Essential Skills
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Carpenters build, install, maintain and repair structures generally made of wood. Carpenters are employed by construction companies, carpentry contractors and maintenance departments; or they may be self-employed.

Careers in Skilled Trades:  Carpenter

Over the next few issues we will be looking at some skilled trades so you can get some idea of what's out there. This week we will look at the career of carpenter.

Do you like working with wood or steel? Can you be precise and accurate in your work? Are you creative? Do you have an eye for detail? Are you good with your hands? Do you have strong math skills? 

If so, then a career as a Carpenter could be right for you. Carpenters form the largest single group of skilled workers in Canada. They build, install, maintain and repair structures made of wood, wood substitutes and other materials. Carpenters are employed by construction companies, carpentry contractors and maintenance departments; or they may be self-employed.


As a Carpenter, your duties may include the following:

  • Building foundations, installing floor beams, laying sub-flooring and installing walls and roofing systems
  • Fitting and installing trim, doors, stairs, moulding and hardware
  • Measuring, cutting and joining materials made of wood or wood substitutes
  • Repairing and renovating wooden structures
  • Preparing cost estimates for clients
  • Reading and interpreting blueprints, drawings and sketches

Work Conditions

Working conditions for carpenters vary from one job to another. Some carpenters work indoors and work a standard 40-hour week (8 hours a day, 5 days a week). Other carpenters work mostly outdoors and may work varied hours depending on the demands of the project.

As with many careers in construction, there are peak periods that will require you to work overtime. The number of additional hours you work each week depends on the construction sector and region you work in, and will vary from one job to the next.

Carpenters may work alone, in teams, or with helpers. The job can be physically demanding. You will often have to lift heavy materials and work with sharp tools. The work is also mentally challenging – you may have to make quick mental calculations.

As with all careers in the construction industry, safety is the top priority. Carpenters are trained to work safely and take special precautions to protect against injury.

Training and Certification

Apprenticeship involves both classroom studies and on-the-job training under the supervision of a certified Carpenter, called a journeyperson.

As an apprentice, you earn while you learn and are paid by the hour while working on the job site. Wages start at about 60 per cent of a journeyperson’s hourly rate and increase during your apprenticeship until you reach the full rate.

Entering an apprenticeship program
Requirements for carpentry apprenticeship programs vary across Canada. You are usually required to complete secondary school. You may find it helpful to enrol in math, shop, industrial arts and mechanical drawing courses in high school.

Some provinces and territories offer secondary school apprenticeship programs that allow high school students to work towards a career as a carpenter.

Program length
Carpentry apprenticeship programs vary across Canada, but generally involve four 12-month periods, including at least 5,440 hours of on-the-job training and four eight-week blocks of technical training.

Related work experience or completion of a carpenter program at a college or technical institute can reduce the time required to complete your apprenticeship.

Certification is required in Quebec. It is available but voluntary in all other provinces and territories. Even where certification is voluntary, it is still recommended. Certification tells employers and other workers that you are a skilled professional. It also helps you get jobs.

To be certified as a Carpenter, you usually need to complete a four-year apprenticeship program. Once you successfully complete the required on-the-job training, technical training and exams, you are awarded a journeyperson certificate.

You may be eligible for certification if you have more than four years of on-the-job experience and some high school, college or industry courses in carpentry.

Once certified as a Carpenter, you may attempt the Interprovincial Exam to qualify for the Interprovincial Standards’ Red Seal. With a Red Seal, you can work as a Carpenter anywhere in Canada.

To keep your skills current, you have to keep up with new technological developments by reading and talking with other carpenters.

Info compiled from Careers in Construction

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