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Can a Felon Become a Carpenter?

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Felons may think no one will hire them after serving their sentence, but there are resources available. Many times it takes learning a new trade or starting a different career. For those with experience in construction, becoming a carpenter is a possibility.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a carpenter.

  • What is a Carpenter?
  • What is Required to Become a Carpenter?
  • How Much Does a Carpenter Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Carpenter?

A carpenter uses a variety of tools to:

  • Plan
  • Construct
  • Install
  • Repair buildings and structures

A carpenter uses wood, plastic, fiberglass, drywall, and other materials to build things. He or she might work for a large contracting company involved with building or home construction, or he or she may work independently and own their own business.

A carpenter typically has the following duties:

  • Follows blueprints and building plans
  • Installs fixtures, such as windows and doors
  • Measures, cuts, and shapes wood and other materials
  • Constructs building framework
  • Inspects and replaces damaged framework

There are a number of categories of carpenters, including:

  • Residential carpenter. This type of carpenter specializes in building and remodeling homes and other residences. He or she sets forms for foundations, walls, frames, and exterior walls. He or she also frames interior walls, builds stairs, and installs doors, windows, and cabinets.
  • Commercial/industrial carpenter. He or she does many of the same things as a residential carpenter except that he or she works for businesses rather than homeowners.
  • Rough carpenter. This is someone that builds structures such as concrete forms and scaffolds according to blueprints.
  • Finish carpenter. Specializing in cabinets, furniture making, and fine woodworking, this person puts the finishing touches on homes and offices.

A successful carpenter must have a number of essential skills:

  • Math and calculating
  • Mechanical
  • Detail-oriented
  • Communication
  • Physical strength and stamina
  • Manual dexterity
  • Problem-solving
  • Drawing

What is Required to Become a Carpenter?

No formal training is required to become a carpenter, though a high school diploma or GED is usually preferred by employers. A high school graduate can usually find an entry-level job as a carpenter’s helper working for an experienced carpenter.

A candidate can apply for a carpentry apprenticeship program beginning at the age of 17. An apprentice will usually spend three to four years learning about carpentry principles. He or she will also receive hands-on training from experienced carpenters as well as from construction contractors.

An apprenticeship may be sponsored by a union or contractor association. Typically, an apprentice will complete 144 hours of technical training and 2000 hours of paid on-the-job training.

A carpenter apprentice will learn:

  • Blueprint reading
  • Carpentry techniques
  • Construction layout
  • How to build forms
  • Framing methods
  • Interior and exterior finish
  • Math for construction
  • Workplace safety

After completing a carpentry internship, a trainee will receive certification as a journeyman carpenter. Unlike many trades in the construction industry, such as electrician or plumber, there is no certification available to become a master carpenter. Being able to use this designation is primarily a result of work experience.

However, there are a number of specific certifications like drywall or finish carpentry that can be attained. Getting into a specialty can help someone earn more money or work in different environments.

How Much Does a Carpenter Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there were approximately one million carpenters working in 2016. The median wage of a carpenter was $45,170 in 2017.

Level of experience and specialty certifications will affect how much a carpenter earns. Location is also important with those working in the Northeast and Northwest having a higher salary than those in other parts of the country.

This occupation is expected to grow approximately 8% between 2016 and 2026, which is an average rate of growth. This growth will be due to ongoing home and building construction.

An Opportunity for Felons?

While the exact requirements for felons to become a carpenter differ somewhat depending on the state, typically regulations agree that felons with particular convictions are not eligible to work as a carpenter.

These include felons with an offense:

  • Involving fraud or deceptive trade practices
  • Against children or a sexual crime
  • Against property like theft or burglary
  • Of homicide, kidnapping, or assault

However, the construction industry in general is a comparatively easy field for felons to find employment. The needs for trained workers at all levels with many different skill levels helps ensure higher employment for a number of projects in many locations.

There are re-entry programs, such as drug treatment, and educational opportunities for felons who need them. For many felons, having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clear record and succeed in becoming a carpenter.

Recommended Action

It’s a challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon that wants to become a carpenter. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in determining a felon’s success.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest, productive life no matter how challenging it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a carpenter with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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