Attending carpentry trade school prepares you for a potentially lucrative career in a growing industry. I’d like to provide you with an overview of what to expect from trade school, how to find a good program and why taking this route is a smart choice for learning a hands-on vocation.
In a society where service industries dominate, carpentry remains an essential trade. When you go to carpentry school, you develop skills in high demand and differentiate yourself from a large part of the workforce. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Why Choose Carpentry Trade School?
I know how frustrating it can be to wade through two years of prep courses in a college program before delving into the subject you want to study. Trade schools, however, get right down to business. If you’re there to learn carpentry, you start right away with relevant academic courses and practical application. Classes are taught by people with experience in the field, so you spend your time learning from the best.
Trade school programs are often shorter and cheaper than four-year degree options and offer impressive career opportunities. Many people who attend trade school make just as much as or even more than college graduates without the additional burden of excessive student loans. Getting into carpentry gives you the added advantage of having skills not likely to be taken over by machines and with applications in a variety of industries.
What to Expect in Carpenter School
It’s not an exaggeration to say learning carpentry is hard work. If you’re not ready to apply yourself to a hands-on program requiring attention to detail and a head for numbers, my advice is to find another trade. However, for those who love working with their hands and being productive on the job every day, training to be a carpenter should be a delight.
As you go through a carpentry program, you’ll attend a combination of courses involving both book learning and actual building projects. Master craftsmen will show you how to avoid small errors with the potential to cause big problems in real-world situations, and you’ll become comfortable working with a variety of tools and materials.
If possible, I recommend attending a trade school offering an associate degree. This gives you the option of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the future, and degrees can make your resume stand out to potential employers.
What are Carpentry Classes Like?
Although it’s not as diverse as a traditional college program, carpentry school packs a lot of information into just a couple of years. You can expect to take classes covering subjects like:
• Math and science, including algebra, geometry and physics
• Tool selection, use and care
• Understanding principles and procedures of construction
• Architectural drawing
• Blueprint design and reading
• Building codes
• Choosing and measuring materials
• Framing and roofing
• Interior and exterior finishing, including siding and molding
• Door and window placement
• Machine woodworking
• Project management
• Making accurate estimates
• Technology and mechanical systems
Each of these courses provides you with some of the tools you need to become a skilled carpenter. The best way to put it all together is to seek out an apprenticeship where you can see how what you learn in school works when you’re out on the job.
The Benefits of Apprenticeships
Apprenticeships have been around since the Middle Ages when young people learned trades from masters in local craft guilds. This practical method of on-the-job training has endured for so long because it plunges participants right into the careers they want to pursue while providing skilled guidance every step of the way.
To become an apprentice carpenter in the U.S., you must be 18 years old and have at least a high school diploma. Coming out of trade school and into an apprenticeship or overlapping your apprentice work with classes gives you a chance to become much more familiar with the trade. It also provides the experience employers look for when hiring carpenters, giving you an advantage over those who opt to go straight into the industry. Your transition to a career will be smoother, and you’ll feel confident in the skills you were able to refine as an apprentice.
Taking part in an apprenticeship can also serve as guidance for your future job. In my experience, the longer you work at something, the more you realize what activities you like and what you’d rather avoid. Fortunately for aspiring carpenters, there are plenty of interesting niches in which to specialize. Your time as an apprentice can point you toward your particular specialty and simplify your career path.
After You Graduate
Upon graduating from trade school or finishing your apprenticeship, it’s time to decide how to use the skills you’ve learned. Prospects are good for those who have attended carpenter school. The industry is expected to grow 6 percent between 2014 and 2024, and the median annual salary in 2015 was $42,090. Many carpentry jobs also include benefits, such as health insurance and retirement savings plans, and careers in the field are fairly secure.
Other options after graduation include:
• Framing and residential construction
• Commercial construction
• Industrial construction
• Crafting wood products
• Restoring furniture
• Assisting other carpenters
• Working from home
You can also take what you learn in carpentry classes and apply it to a different type of job requiring the same skills. Any career in which pattern recognition, keen visualization, precise calculations and an understanding of how to translate drawings into physical objects is a possibility for students of carpentry.
As you consider carpentry classes, I advise you to look into several trade schools and apprenticeships. Talk with people already working in the industry for their opinions on the available opportunities, and carefully review the course materials for the programs you’re considering. When you find the right trade school, be ready to work hard and apply yourself to learning the craft so that you have access to the best career opportunities after graduation.