What is a Carpentry Degree?

Carpentry training programs teach the skilled trade of cutting, shaping, and assembling wood for buildings and other structures.

Students wanting to become carpenters learn about the two basic types of carpentry:

  • Rough carpentry – framing carpentry; example: making the structural parts of a house, including the posts, rafters, beams, and roofing, that do not require a fine finish because they are going to be covered
  • Finish carpentry – carpentry that is going to be visible and therefore needs to be neat, clean, and finely finished; example: flooring, staircases, window installation and moldings, trims

Different programs may focus on one or more of the following categories of carpentry:

  • Residential carpentry – building and remodeling of houses, condominiums, and townhomes
  • Commercial carpentry – building and remodeling of office buildings, schools, hospitals, hotels, malls, and other structures built for commercial use
  • Industrial carpentry – carpentry on infrastructure projects like bridges, tunnels, and dams
  • Bench carpentry / Cabinetmaking – designing and building cabinets, dressers, and storage compartments for homes and offices
  • Furniture finishing – restoration and repair of warn and damaged furniture, especially wooden furniture
  • Ship Carpentry – building, maintenance, and repair of ships and boats

All carpentry degree and carpentry training programs cover safety practices, blueprint reading, building codes, and use of hand tools and power tools.

Program Options

Apprenticeship in Carpentry – Three to Four Year Duration
A carpentry apprenticeship is the most common education path. Apprenticeships are offered by many employers and may be sponsored by unions, contractors, or government employment agencies. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age (or 17 years of age, with parental consent) and are selected based on their performance in both oral and written tests. Apprentices receive at least 2,000 hours of hands-on training and 144 hours of classroom education. The United States Department of Labor runs an apprenticeship.

Diploma / Certificate – One to Two Year Duration
Associate Degree – Two Year Duration
These programs are offered by technical and vocational schools. Students should choose a curriculum that is made up of in-school hours followed by an apprenticeship. Here are some samples of pre-apprenticeship courses:

  • Shop and Site Safety Practices
  • Construction Drawings and Specifications
  • Building Code and Bylaw Interpretation
  • Trade Math
  • Planning and Organizing Carpentry Work
  • Carpentry Tools and Equipment – hand Tools, portable power Tools, stationary power tools
  • Survey / Leveling Instruments and Equipment
  • Rigging and Hoisting Equipment – ladders, scaffolds, and other access equipment
  • Site Layout
  • Concrete Formwork – concrete types, materials, additives, and treatments; concrete forming systems; footing and vertical formwork; slab-on-grade forms; suspended slab forms; installing reinforcement and embedded items; placing and finishing concrete
  • Wood-Frame Construction – selecting framing materials; building floor systems, stair systems, decks and exterior structures
  • Building Science – controlling forces acting on a building

Degrees Similar to Carpentry

Programs which prepare students to become architects cover architectural theory, design, and history; as well as drafting and project/site planning.

Architectural Engineering
Degree programs in architectural engineering produce engineers with technical skills in both building design and construction. Courses cover subjects like architectural drawing and design, building construction, lighting and acoustics, energy systems, and fire safety.

Civil Engineering
Civil engineering students learn how to design and plan civil infrastructure like roads, tunnels, bridges, dams, railroads, and airports. Classes include math, statistics, engineering systems and mechanics, and building codes.

Construction Management
Construction management students learn how to plan, direct, and evaluate construction work. They take classes in cost estimating, contract preparation, budgeting, labor relations, health and safety regulations, and general project management.

Drafting Technology
This degree field teaches students to use computer programs to create drawings that are used in construction or manufacturing.

Construction Engineering Technology
Construction engineering technology programs teach individuals how to apply basic engineering principles and technical skills in support of professionals engaged in the construction of buildings and related structures.

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) Technology HVAC/R programs teach students how to install, maintain, and repair heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems.

Property Management
Degree programs in property management teach all aspects of overseeing residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Courses cover building systems design, real estate law, insurance, asset management, project management, and blueprint reading.

Skills You’ll Learn

After completing their studies and apprenticeship, carpentry grads are equipped with these transferable skills:

Physical Strength and Stamina
Carpentry is physical work that calls for physical strength.

Eye for Detail
Carpentry requires attention to specifications and precise measurements.

Critical Thinking and Troubleshooting Abilities
When clients make unexpected changes, carpenters must be able to think quickly and critically to come up with solutions.

Math Skills
Carpenters use math skills to interpret blueprints and calculate sizes, distances, and quantities of material.

Mechanical Skills / Hand-Eye Coordination / Manual Dexterity
Carpentry students develop these skills through the use of tools and machines.

It is important to pay attention to the client’s wishes and ideas, but it is also important to be able to present alternative creative and innovative ideas.

Communication Skills
Clear communication with clients and colleagues is essential to the smooth operation of a project.

What Can You Do with a Carpentry Degree?

General or Specialty Contractors
Most carpenters find work with contractors, either as employees or as independent freelancers.

Furniture and Barrel Manufacturing Companies
Manufacturers of furniture are also employers of carpenters. Some carpenters make barrels; they are called ‘coopers.’

Large Retailers
Some large retailers like department stores keep carpenters on staff to attend to repairs.

Film, Theatre, Exhibitions, and Musical Instruments
The film, theatre, and exhibitions industries hire carpenters to build and disassemble sets, scenery, and exhibits. Carpenters who build and string musical instrument are called ‘luthiers.’

Construction and Building Inspection
Once they have enough experience, carpenters may find work as construction and building inspectors. These inspectors make sure that construction meets building codes, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths