How to Become a Carpenter in California

California leads the nation in carpenter employment, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s an excellent place to master this fulfilling trade.

Education and Training

You’ll need to learn the tools of the trade through extensive hands-on training and classroom instruction.

Carpenter Trade School in California

    In most cases, it takes years of on-the-job training before high school students and apprentices learn the skills they need to take on complex, higher-paying carpenter jobs in California.

    If you’re looking to qualify for a carpentry job in a shorter amount of time, consider enrolling in a trade school program.

    What Do You Study In Carpenter School?

    Students who enroll in vocational school carpentry programs learn many of the same fundamental principles as students in high school woodshop classes, along with more advanced skills like:

    • Using power tools to cut and turn wood
    • Working with lumber, millwork, fasteners, and adhesives
    • Cabinetry, door, window, and hardwood floor building and installation
    • Furniture building

    How Long is Carpenter Training in CA?

    Where most California carpentry apprenticeships are about four years long and require both 4800 work hours and 612 class hours, aspiring carpenters in CA can finish a trade school program in as little as 9 months.

    You may even be able to earn your certificate or diploma in 6 months, depending on where you enroll.

    Program Costs

    Tuition costs typically range between $750 to $1000 for entry level certificate programs designed for those with little or no experienice.

    More advanced courses can cost around $7,000, depending on the school.

    A two year associate’s degree in carpentry may cost up to $20,000.

    Program Requirements

    Be sure to also check the program requirements that each applicant must meet before applying, including information about the following:

    • Minimum age and education standards
    • Prerequisite exams
    • Driver’s license or student ID requirements
    • Physical requirements
    • Application deadlines
    • Pre-apprenticeship classes for successful candidates

    Carpenter Salaries in CA

    Annual earnings for carpenters from major job sites are as follows:

    Below are some earnings for areas within the state, according to the BLS:

    Area Hourly Annual
    Bakersfield $32.17 $66,920.00
    Fresno $31.68 $65,880.00
    Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim $35.06 $72,920.00
    Modesto $34.75 $72,270.00
    Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura $32.64 $67,890.00
    Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario $34.32 $71,390.00
    Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade $34.30 $71,340.00
    San Diego-Carlsbad $32.69 $68,000.00
    San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $39.06 $81,240.00
    San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara $38.92 $80,940.00
    San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande $33.14 $68,930.00
    Santa Maria-Santa Barbara $32.72 $68,060.00
    Santa Rosa $40.40 $84,030.00
    Stockton-Lodi $33.74 $70,170.00

    Occupation: Carpenters(SOC Code472031)
    source: data.bls.gov

    Experienced CA carpenters may be able to earn above the average salary in their area, especially if they start their own businesses and acquire high-end contracts and clients.

    In some cases, these professionals can make closer to $100,000 per year by taking on larger projects with a wealthy clientele.

    California Carpenter Requirements

    License requirements for carpenters in California only apply to private contractors. You must have a specialty license to perform carpenter jobs in California that involve making items worth over $500 or working with a construction crew to frame the structural components of a building.

    Applying for a Carpenter License

    Contractors State License Board logo

    To obtain this license from the California Contractors State License Board, you’ll need to take the following steps:

    1. Complete an application form for one of the following:
      1. Specialty C-5 Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor License
      2. C-6 Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry Contractor License
    2. Submit the application, a copy of your state ID, and proof of at least four years of carpentry experience over the last decade.
    3. Take and pass a state licensing exam
    4. Purchase a $15,000 bond for your business

    Again, only contractors must meet the state’s licensing requirements for carpenters in CA. If you’re applying to work under a licensed contractor and earn a regular wage, you can do so as an unlicensed individual.

    CA Carpenter Apprenticeships

    Apprenticeships are another way to learn the skills you need to succeed in this career path. Like many aspiring skilled trades workers, those hoping to become carpenters in California can train under licensed professionals to gain industry knowledge and experience. Use the apprenticeship database on the California Department of Industrial Relations website to discover carpentry programs near you.

    What Apprenticeships Teach

    Once you find an apprenticeship in your area, review the program details to learn about the type of carpentry you’ll be learning, the length of the program, and whether you’ll be getting paid during the apprenticeship.

    High School Carpentry Classes

    Woodshop classes may be available at certain California high schools.

    Students in these classes learn the basics of woodworking, including:

    • How to select suitable wood types for particular projects
    • How to safely use woodworking tools
    • How to properly cut, shape, and join wood components together

    Classes like these give you a fundamental understanding of standard carpentry practices.

    Some employers hire applicants with this basic amount of knowledge and skill to perform entry-level carpentry jobs in California.

    Career Overview

    Aspiring carpenters in CA have the following three options to choose from when it comes to completing training so they can qualify for carpenter jobs in California:

    • Take woodshop or carpentry classes during high school
    • Become an apprentice and learn the trade from an experienced carpenter
    • Enroll in a carpentry program at a California trade school

    Job Description


    Precise requirements for carpenter jobs in California differ, depending on the project.

    However, most carpenters in CA perform the following tasks for each contract:

    • Create or consult the blueprints and building plans for the project
    • Select materials based on client specifications
    • Measure, cut, and shape wood and plastic materials
    • Build or install wooden structures and fixtures

    Career Outlook

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for carpenters in the United States is likely to increase by about two percent over the next decade. While this may seem like a limited growth rate, it roughly translates to about 91,200 job openings becoming available each year between 2021 and 2031.

    As a result, qualified carpenters in CA may have an easy time finding work during the next ten years.