Cooper: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

Author: ProfGuide
Cooper: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

When we think of professions, the first things that come to mind are doctors, engineers, lawyers, and other traditional jobs. But have you ever heard of a Cooper? Coopers are skilled artisans who specialize in crafting barrels, casks, and other wooden containers that are used to store and age spirits like whiskey, wine, and beer. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of Cooperage and explore what it takes to become a Cooper. By the way, recently the ProfGuide career guidance center has developed a precise career orientation test, which will tell you which professions are suitable for you, provide a conclusion about your personality type and intelligence.


Introduction to Cooper as a Profession

Cooperage is an ancient craft that dates back to the Roman Empire. The word “cooper” is derived from the Latin word “cupa,” which means “tub” or “barrel.” Coopers were once essential members of every community, as their expertise was necessary for the storage and transportation of goods. Today, Coopers are still in demand in the spirits industry, and their role is just as crucial as ever.


There are many specializations within Cooperage. Some Coopers specialize in crafting barrels for specific types of spirits, such as whiskey or wine. Others focus on creating bespoke barrels for individual clients. Some Coopers even specialize in repairing or restoring vintage barrels. No matter the specialization, all Coopers share a passion for crafting high-quality barrels that enhance the flavor and aroma of the spirits they hold.

Tasks and Responsibilities

The tasks and responsibilities of a Cooper vary depending on their specialization. However, some of the most common duties include selecting wood for barrels, shaping the wood, assembling the barrels, and finishing them with a sealant. Coopers must also ensure that the barrels they create are free of leaks and are structurally sound. In addition to the technical skills required for barrel-making, Coopers must also have excellent attention to detail and be able to work with precision.

Pros and Cons

As with any profession, there are pros and cons to being a Cooper. Here are some of the most significant advantages and disadvantages of this career:


  • Coopers have a unique and valuable skill set that is always in demand.
  • Cooperage is a traditional craft that is steeped in history and culture.
  • Coopers have the satisfaction of creating something tangible and long-lasting.
  • Coopers may have the opportunity to work with high-profile clients or on high-profile projects.


  • Cooperage can be physically demanding and requires a lot of manual labor.
  • The craft of Cooperage requires a significant investment in tools and equipment.
  • Coopers must be comfortable working with potentially hazardous materials, such as adhesives and solvents.
  • The market for Coopers may be limited, depending on the location.


The demand for Coopers varies depending on the region and the industry. In the United States, there is a growing demand for craft spirits, which has led to an increased need for skilled Coopers. Canada, Great Britain, and Australia also have thriving spirits industries that require Coopers. However, the market for Coopers may be more limited in other regions, such as Asia and South America.

Salary Ranges

The salary range for Coopers also varies depending on the region and the industry. In the United States, the average salary for a Cooper is around $40,000 to $60,000 per year. In Canada, the average salary is around $45,000 to $65,000 per year. In Great Britain, the average salary is around £25,000 to £35,000 per year. In Australia, the average salary is around AUD $50,000 to AUD $70,000 per year.

Where do Coopers Work?

Coopers can work in a variety of settings, including distilleries, wineries, breweries, and cooperages. Some Coopers may also work independently as freelancers, taking on custom projects for clients. Coopers are an essential part of the spirits industry, as their barrels are necessary for the aging and flavor development of many types of spirits. Without Coopers, the quality and taste of spirits would not be the same.

Important Qualities of a Successful Cooper

To be a successful Cooper, there are several important qualities that are necessary. These include:

  • Attention to detail: Coopers must be able to work with precision and ensure that their barrels are free of defects and leaks.
  • Physical stamina: Cooperage is a physically demanding craft that requires a lot of manual labor, so Coopers must be physically fit and able to lift heavy objects.
  • Technical skills: Coopers must have a thorough understanding of woodworking, as well as the chemistry and biology behind barrel aging and flavor development.
  • Creativity: Coopers must be able to think creatively and come up with new and innovative barrel designs.
  • Patience: Barrel-making is a slow and meticulous process, and Coopers must have the patience to see a project through from start to finish.

Step-by-Step Career Path

If you’re interested in becoming a Cooper, here’s a step-by-step career path to consider:

  1. Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent.
  2. Pursue an apprenticeship or training program with an experienced Cooper.
  3. Gain experience and hone your skills through on-the-job training.
  4. Consider obtaining a certification or credential in Cooperage.
  5. Explore opportunities to specialize in a specific type of barrel or work with high-profile clients.
  6. Consider opening your own Cooperage or working as a freelancer.

How to Become a Cooper

To become a Cooper, you do not necessarily need to obtain a higher education degree. Instead, you will need to pursue an apprenticeship or training program with an experienced Cooper. The length of the apprenticeship can vary, but it typically takes between two and four years to complete. During this time, you will gain hands-on experience in barrel-making and learn the technical skills necessary for the craft.

After completing your apprenticeship, you can begin working as a journeyman Cooper. As you gain more experience and hone your skills, you may be able to advance to a master Cooper, which is the highest level of expertise in the craft.

Where to Become a Cooper

If you’re interested in becoming a Cooper, there are several programs and schools that offer training and certification in Cooperage. Here are five examples for each country mentioned earlier:

United States:

  1. American Cooperage Apprenticeship Program
  2. Napa Valley Cooperage Training Program
  3. Kentucky Bourbon School Cooperage Program
  4. Minnesota State College Southeast Barrel Making Program
  5. Chattanooga State Community College Cooperage Program


  1. Niagara College Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management Program
  2. Algonquin College Wine Business Management Program
  3. Okanagan College Viticulture and Wine Studies Program
  4. Thompson Rivers University Craft Brewing and Brewery Operations Program
  5. Kwantlen Polytechnic University Brewing and Brewery Operations Program

Great Britain:

  1. The National Cooperage Federation Apprenticeship Scheme
  2. The Maltsters Association of Great Britain Coopering Training Scheme
  3. The Worshipful Company of Coopers of London Apprenticeship Scheme
  4. The Scottish Brewing Archive Association Coopering and Cask Maintenance Training
  5. The Cornwall College Coopering and Woodcrafts Program


  1. The Australian Wine Research Institute Barrel-Making Course
  2. The University of Adelaide Wine Business Program
  3. The TAFE NSW Certificate III in Wine Industry Operations (Coopering) Program
  4. The TAFE SA Certificate III in Wine Industry Operations (Coopering) Program
  5. The University of Melbourne Master of Wine Business Program

Can You Enter the Profession with a Different Degree?

While a degree in woodworking or a related field may be helpful, it is not necessary to become a Cooper. Instead, Coopers typically learn their craft through an apprenticeship or training program. However, having a degree in a related field can help you stand out from other candidates and may give you an advantage in the job market.

In conclusion, Cooperage is a unique and fascinating profession that requires a combination of technical skill, creativity, and patience. Coopers play an essential role in the spirits industry, and their expertise is necessary for the aging and flavor development of many types of spirits. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in Cooperage, consider seeking out an apprenticeship or training program to gain the experience and skills necessary for the craft. With dedication and hard work, you could become a master Cooper and leave your mark on the world of spirits.

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