Well first of all I’d like to say well done for thinking about carpentry as a career choice for you. It is a great career with so much potential and job satisfaction. Someone somewhere will always need a carpenter and this is why they are so well paid, there just simply aren’t enough of them to go around. So here I’ll be discussing the qualifications you’ll need to become a carpenter, but first I would like to explain just what a carpenter does in their daily working lives.
What are carpenters?
A carpenter or a joiner will make and then install fixtures and fittings that are made from wood. Carpenters work in many different locations these may include working inside people’s homes, construction sites, fitting shops and bars and also even work on building sets for television and film. These are just a few different locations that a carpenter may be working in there’s so much more to add it would take forever!
A career in carpentry is perfect for anyone who enjoys completing practical tasks, and are good with their hands and obviously they enjoy working with wood, creating something special out of wood that has been made by themselves and nobody else. There is a great sense of achievement and pride that comes with carpentry and the creation of something that not many people could ever think of making.
Carpenters must have a good eye for detail, be good at maths for when they’re working out measurements and they must also be able to understand and follow technical plans.
If you’re planning on working for a team then they would usually like you to already have some construction experience and also the qualifications that are required to enter into the carpentry trade.
A good idea would be to start off as a labourer or a joiner’s mate, this will enable you to get the experience needed for working on a construction site and whilst you’re doing this you could also be training up for your qualifications. A great alternative to this way of starting up is via a carpentry apprenticeship scheme.
What exactly do carpenters do?
Carpenters and joiners carry out a wide range of projects including:
- They create and then fit doors, staircases, window frames and also fitted furniture
- They shape and cut wood for window frames, skirting boards and floorboards.
- They install door surrounds, skirting boards, door handles and locks, doors, shelving and cupboards.
- They fit timber structures including roof and floor joists, staircases, roof timbers, doors and window frames and partition walls.
- They fit and make interiors for places such as shops, restaurants, bars, public buildings and offices
- They set up stage sets for television and film
- They build temporary wooden supports which will hols in place concrete while it is setting, an example of this would be for building foundations.
How many hours do carpenters work?
A carpenter will usually work between 39 and 45 hours a week and that’s Mondays to Fridays. There may also be weekends and evening work available and also overtime. Extra hours may be needed in order to meet with construction deadlines.
A carpenter has to be prepared to work out in all sorts of weather and be able to go up ladders at height as well as up scaffolding or on roofs.
Indoor conditions can get quite dusty so because of this you’ll have to wear protective equipment at all times on all jobs for example dust masks.
Carpenters usually travel between construction sites and also have in mind sometime you’ll have to work away from home.
How much do carpenters earn?
A qualified carpenter can expect to be earning between £18,000 and £25,000 a year, as you gain more experience at your trade these figures can rise to between £26,000 and £30,000 a year.
Of course you’ll be earning more than this if you take on overtime and extra shifts. Remember too that self employed carpenters can set their own rates.
It’s always been the case that the closer you get to London and the South East will see your wages soar, so if you’re lucky enough to be living and working in this location, good for you, your wages will be much higher than these figures!
What qualifications do I need to become a carpenter?
Your employer will be looking for someone who has previous site experience and the qualifications needed to become a carpenter. If you have absolutely no site experience then you could start work as a joiner’s mate or as a labourer this will enable you to get all the site experience you need for your trade. Then once you start working your boss may offer you training in joinery or carpentry.
You could also go for the full or part time training option in joinery or carpentry. This will enable you to gain all the knowledge you’ll need for your trade. This will greatly improve your chances of getting work in the carpentry industry.
Your courses will include:
- Level 1 Award in basic construction skills
- Level 1 Award in wood operations
- Level2 (NVQ) Certificate/Diploma in wood operations
- Level 2 Diploma in Construction Crafts (joinery and carpentry)
- Level 2 Diploma in Site Carpentry
Pre employment programmes are also available via colleges these are for people who want to go into construction work. Your local college will be able to help you more with this.
You can also get into the carpentry trade via a construction Building apprenticeship scheme.
Further development and training
Once you begin your work as a carpenter you could also develop your skills even more by getting more qualifications including:
- Level 3 (NVQ) Diploma in wood Occupations
- Level 3 Diploma Site Carpentry
- Level 3 Diploma in Set Carpentry and Joinery
- Level 4 (NVQ) Diploma in Senior Crafts (construction)
A wide range of skills is included in these options and these are:
Installing first and second fittings and structural components
Where you will carry out marking, setting out and producing joinery products
Timber frame erection
Where you’ll put up timber frame walls, fit roof structures and laying floors
Where you’ll manufacture and then install external and internal frames, fixtures, finishings and shop fronts.
Computer aided design
CAD for work, training and project planning and control
Where you can mark out, make and assemble joinery items especially for carriages.
The Master Certificate Scheme is offered by the Institute of Carpenters and it’s for the more experienced carpenter and joiner who are looking to improve on their current skills and qualifications.
What is the Construction Skills Certificate Scheme?
Before you can work on a site some building contractors will want you to have a CSCS card. This card is your proof of your skills and also proof that you have the ability to safely carry out work. To get your CSCS card you have to:
Pass the CITB Health, safety and environment test
Prove that you’re competent at your work, you prove this by showing that you have the relevant qualifications required.
However if you are working as a carpenter but don’t have the qualifications required then you may be able to us the on site assessment workshop or experienced worker practical assessment schemes. You will be able to gain your qualification through these schemes and then go on to qualify for your CSCS card.
What is the Traditional Building Skills Bursary scheme?
This scheme aims to increase the number of skilled people who are working with traditional crafts and built heritage sector. It can carry out this by offering grants to people as well as organising work based training placements which are available for the appropriate applicants. For more info on this please visit the Traditional Building Skills Bursary Scheme website.
Well that’s all there is from me, I really do hope all you’ve been reading has encouraged you even further to enter into the carpentry trade. It’s such a rewarding career choice and a choice I’m sure you’ll love. So good luck with all your training and hopefully, very soon, you’ll be a qualified carpenter, creating beautiful objects from timber for us all to admire. Good luck!