Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Cabinet Makers

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

The cabinetmaking industry has been hit hard by automation and a period of economic downturn several years ago. We expect modest growth in this industry over the next few years due to a better economic environment, but long term, the overall decline in employment is expected to continue.

How to become a cabinet maker

What they do

Cabinet makers make, repair and finish furniture. This involves working with wood, fabrics and leather. They also finish furniture by polishing and painting. Some cabinet makers also design the furniture they make.

Skills employers look for

According to the latest information from the New Zealand and Australian online job ads, some of the top skills employers look for include:

  • cabinetry and carpentry skills
  • the ability to operate computer driven machine tools
  • good communication skills, and attention to detail
  • computer literacy, including use of Microsoft Windows and CAD software.

 Source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight™ Real-time Labor Market Information tool


The typical way to become a cabinet maker is to complete an apprenticeship in furniture finishing, and gain the National Certificate in Furniture (Level 3 and 4). This certificate takes between two-and-a-half and four years to complete.

Alternatively, you can complete a pre-trade programme at a polytechnic. Ara Institute offers programmes that lead to a Certificate in Furniture and Joinery (Levels 2, 3 and 4), and UniTec offers a Certificate in Applied Technology in Furniture and Cabinetmaking. Universal College of Learning (UCOL) offers a programme leading to a Diploma in Furniture Design and Making (Level 5).

There is also a specific course in cabinetmaking available for apprentices doing the National Certificate in Boatbuilding (Level 4), which gives apprentices the skills needed to build furniture for marine vessels.

The New Zealand Apprenticeships scheme is available for anyone over the age of 16, and is subsidised by the government. More information on the scheme is on the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) website.


Cost of study

National Certificate in Furniture (Level 4, Apprenticeship)
$4,000 over 2.5 to 4 years

Costs vary between institutions. Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme. First time students may be eligible for  fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to Some polytechnics may have a zero-fees scheme.Further costs include materials, textbooks, and accommodation.

The least expensive way to train as a cabinet maker is to become an apprentice. That way, you can earn while gaining a qualification.

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services:

Where to study

Pre-trade Level 2-4 furniture and joinery qualifications are offered at the Ara Institute and UCOL offers a Level 5 qualification. Unitec also offers a pre-trade certificate in furniture and cabinetmaking.

The Industry Training Organisation (ITO) that looks after training for the cabinetmaking industry is Competenz. It arranges apprenticeships nationwide.

Apprenticeships for marine cabinet makers are arranged through the New Zealand Marine and Composites Industry Training Organisation (NZMACITO).

New Zealand Marine and Composites ITO:

Completed qualifications

The number of students completing Level 4 certificates in the broader category Manufacturing, Engineering & Technology was been very low, but has grown since 2015. This could be because there have been few opportunities in this sector for inexperienced people.

Qualification completions chart


Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The average annual income for a cabinet maker is estimated to be $42,400. Cabinetmaking apprentices are likely to enter the trade on the training wage or on the minimum wage.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Cabinet makers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2021 2026
4,689 3,180 3,273 3,028
  -5.4% 0.5% -1.5%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
*Numbers are for the broader category “Wood Trades Workers”.

The number of cabinet makers declined by almost a third from 2006 to 2013. This probably reflects increased imports and more efficient ways of producing furniture, as well as the general economic downturn during this period.

Over the next few years, we expect employment to rise slightly. However, after 2021 we expect the employment numbers to decline again, although at a slower rate than 2006-2013.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Cabinet makers are not on Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Cabinet maker vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites.

Trade Me Jobs:

Career path

Cabinet makers can go on to become supervisors in furniture making companies. Some cabinet makers also establish their own businesses.

Competenz provides an overview of the potential career path of someone starting out in cabinetmaking.

Competenz, Career progression:

Related Occupations

The following occupations are related, but could require different qualifications than cabinet makers.

  • Boat Builder
  • Carpenter
  • Furniture Finisher
  • Joiner
  • Picture Framer
  • Wood Machinist

Other information


More information on cabinet makers is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Careers New Zealand:
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Building and Carpentry


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of cabinet makers has been coded to the following ANZSCO code for their purpose of this report:

394 – Wood Trades Workers