What is a Carpenter?

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Learn more about experience requirements, the work environment, and advancement opportunities.

Alternate Titles

Construction Carpenter, Residential Carpenter, Rough Carpenter, Pile Driver

Apprenticeships

A Carpenter is an approved occupation for Registered Apprenticeships through the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), with a typical program duration of three to four years. Apprenticeships can specialize in many specific sub-fields including Construction Carpenter, Residential Carpenter, and Piledriver. Visit the DOL website to learn more about these options.

Education and Experience

A high school diploma, GED, or equivalent is preferred, but not necessary. To become a Carpenter, individuals may:

  • Complete a Registered Apprenticeship program.
  • Complete a Carpenter certificate or degree program.
  • Choose a combination of on-the-job learning and self-study.

Salary Range

$41,000–$92,000/year1

Carpenters build and maintain supportive structures for utility-scale, commercial, and residential clean energy projects. By using materials including wood, metal, and concrete, Carpenters ensure that all structures are secure and meet quality standards. A Carpenter’s work can vary based on the size of the project, ranging from energy efficient home construction and renovation to building structural support for ground-mounted solar systems. 

There are multiple specializations to carpentry work, including Pile Drivers, who may be involved in the construction of solar projects and wind farms, both on and offshore. Carpenters are in high demand as clean energy companies expand and seek to hire new workers. This is an outstanding opportunity to launch a challenging and fulfilling career.

The Job

As a Carpenter, daily tasks may include:

  • Work with building materials including wood, metal, and concrete. Ensure that all structures are secure and meet quality standards. 
  • Install a variety of structures based on the project, such as frames and racking systems for solar arrays, concrete pads for inverters and batteries, and monopiles for wind turbines.
  • Read sketches, blueprints, and building plans and determine what kind of materials are needed for the job. Plan layout and installation based on job specifications and local codes.
  • Use a variety of drawing tools and measuring devices. Cut materials to specified sizes using both hand and power tools. 
  • Inspect installation work, using tools such as levels, to ensure that they are installed correctly. 
  • Work on locations including roofs, scaffolds, and ladders to install and inspect structures. 
  • Manage projects and related supply orders, paperwork, and staff schedules. 

A more complete list of tasks related to this job role can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net website.

Career Pathways and Advancement

Journey-level Carpenters may be promoted to Site Supervisor or Project Foreperson. Many states have options to advance from journey level to master level with additional training and experience. Carpenters may also have opportunities to move into related occupations. Gaining additional licensure and becoming a Solar Installation Contractor is one advancement opportunity. A teaching credential or additional training could allow the advancement to an Instructor position. 

For more information about career advancement opportunities and paths, visit the IREC Solar Career Map.

Work Environment

Both indoors and outdoors in a variety of weather conditions. Carpenters work in customers’ homes (both single-family and multifamily), commercial buildings, industrial facilities, manufacturing plants, or utility-scale power plants. The work may involve heavy lifting, bending, and climbing to access areas with tools and equipment, sometimes located in confined spaces or at height. Adherence to safety protocols and proper use of personal protective equipment are essential.

Certification and Licensing

In some states, certain types of Carpenters must pass an examination and obtain a license. Based on the state, Carpenters need to reach a certain amount of hours of work experience before they are eligible to take the licensing exam. 

Other certifications, such as the OSHA 10-hour or 30-hour certification, may also be required or recommended. Carpenters working in different industry sectors may find additional certifications useful for demonstrating skills, including the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP PV) associate credential if working in solar, and Building Science Principles and other certifications from the Building Performance Institute (BPI) if working in energy efficiency. 

Tips for Entry

To prepare for a career as a Carpenter, consider taking courses in construction or building science. Consider obtaining certifications, such as NABCEP certifications or an OSHA 10- or 30-hour certification, to be a more competitive candidate. To get a foot in the door, consider applying for entry-level positions at construction companies that have carpenter work as part of their portfolios. 

Professional Groups / Associations

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  1. Wage data is based on information in the IREC solar career map. Information on the methodology can be found here.