May 24, 2023

What Exactly Does a Carpenter Do? (And Should I Do It Too?)

So, you’re thinking about becoming a carpenter. Excellent choice — carpentry has been an important trade for thousands of years! As a key contributor throughout the building process for homes, schools, offices, and much more, carpenters are counted on for their craftsmanship, consistency, and creativity. If you love working with your hands and have a knack for details, carpentry could be a great fit.  

There are lots of specialties within carpentry. We’ll review some of the areas within the trade and give you a better idea of what they involve. The 2021 average wage for carpenters  was about $48,000 a year, which equals a little over $23 an hour. Current market numbers for Arizona have that number closer to $28 per hour. As with most skilled trades, wages vary based on experience, with significant opportunities for pay increases. Most carpenters start learning in a technical school, community college, registered apprenticeship program, or industry training program. (More on that later; keep reading.) 

First, let’s look at the different types of carpentry you could pursue. 


Finish carpenters make things like cabinets, furniture, and other fine wood products. This field is also called trim carpentry. A finish carpenter does a large portion of their work in a shop. It’s often about transforming interior spaces into something that’s, well, finished! 

Here are some common areas that finish carpenters may specialize in. 


No, in this case, “rough” doesn’t refer to your demeanor. (We’ll leave that up to you.) Rough carpentry — also known as frame carpentry — involves large construction projects cutting wood materials with hand tools like circular and reciprocating power saws. You’ll use blueprints, and in addition to cutting the materials, you may also join or assemble them to create walls, rooms, roof structures, or complete buildings. While a finish carpenter does most of their work indoors, rough carpenters usually work outdoors at various jobsites. 


When it comes to your work schedule, carpenters tend to start their days early, between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. They often have the option of a 40-hour weekly schedule spanning Monday-Friday, but there may also be opportunities for different schedules and overtime if you choose. These options are usually available for both independent contractors and those employed by an outside company. If there are specific times you prefer to be off duty (weekends, holidays, etc.), carpentry offers some flexibility. 


What opportunities are available right now for aspiring carpenters? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 91,000 openings are projected for carpenters each year, on average, over the next decade. 

The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) projects that Arizona will need to fill 46,000 Carpenter positions by the end of 2024. This qualifies carpentry as a booming “growth industry” here in Arizona. It’s an industry that always values talented people, with lots of specialty areas. Lucrative opportunities often arise within these different specialties — if there’s a boost in the housing market, for example, home-focused carpenters can reap massive benefits.  

In a nutshell, you’ve got a real opportunity to find your niche here.  


If you want to become a carpenter, there are a few routes that’ll get you there. Technical schools, vocational schools, and community colleges often have diploma and certificate carpentry programs. These programs typically last one or two years. Apprenticeships, by contrast, take three to four years, but offer on-the-job training and “earn as you learn” opportunities. The most common of these options is an apprenticeship. 


Getting started is exactly why we’re here. Visit our Training Center Directory to find local training centers and programs across Arizona. We look forward to helping you find your perfect career path. 

The Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation‘s Construction Workforce Initiative, Build Your Future Arizona’s mission is to create a sustainable and skilled craft workforce by creating awareness about high-paying construction careers, training opportunities and mapping career paths to employment in these high-demand occupations.