What Is a Woodworking Career? (With Tips and FAQ)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed’s data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you have a keen attention to detail, experience in architectural design or you like to work with your hands, consider pursuing a woodworking career. There are a variety of woodworking career paths you can follow, and an internship can help you pursue a job in this field with greater ease. Understanding what a woodworking career entails and the variety of woodworking jobs you can pursue can help you determine if this is the right field for you. In this article, we review what a woodworking career is, where these professionals can work and the different jobs in this field.

50 Free Woodworking Plans

Related: How To Become a Professional Woodworker

What is a woodworking career?

A woodworking career is a profession that typically involves creating, designing, handling and repairing wood and wood items. The job duties for every woodworking role may vary, as some professionals have hands-on work and others use computer software to complete their tasks. Some of a general woodworker’s tasks can include:

  • Comprehending detailed architectural schematics, blueprints and shop drawings

  • Lifting over 50 pounds of wood into and out of operational machinery

  • Understanding industry standards and ensuring products meet or exceed them

  • Using hand tools and operating machinery via computer software to design, cut and trim timber or woodwork items

  • Identifying excessive or irregular vibrations in machinery to resolve and prevent production errors

  • Preparing and setting up machines for woodworking manufacturing projects

  • Choosing and adjusting the correct cutting, boring, milling and sanding tools for a job or project

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Carpenter Journeyman Apprenticeship Programs

Where can woodworkers work?

Woodworkers typically work for themselves as independent contractors, for construction companies or for wood product manufacturers and distributors. They can work for companies that create custom furniture designs or alongside architects and engineers to build a new home or office.

Related: The Different Types of Manufacturing Environments and Jobs

Types of woodworking careers

There are several careers you can pursue with a woodworking background. Consider pursuing a job based on your creative skill, your ability to operate a machine and your familiarity with architecture and building design. Some woodworking positions include:

1. Furniture sander

National average salary: $28,720 per year

Primary duties: A furniture sander may perform a variety of tasks such as inspecting and evaluating unfinished and assembled furniture for defects and preparing furniture for finishing. Furniture sanders use their attention to detail to evaluate unfinished items and notice areas that may benefit from additional modification. In addition to sandpaper, furniture sanders may use machinery or hand tools like air-powered sand scrapers.

2. Furniture finisher

National average salary: $37,184 per year

Primary duties: Furniture finishers shape, finish and refinish worn and damaged pieces of furniture. Furniture finishers may help people determine the best strategies for refurbishing their antiques and advise them on how to preserve them. They also stain, seal and apply a top coat to a new or refurbished furniture item, and some furniture finishers even have creative job duties like selecting color palettes and painting cabinets.

3. Carpenter

National average salary: $54,397 per year

Primary duties: A carpenter creates wooden products on a building site, in a workshop or in a residential home. They primarily handle wood-related tasks like laying floorboards and installing roofing. Carpenters also complete various wood-related repair projects and may create gates, windows and other items that require machinery to plane or sand the timber.

Related: Learn About Being a Carpenter

4. Machine operator

National average salary: $54,610 per year

Primary duties: Machine operators, also called machinists, typically work for manufacturing facilities as operators, setters and tenders. Some of these professionals operate very specific machinery like wood sawing machine setters. They may also set up equipment, load materials, optimize machine efficiency and perform quality checks.

Related: Learn About Being a Machine Operator

5. Cabinet maker

National average salary: $56,526 per year

Primary duties: Cabinet makers design custom-made wooden cabinets and fulfill the cabinetry requests of architects and homeowners. Apart from working on cabinets, they also repair and install furniture and fixtures. Cabinet makers also operate woodworking machines, sand wooden surfaces and mark outlines or dimensions on pieces of wood. They work with a variety of materials including wood, laminate and fiberglass.

6. Wood machinist

National average salary: $59,516 per year

Primary duties: Wood machinists prepare wood for a variety of construction projects. They may use machinery in a workshop to create various wood products, or they may produce wood in a timber mill. While some of their tasks involve working with their hands, others may involve the use of computer software to cut wood according to specific measurements.

7. Construction manager

National average salary: $78,450 per year

Primary duties: Construction managers, also called general contractors, supervise construction projects and collaborate with architects and engineers. They hire members to the construction team such as carpenters, laborers and electricians. Construction managers also maintain the project’s budget and oversee the compensation for construction employees.

Related: Learn About Being a Construction Manager

Tips for pursuing a woodworking career

Here are some tips you can use to pursue a woodworking career:

  • Showcase your work online. Highlight your woodworking skills by creating a website or blog that features wood products you’ve crafted or refurbished. This can help independent clients and future employers notice your abilities and craftsmanship.

  • Review the qualifications and job duties. Since woodworking careers can vary, review the job post for the position you’re interested in. Consider your certifications and skill set to determine whether you’re already qualified or if you may benefit from additional training.

  • Pursue an apprenticeship. Consider pursuing a relevant apprenticeship or vocational program. These can teach you how to plan, operate and complete a project, as well as crucial safety and operations knowledge.

  • Focus on your physical fitness. Some woodworking careers may involve lifting and carrying over 50 pounds of raw materials and may require you to operate large machinery. Ensure that you’re physically prepared for these tasks by maintaining an exercise regime.

Frequently asked questions about woodworking careers

If you’re interested in a woodworking career, consider these frequently asked questions:

What is the job outlook for a woodworking career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for woodworkers may decline by 4% by 2029. However, careers within this industry, like carpentry, show little-to-no change in the next 10 years. Depending on the woodworking profession you seek, you may find employers looking for your expertise and skill.

What are the educational requirements for a woodworking career?

Some woodworking careers, like construction management, may require a bachelor’s degree, while others like carpentry and furniture finishing only require a high school diploma. You can also increase your chances of finding a career in woodworking by pursuing specialized training in math, architecture or computer technology, as some professional roles rely on expertise in one or more of these areas.

Certain woodworking careers may also provide on-site training. For example, machine operators may undergo on-site training since it typically takes up to three years to master their job duties.

Do you need a certification as a woodworker?

While not all employers require certification, getting certified may increase your chances of getting a woodworking job. For example, as a machine operator, you can pursue certifications through the Architectural Woodwork Institute and the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America. Getting a certification can impress hiring managers by demonstrating your skill proficiency and your commitment to professional development.

What is the typical schedule for a woodworker?

Woodworkers typically work full time during standard hours of business operation. Some professionals, like carpenters, may have a more flexible schedule. For example, many indoor carpenters may work a standard 40-hour workweek, beginning around 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. However, outdoor carpenters may work varied hours depending on weather limitations and the project construction schedule.

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