Carpentry is an ancient trade that still remains relevant today. Some carpenters build roofs and others build cabinets, but many of the principles of using wood as a construction material are the same. In the United States, the title of master carpenter is used by those who demonstrate superior skill in the field. This level of skill is developed through a combination of education, apprenticeship and experience. There is no single path to becoming a master carpenter and no certification requirement in the United States.
While on-the-job experience is often more valuable than education in carpentry, it is easier to land your first carpentry job with some training under your tool belt. Many community and trade colleges have introductory classes in carpentry that will help you build the essential skills of the trade and earn a certification or diploma that will open doors to employment. These training courses often cover basic math used in carpentry and how to read blueprints, along with more specific instruction in installing windows, doors and stairs. Following an intensive carpentry course, you might go on to employment as a carpenter's assistant were you would gain more skills on your way to becoming a carpenter or lead carpenter.
Because experience is so essential to becoming a master carpenter, many carpenters enter the field through an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is a combination of education and work that prepares the apprentice for a career in the field. An apprenticeship can often be arranged through a community college. In Baltimore, for example, a four year apprenticeship through the Community College of Baltimore County places students in a four-year apprenticeship program that includes full-time employment and evening classes. Graduates of the program are journeyman carpenters and are employed in a variety of capacities in the construction industry.
Whether you enter the carpentry trade through a training program or apprenticeship, the path to becoming a master carpenter will be through experience. There is no diploma to earn or test to take to become a master carpenter, only the skills you develop over the years that form your expertise in carpentry and lead you to be considered a master carpenter.
Because carpentry is such a diverse field, education and training in specialties will help you develop your expertise. This training may be provided by employers, or if you are a member of a carpentry union, by the union itself. The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, for example, provides continuing education in flooring installation, drywalling, and scaffold building, among many other trades. Many carpenters become proficient in several of these trades.
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