Joiner vs Carpenter – What’s the Difference?

by Team Tradify, July 30, 2021

From welders and painters to plasterers and fencers, construction trades are varied and far-reaching. In that mix, joiners and carpenters are often mistaken for the same trade. Although they have similarities, in this article we'll go over what sets these two trade specialisations apart.

If you're planning to acquire an apprenticeship in either of these fields, it helps to be prepared. Check out our list of interview questions for apprentices:

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Once you’ve compared joiners vs carpenters, take a look at your other options as well:

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1. Construction cousins: joiners vs carpenters

Joiners and carpenters are different trades, but occasionally people are qualified to be both. That’s no surprise given many of the basic skills are the same for both professions – particularly in the early stages of training. They’re both woodworking trades that require a sharp eye for detail, an understanding of basic maths, and the ability to follow a design or plan.

Learn how to be a good carpenter

Whether it’s joinery or carpentry, a lot of the job involves precise measuring and tidy craftsmanship. Both require a thorough understanding of health and safety in the workplace and building and safety regulations.

As you dig deeper, you’ll find there are distinct differences between the two disciplines. Joiners typically ‘join’ the wood together in a workshop whereas carpenters install those pieces on building sites.

2. Salaries and hourly rates for joiners vs carpenters

Is it money that motivates you the most? Unfortunately, it won’t help you decide which of these two trades to train in. Joiners and carpenters both make similar amounts of money.

Below are the average rates for different regions:

  • UK – £9-35 p/h
  • AU – $44 p/h
  • NZ – $20-50 p/h
  • USA – $26-35 p/h

Of course, rates depend on a variety of factors, such as:

  • Demand
  • Experience
  • Specialisations

Learn more about the highest paying trades.

3. A closer look at joinery

A joiner joins pieces of wood to construct various interior fittings for homes, offices, and other structures – even ships. Heavy machinery is often required to carry out these tasks, so usually, the work is done in a workshop.

A joiner makes a host of things such as:

  • Window frames
  • Door frames
  • Stairs
  • Furniture
  • Chairs
  • Tables
  • Cabinets

A joiner’s day involves making timber (or other material) fittings by:

  • Measuring
  • Cutting
  • Assembling
  • Sanding
  • Finishing

A day in the life of a joiner may also involve providing quotes for clients, talking about their needs and drawing plans for them.

Although joiners don’t usually install their work, they have a strong influence on the final project outcome – so there’s more creativity involved. Joiners are skilled in traditional craftsmanship processes, but may also be educated in modern technology to create the best result.

4. Start your career as a joiner

Become a joiner in the UK

There are no legal requirements to work as a joiner in the UK, but being qualified is a huge step toward a higher salary and better job opportunities. To find an apprenticeship near you and get started on your qualification, use Find an apprenticeship.

Become a joiner in Australia

To become a joiner in Australia you need to attain a Certificate III in Carpentry and Joinery CPC32011. This is an apprenticeship course available throughout Australia, but each state has its own course avenue. For more information on how to get started, head to Australian Apprenticeships Pathways.

Become a joiner in New Zealand

There are no specific requirements to become a joiner in New Zealand, but employers prefer to hire someone who is working towards a qualification. You can complete an apprenticeship for a New Zealand Certificate in Joinery (Level 3 or 4). This qualification is free until 2023 in New Zealand.

Interested in starting a business? Check out our Guide to Starting Your Own Trade Business.

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5. A closer look at carpentry

The day-to-day tasks of a carpenter can vary depending on a specific job. Unlike a joiner, a carpenter typically works on-site and fits the pieces a joiner has made – windows, doors, staircases, benchtops – into a build. A carpenter may also install things like cupboards and shelving.

For everyday duties, carpenters need a thorough understanding of drawings and architectural plans. They also need good knowledge of building methods and materials.

A carpenter’s role requires a sharp eye for detail, a good understanding of maths, strong hand-eye coordination and a reasonable level of physical fitness. Because carpenters spend a lot of time fitting large objects and repairing heavy fittings, a lot of physical effort can be involved.

6. Start your career as a carpenter

Become a carpenter in the UK

You can work as a carpenter without being qualified in the UK, but most employers will expect you to attain a qualification if you aren’t already working towards one. To do that, you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship. The government has an excellent resource – Find an apprenticeship.

Become a carpenter in Australia

To become a carpenter in Australia you need to attain a Certificate III in Carpentry. This is an apprenticeship course available throughout Australia, but each state has its own course avenue. For more information on how to get started, head to Australian Apprenticeships Pathways.

Become a carpenter in New Zealand

It’s possible to get a carpentry job without a qualification in New Zealand, but if you gain a New Zealand Certificate in Carpentry (Level 4) you’re much more likely to secure a job – and you’ll be in a higher salary bracket. More information on New Zealand carpentry qualifications can be found at

Interested in running your own business? Check out our Guide to Starting a Carpentry Business.

7. What’s better, carpentry or joinery?

Joiners and carpenters have similarities, but they require different training – and therefore specialise in different areas of construction.

If you have a knack for visualising an end product, are good at problem-solving and have a strong eye for detail, a career in joinery will be well-suited.

If you’re more interested in a hands-on job, and you’re not afraid of confined spaces, heights and a bit of heavy-lifting – then carpentry is the way to go.

Whatever industry you choose, there’s no denying they’re both great trades – and come with brilliant job opportunities.

Life as a tradesperson is busy – especially if you run your own business. Tradify is the job management app trusted by thousands of tradespeople. Start a free 14-day trial or pop over to one of our live walkthrough webinars to see the app in action.