Carpenters are artisans who saw, shape, fit and erect wooden frameworks, roof timbers and boarding for the construction of and fitting out of buildings.

Unlike some other trades, carpentry has not become highly mechanised.  Apart from certain portable electric tools, the traditional tools, the hammer, saw and plane, are still used extensively.

The work of carpenters starts at the planning stage with the study of the architectural drawings, so that they can select the correct type of timber for the work.  They have to be able to recognise and utilise the different types of timber to their best advantage.

Carpentry can be divided into two main sections: construction and finishing carpentry. 

Construction carpentry: here carpenters prepare moulds (shuttering) for concrete work, erect wooden roof-trusses, fix corrugated steel or similar sheeting used in construction, construct floors and drill and plug walls for the electrical supply.  Once the wood has been selected, it is then marked, sawn, planed, shaped and joined.

As soon as the walls are high enough, doors and window frames are built into openings. Doors are then fitted with locks and bolts. Carpenters also lay wood and block flooring, fit kitchen dressers to walls and repair damaged woodwork in buildings. They work closely with other construction workers such as bricklayers, plasterers, and tilers. For example, before concrete slabs can be laid, they have to build wooden moulds (shuttering) into which the concrete is poured.

Finishing carpentry: carpenters do the finer work of putting the finishing touches to the interior of a building. They hang doors, erect panels, picture rails and ceilings, make built-in cupboards and install carved ornamental woodwork.

Personal Requirements

  • minimum age 16 years old
  • enjoy working with hands
  • be a neat and accurate worker
  • able to measure and calculate accurately
  • interest in woodwork
  • good spatial and form perception
  • enjoy working with others
  • good health and strength
  • hand and finger dexterity
  • good eye-hand coordination

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 9 Certificate.
  • Grade 10 Certificate or N1 is recommended.


What to Study

There are three ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.

Learners must all receive training in occupational safetyy and first aid, fire-fighting and preventative security measures. Learners study everything about the installation, maintenance and repair of all electrical equipment. They must also become familiar with municipal legislation relevant to electricity supply and consumption.


  • government departments
  • private building contractors
  • construction companies
  • self-employment, with the necessary experience
  • can practise privately or start own business.

Further Information

Master Builders South Africa (MBSA)
No. 1 Second Road
Midrand, South Africa  
Tel: (011) 205-9000

Getting Started

  • obtain information about learnership programmes in your area
  • try to organise part-time or holiday work as a helper to a carpenter
  • arrange to speak to a carpenter and ask permission to observe the work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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