How to Become a Carpenter's Apprentice

Carpentry is an uncommon but viable career choice for women.

Carpentry is an uncommon but viable career choice for women.

Traditional workplaces such as retail and food service still employ a high percentage of women, but if you're looking for less-conventional choices -- and ideally a bigger paycheck -- you might want to consider less common options. For example, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters actively encourages women to become carpenters through its Sisters In the Brotherhood initiative. To become a carpenter, you'll need to spend three to four years as a carpenter's apprentice.

Graduate from high school, or earn your GED. If you can take carpentry classes in your high school's shop program that's a good starting point. Strong math and computer skills will be helpful.

Contact your state's board of labor or industry, and inquire about apprenticeship programs in your area. Most are operated by unions or trade organizations, and large employers in some areas operate apprenticeship programs in-house.

Apply to one or more apprenticeship programs. Admissions and placements often depend on the local need for workers, so you might have to take a position outside your immediate area or wait for an opening in your community.

You'll work for three to four years as a carpenter's apprentice, learning the skills you'll need to practice the trade. For each year of the apprenticeship you'll be required to work at least 2,000 hours in hands-on carpentry under the supervision of journey or master carpenters, and spend at least 144 hours in formal classroom instruction.

Tips

  • You'll usually start your apprenticeship at 30 percent to 50 percent of a fully-trained carpenter's pay, and receive a 10 percent raise each year. As of 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that pay averaged $39,530. At the end of your apprenticeship you'll be eligible to take your state's journey person exam, and work as a carpenter in your own right without supervision.
  • There are several common types of carpentry, so apprentice in a branch of the trade you're interested in and comfortable with. For example, building forms for poured concrete requires more physical strength than framing a house with two-by-four lumber. Finishing work requires less physical strength, but more skill and dexterity.
  • Many trade and technical schools offer one- and two-year training programs in carpentry. If you're having trouble finding a place in one of your local apprenticeship programs, this might be a good starting point. When you graduate the school will usually help place you in an apprenticeship to finish training. Your classroom time will be counted toward the requirements of your apprenticeship.
  • If possible, speak to women who work in carpentry or other construction trades in your area. Some programs, and some individual workplaces, are more welcoming to female tradespeople than others.
 

About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images