Carpenters work mainly with wood to repair or install foundations, walls, roofs, windows and doors in buildings.
New carpenters usually earn
$18-$23 per hour
Experienced carpenters usually earn
$25-$40 per hour
Source: Tradestaff, 2018.
Pay for carpenters varies depending on skills, experience and where they work.
- Carpentry apprentices may start on the training minimum wage or minimum wage, with pay increasing as they gain skills and complete unit standards.
- Inexperienced carpenters with no qualifications usually earn $18 to $23 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 $40 an hour.
Source: Tradestaff, 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay 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
- construct building frames and install cladding on the inside and outside of buildings
- install windows, staircases and doors
- renovate and do repair work on older houses.
Skills and knowledge
Carpenters need to have:
- building and carpentry skills
- knowledge of building methods and materials
- a basic level of maths
- 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?
Follow the path that comes naturally
Unga’s interest in carpentry began as a young boy in Tonga. "It started off as a hobby. It was natural for me to fix bits and pieces and help build huts, and my cousins were all doing carpentry.
"Later, in New Zealand, I’d left school and was drifting, but came to a point where I realised I was wasting time. A church contact encouraged me to get a plumbing scholarship through Weltec’s Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) scheme. I finished the plumbing course, but it made me realise I really wanted to do their carpentry course!"
Show employers your passion and it’ll open doors
Unga finished the MPTT pre-trade carpentry programme and was doing some labouring when he was told that work was finishing. "It took the announcement for me to find the courage to ask the leading hand if I could stay on and do a carpentry apprenticeship."
His newfound confidence paid off and Unga is now two years into his New Zealand Certificate in Carpentry studies. "At first I had to ask my mentor how to read plans and action them. Now I can understand plans I’ve never seen before."
Carpentry offers a toolkit of skills
Unga is currently working with a team of builders on the restoration of an historic public building. "Carpentry’s not just woodwork. I’m doing formwork – putting in steel foundations for concrete. But I want to get into the finishing work – the detail, the really fine woodwork."
Unga says he likes that building skills are transferable. "Wherever you go you can take your skills with you, and it also feels good to finish a job. It gets physical but it keeps you active and it’s good for your health!"
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 requirements to become a carpenter as you gain skills on the job. However, many employers prefer to hire carpenters who have or are working towards a qualification.
To become a qualified carpenter you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Carpentry (Level 4).
The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) oversees carpentry apprenticeships. The New Zealand Certified Builders Association also run an apprentice scheme through the Industry Training Association – Building (ITAB).
Experienced carpenters with no qualifications can ask BCITO to have their skills assessed and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Carpentry (Level 4).
A New Zealand Certificate in Carpentry can also be completed through carpentry apprenticeships with the New Zealand Army.
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation website - information about carpenter apprenticeships
- New Zealand Certified Builders website - information on the ITAB apprentice scheme
- Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation website - find out about getting your trade experience recognised
- Defence Careers website - information on carpentry apprenticeships with the NZ Army
No specific secondary education is required for this job, but maths, construction and mechanical technologies, design and visual communication, English and science to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.
Year 11 and 12 learners can find out 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 learners, trades academies and the STAR and Gateway programmes are good ways to gain relevant experience and skills.
These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.
Carpenters need to be:
- accurate, efficient and organised
- comfortable working at heights and in confined spaces
- able to work well in a team and good at communicating
- able to follow instructions.
You need to be adaptable as a carpenter. You can be working on something, but then there’s a change of plan and you’re asked to redo it, or extra things need to be done.
Useful experience for carpenters includes:
- labouring on a construction site
- any other building trade experience.
Carpenters need to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong as building work can involve a lot of heavy lifting.
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
- New Zealand Certified Builders Association
- 0800482284 - email@example.com - www.itab.co.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Growth in building work means good opportunities for carpenters
Chances of getting a job as a carpenter are good due to:
- moderate growth in construction predicted to extend until at least the end of 2023, meaning more building work
- the Government’s KiwiBuild programme, involving the building of quality affordable homes over the next decade
- building work needed to upgrade leaky homes and earthquake-prone buildings.
The Christchurch post-earthquake rebuild is ongoing but the majority of the remaining work is in the non-residential (commercial) sector.
Record number of carpenter apprentices but demand still strong
The number of apprentice carpenters has grown steadily from 1,187 in 2009 to 4,592 in 2017. However, there are still not enough qualified carpenters to meet demand.
You can increase your chances of getting a carpentry apprenticeship if you have:
- a good attitude to work, good time management skills, and are willing to learn
- completed a Gateway or pre-trade programme
- the ability to use hand and power tools, or operate a forklift
- general carpentry, framing and repairs experience
- already have a tertiary qualification but want to retrain in carpentry.
Carpenter appears on Immigration New Zealand's regional and construction and infrastructure skill shortage lists. 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 large building companies 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 often subcontract work out 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 only a few staff.
- Florence, G, chief executive, Certified Builders Association, careers.govt.nz interview, September 2018.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Construction and Infrastructure Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Regional Skill Shortage List', 27 May 2019, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'National Construction Pipeline Report, 6th Edition, July 2018, accessed September 2018, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook - Carpenters and Joiners', accessed September 2018, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- NZ Herald, 'Builders seek an extra 2000 apprentices a year with new app', 24 May 2018.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Experienced carpenters may progress to become self-employed or work as building contractors, or move into supervisory or management roles.
Carpenters may specialise in either commercial or residential carpentry.
Last updated 12 September 2019