Skilled Trades Careers

What is a Carpenter and What Do They Do at Work?

DateJanuary 23, 2024
what is a carpenter and what do they do

Have you ever wondered what exactly a carpenter does on a day-to-day basis? Carpenters are skilled tradespeople who work with wood and other materials to build, install, and repair structures and fixtures. From crafting furniture to constructing entire buildings, carpenters play a crucial role in bringing architectural designs to life.

One of the biggest benefits of being a carpenter is the opportunity to work with your hands and see the tangible results of your labor. If you're interested in learning more about the exciting opportunities and resources available to carpenters, sign up for a free SkillHero account.

The SkillHero app provides students and trade workers with access to a wide range of resources, including a database of educational and employment opportunities. Claim your free account here, then keep reading to learn all about different carpentry skills and carpentry career options.

What is a professional carpenter?

A professional carpenter is a skilled tradesperson who specializes in working with wood to construct, install, and repair structures and fixtures. They are essential to the construction industry and play a crucial role in creating homes, buildings, and other wooden structures.

Carpenters use a variety of tools and techniques to cut, shape, and join wood, as well as to install and finish it.

Professional carpenters contribute to the creation of safe and functional spaces for people to live and work in. Their work is essential in building and maintaining infrastructure, homes, and commercial spaces.

Carpenters also play a significant role in preserving historical structures and creating custom furniture and woodworking pieces.

What does a carpenter do on a typical day at work?

A typical day for a carpenter involves planning and collaborating with other construction workers as well as measuring, cutting, and shaping wood according to blueprints and project plans.

Carpenters install, assemble, and finish all types of wooden works, including trim, railings, and other detailed woodworking. They may also be responsible for repairing and renovating existing structures.

Safety and compliance with building codes are essential aspects of their work, as is maintaining and organizing their tools and equipment. Effective communication with colleagues and project supervisors is key to ensuring that work progresses smoothly and according to plan.

Do carpenters make good money?

Carpenters have the potential to earn good money, with salaries varying based on experience, job responsibilities, and other factors.


Entry-level carpenters can expect to earn a median salary, while those with more experience and additional responsibilities can earn higher incomes. Factors that contribute to salary differences include the type of job roles, work environments, and specialized skills.

Being a carpenter comes with benefits such as job stability, the ability to work with your hands, and the option to be self employed.

To increase their earning potential, carpenters can consider additional training and certifications, specializing in a niche area such as woodworking or cabinetry, or pursuing leadership roles within their company.

How to become a carpenter

Becoming a carpenter typically involves completing an apprenticeship, gaining qualifications, obtaining a CSCS card, and receiving on-the-job training.

To learn more about the specific steps and requirements for becoming a carpenter, check out our full article.

If you're interested in pursuing a career in the carpentry trade, sign up for a free SkillHero account to access our suite of tools for tradespeople.

What types of carpenters are there? Carpentry trade paths

As a carpenter gains skills and experience they will be able to provide the most value on certain types of jobs. Different carpentry specializations are called trade paths, and they each require specific combinations of proficiencies.

General carpenter

General carpenters work on a variety of projects including residential homes, commercial buildings, and construction sites. They're responsible for measuring, cutting, and shaping wood using hand and power tools in a variety of environments.

Pros of becoming a general carpenter include enjoying a variety of tasks and strong job security. Demand for skilled carpenters is increasing by almost 80,000 jobs each year, with many of them in the construction industry.

That said, general carpentry can be physically demanding, requiring long hours of standing, lifting, and bending. It may also require working with protective gear to avoid inhaling sawdust or other materials.

Bridge carpenter

Bridge carpenters ensure the safety of critical infrastructure, including a wide range of multi-level structures such as bridges, ramps, and overpasses. They participate in specialized training programs and create architectural designs that must be practical and adherent to strict safety measures.

These specialists may focus on structural and foundational work like framing and formwork, and often work on large construction projects.

Bridge carpentry gives you the chance to work on large-scale projects with the potential for competitive wages. This may mean that they'll experience longer gaps between significant projects, but self-employed workers can always pick up smaller jobs in their down time.

Cabinet maker

A cabinet maker is a skilled trade worker who specializes in creating custom cabinets for residential and commercial spaces. They work with a variety of woodworking tools and materials to design and construct cabinets that meet their clients' specific needs and preferences.

Cabinet makers enjoy crafting creative and custom pieces, and typically see high demand in the construction and remodeling industries. This can lead to long-term relationships with reliable clients and the chance to create prolific interior decor.

Finish carpenter

Finish carpenters specialize in the installation of interior moldings, trim, and other finishing touches in residential and commercial buildings. With a keen eye for detail and precision, finish carpenters play a crucial role in bringing together the final aesthetic appeal of a space.

A formal apprenticeship with an employer who specializes on this path is recommended for anyone wishing to pursue finish carpentry.

Timber carpenter

A timber carpenter specializes in working with wood to construct, install, and repair structures and fixtures. This can include the production of furniture, cabinets, and other woodworking projects, as well as the creation and installation of wooden components in construction projects.

Timber carpenters enjoy the satisfaction of creating tangible and long-lasting products, and the potential for self-employment in the field. The work typically includes physical labor and the ability to manage power tools and heavy materials.

Timber carpentry apprenticeships programs will teach you how to play a vital role on this career path, with a broad range of future projects available.

How to know if carpentry is right for you

Carpentry requires a unique set of skills and qualities, including attention to detail, physical strength, and the ability to work with heavy materials. Typical tasks and responsibilities of a carpenter include building and installing structures and furniture and repair and restoration work.

It's important for carpenters to be comfortable working with heavy hand tools and power tools. They use the tools along with a variety of building materials to do detailed work such as installing frameworks, measuring, cutting, and shaping and joining wooden objects.

If you enjoy working with wood, have a knack for craftsmanship, and are willing to put in the physical effort, carpentry may be a good fit for you.

Do you possess these traits and qualities, and want to create works that are functional and beautiful? A career in carpentry may be right for you. Sign up for a free SkillHero account to get access to our full suite of resources for skilled trade professionals.