Carpenter or Builder? Which is Right for you?

We’re going to start with a spoiler here and say you can actually be both. But first we’re going to go through each career choice and explain the differences between the two, the skills needed for each and how to pursue the career you want.

The great news is that the construction industry continues to thrive in Australia and there are plenty of career opportunities no matter what you choose to do.

“…you can start out as a carpenter and then later decide to become a builder.”


If you’re someone who likes to make things with timber, carpentry might be the natural choice for you. Within the construction industry, there are carpenters who build trusses and home frames, work on infrastructure, or build internal elements like staircases and cabinetry.

Skills that you’ll need as a carpenter:

  • Ability to follow plans and home designs
  • Ability to install windows, doors or other parts of homes
  • Ability to measure materials precisely and cut them to specifications
  • Ability to work with a team of carpenters and labourers


In order to become a qualified carpenter in Australia you need to complete a CPC30220 – Certificate III in Carpentry. At Trade Institute of Victoria (TIV) we offer two ways to do this:

Apprenticeship – This is the traditional model of studying to become a carpenter. TIV acts as the trade school for the student and their employer. We offer flexible training and support so students can work and earn money, while also studying to become a carpenter.

Full-time Course – This is a course specifically designed for those who may not be able to find an apprenticeship position. It provides an alternative pathway to a carpentry qualification.

At TIV, we have a reputation for providing excellent models of learning from experienced trainers, and we offer plenty of support to ensure our students are confident when they go out on to job sites. Our purpose built facilities ensure that even those doing the full time course get hands on experience.

“…construction industry offers a lot of flexibility and different roles.”


You may like the whole process of construction and want to become a builder. Having a builder’s licence gives you the opportunity to run your own business and oversee a home’s construction from start to finish.

Skills that you’ll need as a builder:

  • Ability to oversee, coordinate and manage projects
  • Ability to work with and coordinate different trades
  • Ability to foresee and resolve issues that may arise
  • Ability to understand and apply regulations


In order to become a builder in any state of Australia, you need a builder’s licence and in Victoria this is done through the Victorian Building Authority (VBA). You need to demonstrate the requisite knowledge and skills needed to be a builder and it is a comprehensive process. This is why many students choose to do one of the following courses with TIV, which prepare you for the VBA application process:

CPC40120 – Certificate IV in Building and Construction – This is a course that many students start off with before progressing to the Diploma or other areas of interest. It’s a great stepping stone to becoming a builder. It combines course work with practical experience to give students a real insight into building.

CPC50220 – Diploma of Building and Construction (Building) – Students who wish to become builders often complete the Diploma course after doing the Certificate IV. This Diploma meets the VBA’s requirements for a prescribed course for registration as Domestic Builder (Unlimited) and Commercial Builder (Unlimited). It covers the skills and knowledge on which applicants are tested by VBA for registration as a Residential or Commercial Builder. 

Personal Choice

Back to our spoiler and you can see that the construction industry offers a lot of flexibility and different roles. So you can start out as a carpenter and then later decide to become a builder. It all comes down to personal choice.

Do you like being hands on and working with timber? By honing your skills in this area you can become an expert in your field of timber construction.

Or do you prefer over seeing a project? By coordinating trades and managing a project you have the satisfaction of seeing a project through from start to finish.

Whichever you choose, one thing is certain. TIV and its trainers will be there to help you every step of the way. Our aim is to always have students graduate with confidence knowing that the training they’ve received will hold them in good stead on the job site.

You can read about some of our success stories and if you’re interested in becoming a carpenter or builder, please contact us for a chat.


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