Printer Friendly



Cabinetmakers build, finish, install and repair custom or production-type fixtures and furniture made of wood or wood substitutes.

To build typical wood units such as cabinets and custom-made products, cabinetmakers:

  • discuss projects with customers and draw-up detailed specifications,
  • estimate the amount of time and material needed, and the cost,
  • create detailed drawings and provide shop drawings,
  • make layouts and patterns,
  • select the wood or other materials involved in the project,
  • set-up and operate woodworking equipment,
  • program and operate Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) equipment,
  • measure, cut, shape and mold pieces of a project,
  • apply veneer or plastic laminates to substrates,
  • assemble the project by gluing, clamping, dowelling, nailing and screwing pieces together,
  • scrape and sand wood surfaces,
  • apply a finish such as paint, stain, varnish or lacquer,
  • polish finished surfaces,
  • repair or refinish wooden furniture and fixtures,
  • install cabinetry and millwork, and
  • manage the selection and installation of hardware.

In large cabinet shops equipped with hi-tech computer-controlled equipment, cabinetmakers may specialize in only one or two of the functions listed.

Some cabinet shops may specialize in a select number of functions from above.

For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.


Working Conditions

Cabinetmakers work indoors, generally in a shop environment. They may be exposed to high noise levels, airborne sawdust, and chemicals from painting and stripping. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required.

There is some risk of injury involved in working with woodworking machinery.


Skills and Abilities

The work is most rewarding for those who enjoy creating things with their hands, developing specialized skills and working with a high degree of accuracy.

To be successful in their trade, cabinetmakers must have:

  • good eyesight to select woods and look for surface imperfections
  • good eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity
  • the strength, stamina, and ability to use proper lifting techniques to lift items weighing in excess of 25 kilograms
  • the ability to visualize a finished product from drawings, blueprints or other specifications.


Employment and Advancement

Cabinetmakers are employed in custom shops or are self-employed. Employment prospects for cabinetmakers change with changing economic conditions.

Journeyperson wage rates vary, but generally range from $22 to $36 an hour, plus benefits.

Many cabinetmakers stay in the trade until they retire. They may set up their own shops or advance to supervisory positions.


Working in Alberta

To work as a cabinetmaker 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.


Apprenticeship Training

The term of apprenticeship for a cabinetmaker is 4 years (four 12-month periods) including a minimum of 1360 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 cabinetmaker 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 toll-free at 1-800-248-4823.
  • 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 online Prior Learning Assessment Application.  
  • 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 cabinetmaker in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:

Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates and may select apprentices from among their current employees.

For holders of an existing trade certificate, it can serve as your entrance requirement equivalency when registering in an additional trade.

  • 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 cabinetmakers earn at least 55 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 65 percent in the second, 75 percent in the third, and 85 percent in the fourth year.
    - apprentices are required to provide their own tools
  • complete all program requirements as identified the Course Outline
  • enroll in technical training
  • successfully complete all required (See Exam Counselling Sheets)
  • Technical Training Resource List
    • Each period of technical training requires apprentices to purchase specific resources and supplies.
    • Contact the training provider where you will be attending training for a complete list.

Apprentices involved in the Career and Technology Studies (CTS) stream in high school may be eligible for credit towards their apprenticeship first period training. 

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.

Student loans, grants, scholarships and other financial assistance may be available. For more information see Financial Assistance, visit an Apprenticeship and Industry Training office or call toll-free to 1-800-248-4823.


Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program

A cabinetmaker 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.

To prepare for the exam see the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available Resource Materials.


Qualification Certificate Program

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.


Equivalency Program

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.

Click for more information on the Equivalency Program.