Carpenters construct, renovate, erect and repair buildings and other structures made of wood, wood substitutes, steel and other materials.
Duties vary according to the type of job. In residential jobs, carpenters crib the basement; build the house framework, walls, roof, exterior and interior finishes; and install doors, windows, flooring, cabinets, stairs, handrails, paneling, moulding and ceiling tiles.
In commercial or industrial jobs, they build concrete forms, scaffolding, bridges, trestles, tunnels, shelters, towers and other structures.
In maintenance jobs, they repair and remodel existing structures of all kinds.
Some carpenters specialize in one type of work such as framing, bench work or finishing work.
Most carpentry tasks involve:
- reading drawings and/or getting instructions from a supervisor
- doing the layout including selecting materials, planning sequences and methods of work, and measuring and marking materials to avoid costly mistakes or omissions
- cutting and shaping materials and joining them with nails, screws, bolts or glue
- checking completed units to be sure they are level, square, plumb and the right size, shape and location
Carpenters must work accurately and economically, and follow national and local building codes.
For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.
Carpenters may work alone, in teams or with helpers. Working conditions vary from one job to another. On some jobs carpenters work primarily indoors, are permanently employed and work a regular 40-hour week. On other jobs, they work primarily outdoors, are subject to seasonal unemployment, and routinely work overtime in peak periods.
There is some risk of injury from slips and falls, falling objects, and sharp hand and power tools.
Carpentry is most rewarding for those who take pride in creating a variety of things with their hands and honing their expertise in their trade.
To be successful in the trade, carpenters need:
- good verbal and written communication skills
- to be computer literate
- to solve arithmetic problems quickly and accurately
- to get along well with others and work in a team environment
- to stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time
- manual dexterity
- balance for working on scaffolding
- use of proper lifting techniques.
Most carpenters are employed by general contractors, are self-employed, or do construction or maintenance work for government agencies, utility companies or manufacturing firms. Employment prospects for carpenters vary considerably depending upon the sector or type of employer.
Journeyperson wage rates vary, but generally range from $25 to $38 an hour plus benefits.
The carpentry trade can be a stepping stone to unlimited possibilities. Carpenters may advance to foreman, subcontractor, construction superintendent or contractor. They are involved in every phase of construction, and create the base buildings that most trades will follow in the construction cycle. This overall knowledge is an advantage when applying for supervisory positions.
To work as a carpenter in Alberta, a person must:
- be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, hold a valid recognized credential , OR
- work for an employer who is satisfied that the worker has the skills and knowledge expected of a certified journeyperson, OR
- be self-employed
Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements. The Blue Seal is evidence that a tradesperson not only meets Alberta's high industry standards but also has the knowledge and drive to succeed in business. This can be a direct route to leadership, supervisory or entrepreneurial roles.
The term of apprenticeship for a carpenter is 4 years (four 12-month periods), including a minimum of 1560 hours of on-the-job training and 8 weeks of technical training each year.
- An applicant who previously completed courses of study or work experience related to the Carpenter trade or holds a related journeyperson certificate and has the employer's recommendation, may qualify for credit that could reduce the term of apprenticeship. Inquiries about credit for previously completed courses of study or work experience can be directed to an apprentice representative at any Apprenticeship and Industry Training Office.
- A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may complete the Prior Learning Assessment Online Application. For more information, see the Prior Learning Assessment Online Guide.
- A high school student can become an apprentice and gain credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).
To learn the skills required of a carpenter in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:
- satisfy the entrance requirements or pass the entrance exam (see Entrance Level Competencies, Exam Counselling Sheet, Entrance Exam Study Guide, and Entrance Exam Support Materials List)
- find a suitable employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice
Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates and may select apprentices from among their current employees.
- complete the online Apprenticeship Application and Contract
- pay the non-refundable application fee as part of the application process
- complete the required on-the-job training
- during on-the-job training, apprentice carpenters earn at least 60 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 70 percent in the second, 80 percent in the third, and 90 percent in the fourth year.
- apprentices are required to provide their own tools
- complete allf of the program requirements as identified in the course outline
- enroll in technical training
- select an educational institution that offers training for Carpenter apprentices, and a time to attend training
- determine requirements for enrolling at the selected institution, and forward completed enrollment form to the selected institution
- review books and materials required for training
- successfully complete all required exams
Apprentices involved in the Career and Technology Studies (CTS) stream in high school may be eligible for credit towards their apprenticeship first period training. Click here for more information.
Apprentices may attempt the Interprovincial Exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal.
When apprentices attend technical training, they are required to pay the applicable tuition fee and purchase course supplies.
A carpenter who holds a valid trade certificate from Alberta or from another Canadian province or territory may apply to write the Interprovincial Exam and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. The Red Seal is recognized throughout most of Canada.
For a Qualification Certificate based on a recognized credential or work experience, in order to prepare for the exam(s) please refer to the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available resource materials.
Time spent on supervisory or foreman duties, counter work, heading the tool crib, or on training course is NOT counted as 'hands-on' work experience.
A person who holds a valid recognized credential does not require an Alberta Equivalency document to work in the trade in Alberta.
However, some employers may require Alberta documentation as proof that the holder is allowed to work in the trade or that the holder's credential is recognized.
More information regarding the Equivalency Program can be found here.