Carpentry certification guide

Becoming a carpenter includes training, education, and certification in order to legally become a professional carpenter. Learn more.

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Are you good with your hands? Do you have a passion and talent for woodwork? Interested in helping build homes or crafting beautiful pieces of furniture? If you answered yes, a job as a carpenter may be just the thing for you.

Carpentry is hard, rewarding work. Yet, it’s not just about buying the right tools and “getting to it.” In fact, there’s years of training, education, and certification that you must first complete in order to legally operate as a professional carpenter.

So, how do you obtain your carpentry certification? This guide will show you. Let’s do this.

What a carpenter needs to know

On the surface, carpentry seems like a relatively straightforward occupation—you take a piece of wood and carve it into your desired shape. But there’s much more to it than that. Carpenters need to be mechanically gifted, detail-oriented, strong, effective communicators and problem-solvers.

In addition, a carpenter needs to know:

  • How to read building plans and blueprints
  • How to install, construct, or repair structures, frameworks, and fixtures
  • Building codes
  • OSHA safety regulations
  • Structural support and engineering
  • Wood characteristics

While some carpenters have college degrees, a secondary education isn’t required. Many get by with just a high school diploma or trade school experience—which covers their basic math, literacy, and communication requirements.

But why is that?

Because, for carpenters, their true education takes place during their apprenticeship.

Start with a journeyman certification

If you want to become a professional carpenter, you’ll need to acquire your journeyman carpenter certification. For that, you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship.

But what does that entail?

A journeyman apprentice program gives novice carpenters an opportunity to learn from professionals on the job. They work under the supervision of a licensed, master carpenter or contractor, and get paid a set percentage of journeyman’s wages as they do. During this time, an apprentice learns a variety of skills and tasks both in the classroom and on the job, including:

  • Construction safety
  • Basic to advanced carpentry skills and techniques
  • Freehand sketching
  • Mathematics
  • Blueprint reading
  • Laws and building codes

To become an apprentice, you’ll have to first find an employer who will take you under their wing. Following that, you’ll need to register with the US Department of Labor.

In addition, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Have a GED
  • Be 18 years of age or older

Once you’re signed on as an apprentice, you’ll have to complete 2,000 hours of on the job experience and 144 hours of classroom education. Typically, an apprentice will spend 3-4 years under their master’s tutelage. After finishing that, you’d receive a certification as a journeyman.

Additional carpentry certifications

Upon achieving status as a journeyman, you can then apply for additional certifications from professional construction and carpentry organizations. This reinforces your expertise.

For instance, common certification programs include:

Certified Lead Carpenter Credential – Offered by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, this certification is for journeymen who want to lead larger projects. To complete it, you’ll need:

  • 5 years of experience in remodeling
  • 2 years as a lead carpenter
  • Adherence to standards, codes, and ethics
  • Pass a half-day written exam
  • Pay the required fees

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Associate exam – Measures knowledge of green building practices and sustainable. To attain it, you’ll need to:

  • Score a 170/200 or better on a multiple choice exam
  • Pay the $250 fee
  • Maintain 15 hours of continued education

By completing these courses, you not only gain useful knowledge and skills but signal to potential employers that you’re a seasoned professional.

Licensing requirements

In addition to your required journeyman certification, there may be further licensing requirements in order to perform carpentry work of a certain size, scope, or scale. Naturally, the strictures depend upon the state you work in. For instance, in California, a carpenter must obtain a license for any project exceeding $500.

You must get one of the following licenses:

  • C-5 Specialty Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor license
  • C-6 Cabinet, Millwork and Finish Carpentry Contractor license

In order to obtain the license, you’ll have to apply with the Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board.

To receive their approval, you must:

  • Show four years of experience in the last decade
  • Pass the state exam
  • Have proof of a $15,000 bond

Similarly, some states require that you have all of the proper insurance in place. And even if your state doesn’t compel you to have insurance, doing so is the best way to protect your small carpentry business from liability.

Small business insurance crafted for carpenters

The construction and carpentry business carries significant inherent risks. Whether it’s working on unfinished, perilous job sites, or utilizing power tools and heavy machinery, there’s always the risk that something goes wrong. Typically, the biggest risk is physical injury.

This is why all carpenters need general liability insurance. A general liability policy helps protect your business from third-party claims of:

  • Bodily injury
  • Property damage
  • Personal injury
  • Advertising injury

But what do you do if you don’t work a regular 9-5 as a carpenter? How do you get carpenter insurance that you pay for when you actually need it, but doesn’t impact your bottom line when you’re not working?

For that, there’s Thimble.

Thimble is the newer, smarter, and more affordable way that carpenters can invest in the insurance they need. Our flexible, on-demand policies can be purchased by the hour, day, or month.

Getting started is fast and easy. It takes less than 60 seconds. Input a few quick details, and you’ll receive a free quote. After, all that’s left is actually purchasing the policy. Once that’s done, you’ll have a Certificate of Insurance (COI) waiting for you in your email inbox.

You’re on your way!

Your carpentry certification demonstrates that you have all the prerequisite skills required to safely and satisfactorily complete a job. Your insurance policies protect you, your business, your employees, and your clients from risk. With both of these in place, you’re ready to claim your place as a professional carpenter.

Hopefully we hit the nail on the head with this carpentry certification guide! Good luck on your road ahead. And remember, by always staying one step ahead, you’re going to pave the way for a successful career (and some beautiful staircases).

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.

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