A craft dating back thousands of years, carpentry is the largest of all building trades with many different “specialties.” A carpenter works with various materials to construct, install and maintain buildings and other objects like cabinets or furniture. Although the trade has evolved over the years to include new techniques and materials, the basics remain the same:

  • Layout—Carpenters measure, mark and arrange materials inside and outside a structure.   

  • Cutting and shaping—Carpenters mold wood or other material into a specific shape using hand or power tools.

  • Joining—Carpenters attach material together with nails, screws or adhesives.

  • Checking—Carpenters check work with levels or squares and make adjustments.

A carpenter works indoors and out, using heavy or rough materials, sharp tools and power equipment. Although the work can be strenuous—bending, lifting, standing, climbing and kneeling—it also is creative in nature. If you like working with your hands, enjoy math and have an eye for detail, carpentry may be the trade for you! 


HBI pre-apprentice carpentry programs teach skills and techniques employers are looking for in entry-level carpenters. Skills include:

  • Building walls

  • Installing roof joists, rafters and trusses

  • Laying roofs with plywood and shingles

  • Insulating, weather-stripping and caulking

  • Installing doors, windows and siding

  • Laying wood floors and stairs

  • Installing interior finish and trim

  • Installing cabinets and countertops

  • Building forms for concrete

  • Using green building techniques to reduce resources, conserve energy, increase durability of structures and improve indoor air quality

Depending on the geographic location, students also may learn weatherization techniques like air sealing and reading an energy audit.

Career Opportunities

Job openings in carpentry are expected to grow at an average rate through 2018.  Demand for remodeling and energy efficiency is expected to stimulate growth in the trade. Land developers, general contractors and remodelers are examples of businesses that might hire an entry-level carpenter. Those with skills in all aspects of the trade—like finish work, framing, roofing—work more steadily because they have skills to accommodate various jobs. In addition to a pre-apprentice carpenter, the skills of an HBI graduate can transfer to other specialties like roofer, framer, weatherization technician, floor layer, drywall installer, insulation worker, cabinet maker or maintenance and repair worker. 

HBI graduates earn about $9 to $12 an hour in their first carpentry job. As skills are expanded through apprenticeships or on-the-job training, so are career options.  Here is just one example of a carpenter’s career pathway:


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