what is a carpenter?

A carpenter is a skilled profession in which an individual designs, builds or repairs the wooden elements of a building. From custom cabinets and doors to structural support beams for staircases, carpenters provide skilled labour in a variety of construction settings but primarily work with natural materials like timber and wood.

When a carpenter is working with wood, they help to add personality and warmth to homes and public areas. For example, wall panelling, custom-created furniture and unique finials can enhance the beauty of interior spaces. A carpenter can use their skills to turn a practical requirement like bookshelves into a decorative feature.

what does a carpenter do?

Projects will vary depending on the employer and the type of building on which they are working – whether commercial or residential – and can even include designing bespoke furniture pieces and items. Employment prospects can be improved by using these creative skills – for instance, working for furniture production companies and being part of the creative team that produces unique items for sale.

what is the difference between a joiner and a carpenter?

Although the two terms can overlap, especially as they’re often used interchangeably where the meaning remains the same, there are some official differences. A joiner will make items such as windows, doors and furniture in a workshop setting, while a carpenter will fit the items on site. However, both trades require knowledge of the other, with most carpenters having also trained in the field of joinery then chosen to hone in their skill, working on sites.


carpenter roles

what is the average salary of a carpenter?

According to the National Careers Service, the average salary for a junior carpenter starting out in the UK is around £17,000 annually but, if you progress and master your craft, this can increase to around £38,000 with experience. As with most trade jobs, how much a carpenter makes generally depends on work hours. Expanding your knowledge in other complementary skill sets, such as design, will also make you more valuable to an employer.

what factors affect the salary of a carpenter?

Similar to other trades, your actual salary and benefits will generally depend on your employer and whether you work full- or part-time. A small family-run furniture shop, for example, has minimal qualification requirements and will offer a lower salary but would still be an exciting opportunity to grow your skills with a greater level of creative freedom. On the other hand, major housing development contractors require complementary skills and specialisation for quality work. Hence, the salary will reflect these expert skills.

Location, local economy and your willingness to travel can impact your salary. Expanding your knowledge in other complementary skill sets, such as design, will also make you more valuable to an employer. If you specialise in certain types of carpentry such as historical restoration or antique repair, you can expect your salary to be significantly higher than an apprentice with entry-level skills.


Education and skills

how to become a carpenter?

To become a carpenter you need to develop your woodworking skills as well as your mathematics and organisation. There are no specific qualifications required but most employers will expect you to have some on-site and carpentry experience. 

You can take a course in carpentry at your local further education college or you could look to become an apprentice with an existing carpentry firm. Becoming an apprentice gives you the chance to earn while you learn, gain valuable hands-on experience and possibly continue working for the company.

As well as being able to understand detailed drawings and plans, you will need strong mathematical skills to calculate lengths and angles. You will also need to be meticulous and pay attention to the detail.

what qualifications are required to be a carpenter?

When looking at options for how to become a carpenter, it's important to explore what education, training and certifications you might need to get in the door. Some of the options include:

  • college: a college diploma such as a Level 2 Diploma in Bench Joinery or Carpentry and Level 3 Diploma in Carpentry and Joinery are the most popular courses to kickstart your career. While you only gain entry-level experience in carpentry, you will learn how to use the tools of the trade and discover your favourite area of specialisation.
  • You'll need 2 GCSEs (grade 9 to 3) for a Level 2 Diploma, while Level 3 requires 4 or 5 GCSEs (grade 9 to 4). Some colleges offer full-time studies but part-time and short-term courses are perfect for testing the waters.
  • apprenticeship: if you already have basic skills, an apprenticeship is the perfect way to build on your experience. This allows you to work as you train, gaining valuable real-world experience and networking opportunities. With an intermediate apprenticeship, you may work around 30 hours a week alongside attending classes for two years. The good news is that an apprenticeship allows you to progress to higher qualifications faster, with the opportunity to specialise in a specific area of carpentry.

what skills and competencies does a carpenter need?

As well as educational qualifications, you’ll need technical and soft skills to advance in the field of carpentry. These skills include:

  • creativity: were you bursting with creativity when you were growing up? Being a carpenter requires problem-solving skills and innovativeness to overcome challenges you may face during the job. This creativity can also be used to design bespoke furniture or interior furnishings.
  • attention to detail: if you have a keen eye for detail, you could do well in carpentry. Attentiveness ensures you don't miss your customers' specifications and produce high-quality work. Attention to detail also ensures that the job is completed efficiently within the stipulated budget.
  • numeracy: mathematical skills come in handy when measuring and cutting wood, minimising wastages or estimating project costs.
  • Leadership and teamwork skills: if you are the lead carpenter, you need leadership skills to manage on-site teams and apprentices. These skills also help you motivate your team and provide clear instructions on steps for undertaking the project.

what are the different types of carpenter jobs?

You need basic carpentry skills to kickstart your career but there are options to explore different types of carpentry that might not be as common:

  • heritage carpenter: you can train in heritage carpentry if you love working with antiques or restoring historic buildings. As a heritage carpenter, you may find yourself rebuilding, restoring and renovating historic buildings, using the materials and techniques used when originally designed.
  • set design: did you know that you may also be able to work in the film and theatre industry as a carpenter? You might even see your work on the big screen if the sets and props on which you worked are used in production.
  • shopfitting carpenter: retailers often want to create unique spaces by adding designer fittings to match their brand's style. Shopfitters install fittings and shelves made from natural materials.
  • furniture design: if you’re a creative sort, furniture design can be an appealing career path for your carpentry skills. This involves creating furniture from scratch, from the planning stage right through to the build.



working as a carpenter

If you’re wondering what it's like to work as a carpenter, we’ve put together a guide to the daily tasks you might undertake and what your work schedule might involve.


carpenter job description

While the specific tasks depend on the project and employer, you can expect an exciting working day. Some of the duties and responsibilities to expect include:

  • creating and interpreting plans: before commencing a project, it's important to draw up the plans for the fixtures or furniture. However, a contractor often provides plans generated from Computer-Aided Design (CAD). When you have CAD drawings, your job is to interpret the plans before the work begins.
  • measuring and cutting materials: since wood materials range from cheap recycled wood products to expensive hardwood, you need to pick suitable materials and measure accurate dimensions for the project. Your job might also involve cutting and shaping the materials for the furniture you want to create using a variety of equipment such as hand tools, cutting machines or power tools.
  • fitting and installation: if you are working on fixtures and fittings, your job is to design the structural elements and install them in residential homes or offices. For instance, you can create and design a wardrobe and fit it in a bedroom.
  • repairs and restoration: as a carpenter, your job may include assisting your clients in repairs and restoration. The repairs may involve restoration of historical buildings, which requires traditional skills used to construct wooden elements to preserve the original beauty. Aside from remodelling, your job could also entail repairing antiques and incorporating contemporary features to preserve them.
  • assessing risk and liaising with other trades: before commencing a contract, it is very important to complete the risk assessment and safety-check documentation. As part of the carpenter job description, your work may also include liaising and partnering with other skilled tradespeople like plumbers and electricians.


typical work environment for a carpenter

Work environments for carpenters can vary greatly. In the private sector, watch out for jobs in housing developments, TV & film companies, theatres, retail outlets and residential homes. In the public sector, you may work with historic buildings, hospitals or schools. Regardless of the industry, the environment is usually flexible and you may get the opportunity to work alongside many other skilled workers on a day-to-day basis.

While drawing plans can require an office setting, some projects might also take place outdoors. Some employers may provide a workshop, while others might require you to carry out all your tasks on site.


typical carpenter work schedule

As a carpenter, your employer might expect you to commit between 40 and 45 hours weekly for a full-time position. Like many roles, when project deadlines are looming, you may need to work extra hours. Evenings and weekends may also be necessary when the nature of work doesn't allow working during the day. For example, when working in a school classroom, you will have to wait until after-school hours.

Part-time jobs are available in carpentry but the exact work schedule depends on the employer and industry. For example, a homeowner could need a carpenter to ensure that the building is appropriately maintained but they might only need you on-site for one day a week to keep on top of minor repairs. Being a carpenter can also involve regular travel to project sites, especially if you provide services to clients in residential homes and commercial buildings.


what are the job prospects for a carpenter?

Being a carpenter is a fulfilling career and it can also be a springboard to a more senior or managerial role within the construction industry. With extra qualifications and experience, you can opt to become a construction manager and oversee large projects.

If you specialise in one aspect of carpentry, you can become a master craftsman. Aside from career progression, carpentry jobs have consistent demand in the UK due to the wide range of job roles like heritage carpentry, shopfitting and set design.


find your carpenter job through Randstad

If you’re interested in how to become a carpenter, why not find your carpenter job through Randstad? We provide a range of benefits such as:

If you’re looking to secure a permanent role, a temporary job as a carpenter is often an ideal stepping stone. Every year, thousands of people earn a permanent contract with great employers thanks to a temporary job found through Randstad. What's more, many companies recruit their permanent employees through Randstad, too!



FAQs about working as a carpenter.

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