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How to become a Carpenter

If you like working a lot with wood and if the work of repair and construction interests you, you may consider becoming a carpenter.

A carpenter is a skilled worker whose primary job is the cutting, shaping and installation of building materials (primarily wood) during the construction of buildings and various other structures.

Job Responsibilities

As a carpenter, you are expected to perform various tasks such as:

  • Making precise and accurate measurements
  • Installing tie and insulation, acoustic ceiling, etc
  • Cutting and shaping timber for floorboards, skirting boards and window frames
  • Making and assembling doors, window frames, staircases and fitted furniture
  • Fitting wooden structures, like floor and roof joists, roof timbers, staircases, partition walls, and door and window frames (first fixings)
  • Installing skirting boards, door surrounds, doors, cupboards and shelving, as well as door handles and locks (second fixings)
  • Building temporary wooden supports for concrete that is setting, for example on motorway bridge supports or building foundations (formwork)
  • Making and fitting interiors for shops, hotels, banks, offices and public buildings

 Working Hours and Environment

Your working hours are generally around 39-45 hours a week. You might also work overtime over weekends and evenings. As the primary job of a carpenter involves construction, you could be working both indoors and outdoors in all weathers. There could be temperature fluctuations and the work is generally strenuous. This job exposes you to higher number of injuries and dust. You are expected to pay attention to safety and health all the time. You generally wear durable work clothes and safety equipment while on job.


Your earnings may vary depending upon your experience and the type of employment. Self-employed carpenters generally fix their own rates while others may earn as follows:


Earnings per year 


 £13,000 to £16,000 


 £17,000 to £23,000 


 Up to £28,000 


Overtime and shift allowances increase your income.

Education and Entry Requirements

There are no formal or specific qualifications needed to become a carpenter but you need some on-site experience to seek employment. If you are a novice, you can start up as a joiner's mate or laborer to get site experience. Once you start working, you are trained on-the-job.

You may consider taking a full-time or part-time college course in carpentry and joinery to learn the skills of a job.

The available courses are as follows:

  • Level 1 Award in Basic Construction Skills
  • Level 1 Award in Wood Operations
  • Level 1/2 (NVQ) Certificate / Diploma in Wood Occupations
  • Level 1/2 Certificate / Diploma in Construction Crafts (carpentry and joinery)
  • Level 2 Diploma in Site Carpentry.

You may refer to CITB  and bConstructive  websites for further information on the career of a carpenter.

 You may consider getting into this job through an Apprenticeships scheme as well.

Many employers seek Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card from you before employing you to work on their sites. The card certifies your proficiency to carry out the job in an appropriate and safe manner. To get this card, it is vital that you

  • Pass the CITB Health, Safety and Environment test
  • Prove your occupational competency

It is done through either of the two:

  1. Appropriate qualifications, or
  2. On-site Assessment Workshop or Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA).


Once employed, you may consider working towards various industry qualifications such as:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Wood Occupations
  • Level 3 Diploma Site Carpentry
  • Level 4 (NVQ) Diploma in Senior Crafts (Construction - Joinery)

To further improve your skills and qualifications, you may work for the Master Certificate Scheme offered by the Institute of Carpenters (IOC).

You may consider Traditional Building Skills Bursary Scheme for grants (bursaries) and training placements.

Skills and Interests

To become a carpenter you need to demonstrate the following:

  • Enjoy working in a team
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Manual dexterity
  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Good practical skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Technical know-how
  • Good with numbers and mathematical calculations
  • Physical fitness and balancing skills
  • Health and safety awareness

Career Prospects

Many carpenters and joiners are self-employed. Others may find easy employment with:

  • Large construction companies
  • Building project companies
  • Local authorities
  • Shop-fitting firms
  • Set-building for theatre and television

After gaining significant experience, you may be promoted to the roles of site supervisor or a construction management role. You may also move to more specialized areas like restoring building, kitchen and bathroom fittings or making props. You may also get into teaching within the profession.

Finally this easy looking job is meaningful for only those who believe in doing skillful tasks. It is important to remember that it demands a lot of physical endurance. It might not be so easy a profession if you don’t have determination to fit into this job.

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