A guide to becoming a carpenter
From creating film sets to constructing luxury conservatories, carpentry can offer an interesting and varied career path.
If you’re practically minded, creative and good with your hands, carpentry may be a great career choice for you. With lots of different options and specialisations available, becoming a carpenter can offer an interesting and rewarding career path.
What does being a carpenter involve?
Put simply, carpenters make, install and maintain wooden fixtures and fittings in buildings. In reality, this can involve a huge array of different tasks, including making staircases, doors and furniture; fitting kitchens; hanging doors; installing floorboards, roof timbers and partition walls; making and fitting cupboards and shelving; assembling interiors for commercial premises such as restaurants and offices; and even constructing sets for film and theatre productions.
Training and qualifications
When it comes to finding work as a carpenter, having some on-site experience is hugely important, so consider gaining some experience as a labourer or joiner’s ‘mate’. There are also specific carpentry and joinery courses available to help you develop the necessary practical skills and knowledge needed for the role. An apprenticeship would be a great way of achieving a qualification whilst gaining valuable on-the-job experience, and it could even lead to a job offer at the end of the apprenticeship. In terms of industry credentials, you will need a CSCS card in order to work on construction sites.
The main skills required of a carpenter are technical aptitude and the ability to follow drawings and plans, along with mathematical skills and the ability to pay close attention to detail. Creativity, patience and versatility are also useful skills to possess. Carpentry is a physically active job and can involve working outdoors, in cramped conditions, or at height, so it pays to be physically fit and strong.
Carpentry is a hugely varied sector and there are lots of options open to you. There are many types of carpenters, including residential carpenters, commercial carpenters and industrial carpenters. You could choose to specialise in furniture making or kitchen fitting for example, or equally you could find yourself building bespoke conservatories for the high-end luxury market. The possibilities are almost endless, making carpentry a very exciting career option.
In terms of career progression, you can set your own path depending on where your interests lie. As your experience grows you may wish to become a team leader or project manager, move into an area such as contract management or construction estimating, or specialise in a particular branch of carpentry. Alternatively you could choose to go self-employed and set up your own carpentry business.
As a carpenter, your take-home salary will depend on your level of skill and experience. Carpenters who are just starting out in the trade can expect to take home between £16,000 and £24,000 per year, whereas a more experienced carpenter can earn in the region of £25,000 to £40,000. Extra pay for overtime and shift work can also bump up your pay packet. If you choose to become a sole trader you can, of course, set your own prices, but these will need to correlate with market rates.
Carpenters are currently in high demand with more than 260,000 skilled tradesmen needed by the construction industry over the next three years. It can be a demanding job, but if you’re looking for a practical and interesting career with scope for flexibility and development, this could be the right path for you.