Everything you need to know about becoming a builder

There are many things to understand about how to build a career. How long will it take? What kind of education do you need? How many years of experience do you need to have under your belt to be considered a competent professional?


The weight of these questions really depend on the industry you find yourself in. Some industries have minimal barriers to entry, and others are a little bit more challenging to develop a career in. 


The industry we care about is the construction industry. Construction is one of the largest industries in Australia, contributing to a large chunk of Australia’s economy. Infrastructure is a huge part of how society operates, so it’s no secret that we rely on construction, perhaps more so than other industries, to deliver projects for public and private use. 


A position of interest in the construction industry is that of a builder. A Builder is a professional who has the responsibility of overseeing and organising the construction, renovation or repair of residential and commercial buildings. A Builder has expansive apprehension of all the aspects of construction; from conducting site assessments, producing cost estimates and obtaining permits all the way to fostering relationships with subcontractors, reading and interpreting plans, and planning and managing the build process.


So how do you go about becoming a builder? In this blog, we outline the specific things you need to consider, as well as the steps you must take in order to become a certified builder. 


Everything you need to know about becoming a builder

Complete a safety induction training course


The first and most important step is to complete the construction induction training course. Also known as a white card course, it is a legal requirement to complete this course for every professional in the industry. The course takes 1 day to complete, which is a relatively straightforward hurdle to go through.


Upon completion of the course, you will be issued a construction induction training card, also known as a white card. A white card essentially allows you to enter and perform works on construction sites. Without a white card, you cannot legally enter a construction site. Some of the learning objectives covered include:


  • The process for identifying hazards
  • The process for reporting safety concerns seen on worksites
  • The steps of action required to mitigate risks and potential hazards which can cause accidents or injuries
  • The proper methods to responding to incidents on construction worksites related to worker health and safety



Complete studies in appropriate degrees


The next step to becoming a builder would be to gain certified qualifications in construction. This involves completing courses with a relevant registered training organisation (RTO). RTO’s have the task of providing vocational education and training services. RTO’s are quite different to your typical organisations. RTO’s are legally recognised by the appropriate regulators which allows them to offer training and qualifications to aspiring students. WorkSafe Victoria, a statutory authority of the Victorian Government and the primary body for managing and enforcing workplace safety, outlines every registered training organisation that you can complete a white card training course with on their website. 


 The important thing to note about studying courses in building and construction is that there is a distinct hierarchy. Australia follows the Australian Qualifications Framework, which specifies the standards for education in Australia. The framework includes 10 levels, and they are: 


  • Certificate I
  • Certificate II
  • Certificate III
  • Certificate IV
  • Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma, Associate Degree
  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Bachelor Honours Degree, Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma
  • Masters Degree
  • Doctoral Degree


Most people do not go through the entire framework in the construction industry as this is not necessary. The sweet spot for most professionals including builders is completing the Certificate IV and Diploma levels. 


The Certificate IV level is the one that distinguishes itself from the previous 3 levels. It prepares students for the complexities of construction, whilst providing greater scope for exploring different areas of the industry. Many who wish to begin working in construction and eventually become builders begin from this point, because it allows you to gain the necessary qualifications for building and construction, whilst avoiding completing a Certificate I, II or III. Since it offers these benefits, it can be considered a broad qualification in the sense that there are many areas of specialisation, which will teach students how to apply what they have learnt in a wide context. A course commonly sought after is the Certificate IV in Building and Construction. What this course aims to do is enable you with skills in planning projects, applying codes and regulations, and managing resources effectively. It also aims to enhance your knowledge in building and construction to an advanced level, which drastically increases chances of landing job opportunities. You could realistically become a builder by completing this course, but it is considered the bare minimum, which you should consider when building your career and looking for employment opportunities. 



The Diploma represents another drastic increase in difficulty. This is evidenced by the fact that it can lead to university courses in a specialised field. Theory and practical learning objectives are heavily expanded upon, as difficulty increases. People who reach this level can apply their knowledge in management or supervisory positions, and potentially grow a high level of expertise in a particular area. A course usually undertaken at this level is the Diploma of Building and Construction, which continues on from the Certificate IV course mentioned in the previous level. As this is an advanced course, it is generally aimed at tradespeople and other employed people in the construction industry who are looking to advance their skills in management and development of residential/low-rise construction. Thus, as an aspiring builder, this course would be the perfect opportunity to hone your knowledge and become more of a well-rounded candidate for employment.



Gain hands on experience


Education and studies is not the only component of developing knowledge as an aspiring builder. You need to have experience to look back to in order to be a complete professional. The common form of this is completing a construction apprenticeship. In an apprenticeship, you can take part in real world projects where you can put your knowledge to the test in a practical manner. Apprenticeships seek to significantly boost your skills to make you a more well-rounded individual. 


You can also learn from the best. By choosing where you work, you can fast track your development by learning from people with extensive experience in building and construction. Understanding how they work and the processes they take will help you to become a better builder.


An added benefit of completing an apprenticeship is that you can collaborate with others in different areas of expertise. This will give you the chance to take leaflets out of others books and solidify your skills. You can also develop relationships which will come in handy when you want to complete projects as a builder on your own and need a favour. 


The required level of experience is different in states when it comes to applying for a Builders Licence. In Victoria, 3 years should be enough to offer one adequate in at least 3 homes, at all stages of the construction and this experience must be attested to by the resident registered builder supervising the project. However, the relevant registering authority, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) offers a time scale of seven 7 years, that is projects that the applicant has been part of over that period.



Apply for your licence


To obtain a Builders License, you must register with the VBA. The VBA are the central authority for regulating and monitoring all building activity in Victoria. Being registered with the VBA allows you to carry out certain construction work. This includes:


  • Undertaking domestic building work that has costs surpassing $10,000.
  • Re-blocking, re-stumping, demolishing, removing a home, or essentially any building task which requires a permit, regardless of project costs.
  • Providing more than one type of building work that surpasses $10,000.


Obtaining a builders licence isn’t as simple as just applying. In reality there are distinct categories of building licences, and whichever you fall under will determine what you can apply for. Such categories include: 


  • Domestic Builder (Limited)
  • Domestic Builder (Unlimited)
  • Commercial Builder (Limited to low-rise work)
  • Commercial Builder (Limited to medium-rise work)


Once you have determined the type of licence you would like to apply for, you must then submit an application. The process involves a fit and proper person screening, where the VBA analyses whether you are eligible to become a registered building practitioner based on completing declarations and undergoing police checks. Additionally, depending on the category of licence you chose, you may be required to sit an exam.


If your application is successful, you will become a licensed building practitioner for up to five years, and can freely undertake the projects you desire to complete that fall within the limits of your licence. 


Becoming a builder is a process that takes time and effort. However, if you are committed and understand the steps to take, you will be able to gain your licence and begin your path to having a successful career as a builder.


Parker Brent is a provider of courses in building and construction. For more details, enquire here.