Carpenters are highly skilled craftspersons who fall into two basic categories. Structural carpenters are involved in the construction of buildings, whereas detail carpenters work to create, maintain or refinish items such as furniture.
Realize that you must have excellent manual dexterity, good math knowledge and the willingness and ability to do physical work.
Begin learning the trade while you are in high school by taking courses such as math, mechanical drawing, blueprint reading and general shop. You should also begin to learn how to use a variety of woodworking tools.
Ask your guidance counselor for information on the valuable carpentry apprentice programs for high school graduates in your area. Be aware that an apprenticeship lasts for about four years, includes classroom work and can be difficult to get.
Work in a beginner's position for a carpentry contractor if you cannot get into an apprentice program. You will probably receive on-the-job training in only one type of carpentry work, so you will eventually need to learn other carpentry skills elsewhere. Multiskilled carpenters get the jobs during tougher economic times.
Contact the Associated General Contractors (agc.org), the Associated Builders and Contractors (abc.org), the National Association of Home Builders (nahb.org) and various unions for information about the carpentry field and apprenticeships.
Detail carpenters deal directly with the client, which requires them to have excellent interpersonal skills. Keep in mind that one third of carpenters are self-employed. If that is your eventual goal, find mentors among owners of carpentry shops.
Be aware that there is a high injury rate among carpenters. Bad weather can result in unpaid downtimes.