpentry

When it comes to Carpentry, there are two categories: Residential and Commercial.

Although certain aspects of these categories will overlap, for the most part they are separate.

Residential carpentry typically deals with building in residential communities. Whereas, commercial handles building structures for business use. 


Residential carpentry is broken into two categories: Rough Framers and Finish Carpenters.

Rough framers work on the actual structure of the house.

The structure includes things such as studs, walls, windows, flooring, siding, roof, etc.

Finish carpenters on the other hand, focus on areas of the house that will be seen more.

These areas include doors, windows, cabinets, molding, baseboards, the list goes on and on.

 Finish carpenters are typically hired to install all finishing elements of a house. 


Unlike residential carpentry, commercial is broken into several different categories consisting of:  

  • Fresh Millwork- Individuals in charge of running a machine within a wood shop 

  • Installer- Carpenters who work with on the spot modification and installation 

  • Millwright- Individuals who oversee moving repairing, and disassembling machinery from within a construction site, power plant, or factory.  

  • Shipwright- Someone who specializes in working on areas of a ship where wood is involved 

  • Form Work- Individuals who create temporary structures that hold other structures in place until the structure can stand on its own. 

Training Required to Become a Carpenter

tools needed to become a carpenter

When it comes to trade careers, we are often asked how to become a carpenter.

The most common way to gain the training required to become a carpenter is to be admitted into an apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships usually require 3-4 years to complete and consist of on the job training and classroom instruction.

Another good option to help you become a carpenter would be attending a vocational college.

Today, there are many trade schools and local community colleges that offer certificates or degrees that could give you a head start in a carpentry career.  

Do Carpenters Need a License?

In most states Carpenters are required to obtain a contractor's license but, requirements vary between states.

Some states such as Connecticut, Delaware, South Carolina and Alabama require you to get a general contractor license.

Other states however, may require a specialized contracting license.

While some states don't require a state-level license, local municipalities may deem it necessary.

Click on the state to find out more information. Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. 

Obtaining A Carpenters License.


Interested in becoming a carpenter?

Here are a few things you should know:

-First, you should check with the State Board of Contractors and find out what types of carpenter licenses they have.

-While many states have one type of license, states such as Arizona have a few carpenter licenses in their classification of contractor licenses.

-The state of Arizona has licenses for a carpentry license, a finish carpentry license, and a carpentry, remodeling and repairs license.

-When applying for any of these licenses the procedure is the same however, each license may only permit you to do certain types of work.

Also, keep in mind that each license may require a different amount of training and types of training to become licensed.  

Carpenters License Experience Requirements

Let it be known that when applying for a Carpenters license, your prior experience will also be considered.

Typically, at least 4 years of verifiable service in the carpentry field is required before you can apply for a license. 

Can't just hand licenses out to anyone right?

Having a past license in another state can also be very beneficial to you.

A previous license could possibly waive the exams normally associated with receiving a license. 

Saving you time, and money 🙂

Education and Exams

In most cases, prior education isn’t a requirement for you to obtain a Carpenter’s license. 

Interested in taking free college classes? Click here to learn how.

Education gained through experience however, is required.

Don’t think you’re off the hook just yet though.

Most states require you to go through training at accredited training providers before taking an exam for a license.

States such as Nevada or Arizona on the other hand, do not require applicants to go through training if they have the necessary experience.

In these states you are only required to pass a business management test and a trade exam.

If you would like to obtain a carpenter's license, be sure that you check with the State Board of Contractors to find out what the requirements are and how you can meet them.  

Tip Nevada, Arizona, Utah and California have an agreement that allows an individual to get a license in any of these states as long as they have passed a trade exam in one of them. 

Contractor License Bond

Aside from getting a license, many states will also require you to get a surety bond.

A surety bond is an agreement between three parties where the surety financially guarantees to an obligee that the principal will act in accordance with the terms established by the bond.  

  • The principal (carpenters or contractors) 
  • The Surety (company financially backing bond) 
  • The obligee (consumer or state) 

When it comes to surety bonds, not all states require them.

However, if you live in a state that does, when you apply for a bond you will be offered a rate based on a percentage of the total bond amount.

These rates are determined by the applicant’s financial status (credit score, financial statements, etc.).

This means that rates can change over time and nothing is set in stone.

Because these bonds are usually renewed annually, this also means your rates could improve if your credit score goes up.

Lastly, you may also be required to obtain insurance (general liability and/or industrial) depending on the state you are applying. 

Submitting Your Application

Once you have completed all the previously listed steps, you are finally ready to submit your application.

You must submit your application to the State Board of Contractors and also pay any associated fees. 

Basic Tools Required for Carpenters

how to become a carpenter felons get hired

When it comes to carpentry, it is important to have all the right tools for the job. 

You wouldn’t show up to school with no backpack or supplies right?

Didn’t think so. 

The last thing a job site foreman wants to see, is you showing up unprepared for work.  

Measuring Tape

For a carpenter, measuring tools are by far one of the most important.

The old saying “measure twice, cut once” couldn’t be truer.

It is so easy to make a mistake by only measuring once and ending up with a bad cut. 

Then you are left with wasted materials which can be costly.

 For carpenters, a measuring tape is a must.

This tool will be used constantly on the job.  

Carpentry Squares

If you are getting into a carpentry career, you should also purchase a square.

Squares are important in carpentry because they help you ensure that you have correct angles before you make cuts.

The most common types of squares used in carpentry are framing squares, speed squares, combination squares, and try squares. 

Power Tools

Next on the list is power tools.

These tools are life savers and save you time and effort when working in the carpentry field.

As a carpenter, you will use power tools quite often. 

The most common power tools that you will use are power drills, circular saws, jigsaws, reciprocating saws, table saws, routers, and nail guns. 

Hand Tools

When working as a Carpenter, you will always need hand tools.

Hand tools have many different purposes, but you will likely need many of them on a daily basis.

These consist of tools such as, chalk lines, carpenters' pencils, utility knives, tin snips, wood chisels, and torpedo levels. 


I know that we mentioned nail guns earlier, but sometimes it may be better to just use a hammer.

Some of the most useful hammers within the carpentry field are trim hammers, framing hammers, and sledge hammers.

When you decide to become a carpenter, this is one of the first tools you will buy.


One of the most important tools for a carpenter is a level.

The last thing you want to do is build a structure that’s leaning to the side, right?

Well a level will help you prevent this from happening.

A level allows you to determine if an object is level or not.

As a carpenter, at some point you may have to use any of the following types of levels: 24 or 48 inch levels, torpedo levels, transit levels, laser levels, digital levels, and magnetic levels. 

Tool Belt

Last but not least, you probably want to invest in a good tool belt.

A tool belt will help you store all of your tools and also keep them within arms reach while working.

Tool belts are perfect for carrying around tools such as tape measures, hammers, speed squares, pencils, etc. 

There are several different types of tool belts however, it is important for you to pick the belt that fits you best.

Keep in mind that with certain jobs a different belt may suit you better than what you already have.

For instance, if you are a roofer, you may want to consider a belt that has large pockets to store roofing nails instead of your current belt with small pockets. 

Is Carpentry for You

becoming a carpenter

Before deciding whether or not you would like to pursue a carpentry career, let's look more into the pros and cons of their jobs.  


First let's cover some of the positive aspects of carpentry.

One of the most rewarding aspects of becoming an independent carpenter is the freedom to work when you want, where you choose, and as much as you want

Another positive aspect of carpentry is that your job is different almost every day.

One day you you’re framing a structure and the next you could be building cabinets for a customer.

Carpentry is also a good skilled trade because we live in a country where construction is always needed

Also, the education requirements are much easier to meet than many other careers which allows for almost anyone to start their own company. 


Although there are some very good aspects of carpentry, like anything else in life there are negatives as well.

Earlier I mentioned that independence was a positive aspect of carpentry, now I'm going to back track and tell you that it can be negative as well. 

Having this independence also means that it is up to you to gain exposure to potential clients, to estimate accurately, and sell potential leads on your capability as a carpenter.

As an independent carpenter, you must also worry about project uncertainty.

You never know when a job you had lined up may fall through due to funding or other unforeseen circumstances. 

It is important that as a carpenter, you must also know that every day you run the risk of being injured on the job. 

All it takes is one incident on the job to permanently change your life.

As a carpenter, safety is paramount, and you should be sure to take precaution with everything you do.

Carpenters also run the risk of developing health issues due to hard physical labor.

One common injury that you may experience as a carpenter is knee injuries due to always kneeling during work. 


Ever dealt with carpentry? Did you like it? 


Think you want to become a carpenter? 


What did you think of this article? 


Tell us what you think in the comments below.