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Average Salary: $39,940

Expected Lifetime Earnings: $1,667,000

As in any career like this one, there are really two flavors of money—the kind that comes from you just renting your time for a fee, and the kind where you create a product that has leverage. In this case, the leverage would come from you hiring other carpenters who would work for and alongside you on jobs. The renting of your own time is a $30-$100 an hour event. You pick how many hours you want to work and, well, you can do the math yourself.

If you run a carpentry business—industry parlance would then call you a sub-contractor (so alpha male allusions here)—you have all of the business risks that every service/construction business has. In boom times, you can’t find enough good carpenters to work for you. You have to turn away work and it kills you. In bad times, the three guys who you’d had on salary plus bonus have to be reduced to just two guys on a lesser salary.

But the boom times tend to make up for things—and they can be boom if you aim big. Picture having 40 guys working for you (and yeah, this is a pretty male-dominated career) whom you pay $30 an hour for the privilege. In the meantime, you rent their time to contractors (in the form of carpentry service fees) at an average of $50 an hour. You make $20 an hour base profit times 40 guys, or $800 an hour times…how many hours? Can a boom last for a year? If so, maybe you can shoe-horn 50 weeks of non-weather-delayed work at 40 full work hours a week for an average of 2,000 hours. If you're making an $800 spread per hour, that's $1.6 million in total revenues. Awesome.

Obviously there are a LOT of other office, insurance, tools, and other expenses that go along with that $1.6 million, but is it reasonable that if you really got things going you could have over half a million bucks in a year running a really profitable carpentry biz? For sure. But save your dough—don't go all NFL linebacker on us. The good times only last with J.J. Walker on Nickelodeon.

It was the goodest of times....