Carpenters work mainly with wood to repair or install foundations, walls, roofs, windows and doors in buildings.
Carpenters usually earn
$18-$38 per hour
Source: Trade Me Jobs and Careers New Zealand research, 2016.
Pay for carpenters usually depends on their skills and experience.
- Carpentry apprentices may start on the minimum training wage, with pay increasing as they gain skills and complete unit standards.
- Inexperienced carpenters with no qualifications usually earn $18 to $20 an hour.
- Experienced carpenters, or those who have completed an apprenticeship, usually earn $25 to $30 an hour.
- Carpenters in positions such as site foreman usually earn $30 to $38 an hour.
Sources: Trade Me, 'Salary Guide', 2016; and Careers New Zealand research, 2016.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information about minimum pay rates
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Carpenters may do some or all of the following:
- study building plans and architectural drawings
- select building materials
- measure and cut materials to the right size and shape
- remove or repair old items
- construct building frames and install cladding on the inside and outside of buildings
- install windows, staircases and doors.
Skills and knowledge
Carpenters need to have:
- building and carpentry skills
- knowledge of building methods and materials
- skill interpreting drawings and architectural plans
- the ability to properly use and maintain tools
- an understanding of building and safety regulations.
- usually work regular business hours, but may also work weekends
- work on building sites and in existing buildings
- work in conditions that may be wet, muddy, dusty, noisy, cramped or at heights
- travel locally to building sites.
What's the job really like?
Garry went from plasterer to carpenter
After working for many years as a plasterer, Garry Clarke decided to put down his plasterer's trowel and take up a hammer and saw to become a carpenter. "I wanted a clean break to reassess my life. I'd done renovations at home and I thought carpentry would be quite a good career path, just because of the variety of work.
"I find it very rewarding and very challenging."
From concrete slabs to wooden doors, carpenters do the lot
"I do all sorts of work, from working with pre-cast concrete [slabs of concrete that are made off-site] to fitting doors. Pre-cast concrete is brought in by crane and put onto platforms, and we have to physically adjust them and move them into place. A carpenter's role can involve all sorts of jobs, from concrete work to more fiddly technical tasks."
With so many things to do, it's no surprise that carpenters need a wide range of skills. "You need to have an eye for detail, be good at calculations and be able to get along with other people. You also need to be reasonably fit, pretty motivated and, most importantly, reliable to do this sort of work."
Cody talks about life as a carpenter – 1.18 mins. (Video courtesy of Got a Trade? Got it Made!)
The thing I enjoy most about my apprenticeship is the amount of stuff I’ve learnt, I mean five years ago I could just dig a hole now I can just about build a house. The social side of building is awesome, you’re working, you’re on the tools all day and you can look over at your mate and have a laugh, tell a joke and straight back to work, you know.
I think it’s crucial to earn money while you’re learning. I’m on my way to buying a house and I’m only 21, I’ve got a few toys and toys always make life very fun. It’s one of the best feelings knowing that you’re getting somewhere in life and it’s not going to take you till your mid-30s to get there.
I started young and I’m going to make it young. I think it’s really important to get a trade behind your back, so sooner you get a trade, the sooner you get your wheels rolling towards success.
I’m Cody, I’m 21, I’m an apprentice builder, I’ve got a trade and I’ve got it made.
There are no specific entry requirements for becoming a carpenter. However, many employers prefer to hire carpenters who have, or are working towards, a qualification.
You can complete an apprenticeship and gain a National Certificate in Carpentry (Level 4). The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) oversees carpentry apprenticeships.
If you are an experienced carpenter with no qualifications, you can approach BCITO to have your skills assessed and gain a National Certificate in Carpentry (Level 4).
National certificates can also be completed through the New Zealand Army.
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation website - find out about training as a carpenter
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation website - find out about getting your experience recognised
- Defence Careers website - information on completing carpentry apprenticeships with the NZ Army
NCEA Level 2 in English, maths, design and visual communication, science, woodwork or workshop technology are useful.
Year 11 and 12 students can learn more about the construction industry, and gain relevant skills, by doing a National Certificate in Building, Construction and Allied Trades (Levels 1 and 2) through the BConstructive programme.
For Year 11 to 13 students, the Gateway programme is a good way to gain industry experience.
These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.
- BConstructive website - information on the BConstructive programme
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation website - information on the Gateway programme
Carpenters need to be:
- accurate and efficient
- comfortable working at heights and in confined spaces
- able to work well in a team and good at communicating
- able to follow instructions
- good at basic maths.
Normally we get electricians to lay down the cables once we've got the roof on a house. So you always have to be thinking ahead, because a delay in ringing contractors could mean a lot of waiting around.
Useful experience for carpenters includes:
- labouring on a construction site
- any other building-trade experience.
Building work can involve a lot of heavy lifting, so carpenters need to be fit, healthy and strong.
Some building work has to be carried out or overseen by a Licensed Building Practitioner. To get a licence, you have to prove your experience and/or have appropriate qualifications.
Find out more about training
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO)
- 0800 422 486 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.bcito.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of getting a job as a carpenter are good due to:
- a construction boom that is predicted to extend until at least the end of 2021, meaning more building work
- the extra 22,000 houses that are needed over the next 10 years in Auckland
- building work needed to upgrade leaky homes and earthquake-prone buildings
- the post-earthquake rebuild of Christchurch, which is predicted to extend until at least the end of 2017. Carpenter is included on Immigration New Zealand's Canterbury skill shortage list, which highlights occupations expected to be in shortage during the rebuild of the region.
Carpenter appears on Immigration New Zealand's immediate skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled carpenters from overseas to work in New Zealand
However, like many building jobs, this role can be affected by economic conditions. A downturn in the economy can lower demand for carpenters.
Most carpenters work for building firms or contractors
Carpenters usually work for builders or building firms. Many of these are smaller businesses, employing two to 10 people. Large building firms also employ carpenters, but are increasingly subcontracting work to mid-sized building companies.
Carpenters usually specialise in either residential or commercial building. Commercial building is dominated by larger companies, while most residential building is contracted to builders who employ just a few staff.
- BRANZ and Pacifecon, 'National Construction Pipeline Report 4', July 2016, (www.branz.co.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Canterbury Skill Shortage List', accessed June 2016, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- McClintock, J, operations manager, Certified Builders Association, Careers New Zealand interview, June 2016.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Experienced carpenters may progress to be supervisors or managers, or become self-employed and work as building contractors.
Carpenters may specialise in either residential or commercial carpentry.
Last updated 12 January 2018