If you are wondering how to become a carpenter or joiner, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the building and construction industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Carpenters and joiners make and install the wooden fixtures and fittings found in domestic and commercial construction projects. These can include floorboards, kitchen and bathroom units, window frames and doors, roof trusses and wall partitions.

    Typical responsibilities:

    formwork – building temporary shuttering to support setting concrete, for example on motorway bridge supports or building foundations
    machining – cutting and shaping timber for floorboards, skirting boards and window frames (see the Wood Machinist profile)
    bench joinery – making and assembling doors, window frames, staircases and fitted furniture
    first fixing (site work) – fitting the wooden structures of a building, such as floor and roof joists, roof timbers, staircases, partition walls, and door and window frames
    second fixing (site work) – installing skirting boards, door surrounds, doors, cupboards and shelving, as well as door handles and locks
    shopfitting – making and fitting interiors for shops, hotels, banks, offices and public buildings (see the Shopfitter profile).

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good carpenters include:

    good practical skills
    a methodical approach to work
    the ability to pay attention to detail
    the ability to follow technical drawings and plans
    good numerical skills for measuring and working out angles
    a reasonable level of fitness
    the ability to work as part of a team and alone
    an awareness of health and safety.

    How to become a joiner or carpenter
    You do not need any formal qualifications to become a carpenter or joiner, but employers tend to want people with some on-site experience. If you have not worked in construction before, then you could work as a joiner’s mate or labourer to gain site experience. Once working, your employer may be willing to offer you training in carpentry and joinery.

    You may be able to get into this job through an Apprenticeship scheme. To be eligible, you may need some GCSEs in subjects such as maths, English and design and technology, or vocational qualifications such as Edexcel Introductory Certificate or Diploma in Construction, which contains joinery options. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit

    As an alternative, you could take a college course in carpentry and joinery. This could teach you some of the skills needed for the job but employers may still want to some site experience.

    College courses include:

    Edexcel (BTEC) First Diploma in Construction (carpentry options)
    City & Guilds Basic Construction Skills award: Carpentry and Joinery (6217)
    Foundation/Intermediate/Advanced Construction Award (Wood Occupations).
    For more details about courses, check with ConstructionSkills and your local college.

    ConstructionSkills also has general information on building careers and qualifications. The construction trades are also being promoted as a career choice for women through the Know Your Place campaign.

    Training and Development
    Once working as a carpenter or joiner, you would take on-the-job training leading to NVQ qualifications, such as Wood Occupations levels 1 to 3. This award contains several options, which include:

    Bench Work – marking, setting out and producing joinery products
    Site Work – installing first and second fixings and structural components
    Shopfitting – manufacturing and installing internal and external frames, shop fronts, fixtures and finishings
    Timber Frame Erection – putting up timber frame walls, laying floors and fixing roof structures
    Wheelwrighting – marking out, making and assembling carriage joinery products.
    The Institute of Carpenters (IOC) also offers various craft awards for carpenters and joiners looking to improve their range of skills and qualifications. For details contact the IOC.

    Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
    By 2010, workers within the construction sector must hold a CSCS card or register with an affiliated scheme. Many construction firms and their clients already insist that you have a relevant card to work on site. To receive a card, you must hold an NVQ or acceptable equivalent and pass a health and safety assessment.

    Your card will be graded according to your qualifications and experience. If you are an experienced worker without formal qualifications, you can use On-Site Assessment and Training (OSAT) or Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA) to get your card.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Starting salaries are between £13,500 and £16,000.
    Qualified joiners can earn between £17,000 and £23,000 a year.
    Experienced joiners can earn up to £28,000.

    Job Prospects
    Your employment prospects are very good, as skilled carpenters and joiners are in demand. Employers include local authorities, boat yards, theatre, television and stage design companies, and shopfitting firms.

    The construction industry has the biggest demand and it anticipates a need for around 12,500 new recruits into the wood occupations each year between now and 2011.

    If you are an experienced carpenter or joiner, you could progress to site supervision, clerk of works and construction management jobs, or move into a specialised area of work, such building restoration or prop making. You could also work in kitchen and bathroom fitting, teaching or move into self-employment.

    Useful building and construction resources:
    Institute of Carpenters (IOC)
    c/o The Building Crafts College
    Kennard Road
    E15 1AH

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