Quick Facts: Woodworkers
2017 Median Pay $30,850 per year 
$14.83 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training  
Number of Jobs, 2016 263,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2016-26 2,700

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Woodworker’s Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Woodworkers Do

Woodworkers manufacture a variety of products such as cabinets and furniture, using wood, veneers, and laminates. They often combine and incorporate different materials into wood.



Duties of woodworkers

Woodworkers typically do the following:

  • Understand detailed architectural drawings, schematics, shop drawings, and blueprints

  • Prepare and set up machines and tooling for woodwork manufacturing

  • Lift wood pieces onto machines, either by hand or with hoists

  • Operate woodworking machines, including saws and milling and sanding machines

  • Listen for unusual sounds or detect excessive vibration in machinery

  • Ensure that products meet industry standards and project specifications, making adjustments as necessary

  • Select and adjust the proper cutting, milling, boring, and sanding tools for completing a job

  • Use hand tools to trim pieces or assemble products

Despite the abundance of plastics, metals, and other materials, wood products continue to be an important part of our daily lives. Woodworkers make wood products from lumber and synthetic wood materials. Many of these products, including most furniture, kitchen cabinets, and musical instruments, are mass produced. Other products are custom made from architectural designs and drawings.

Although the term “woodworker” may evoke the image of a craftsman who uses hand tools to build ornate furniture, the modern woodworking trade is highly technical and relies on advanced equipment and highly skilled operators. Workers use automated machinery, such as computerized numerical control (CNC) machines, to do much of the work with great accuracy.

Even specialized artisans generally use CNC machines and a variety of power tools in their work. Much of the work is done in a high-production assembly line facility, but there is also some work that is customized and does not lend itself to being performed on an assembly line.

Woodworkers set up, operate, and tend all types of woodworking machines, such as saws, milling machines, drill presses, lathes, shapers, routers, sanders, planers, and wood-fastening machines. Operators set up the equipment, cut and shape wooden parts, and verify dimensions, using a template, caliper, and rule. After the parts are machined, woodworkers add fasteners and adhesives and connect the parts to form an assembled unit. They also install hardware, such as pulls and drawer slides, and fit specialty products for glass, metal trims, electrical components, and stone. Finally, workers sand, stain, and, if necessary, coat the wood product with a sealer or topcoats, such as a lacquer or varnish.

Many of these tasks are handled by different workers with specialized training.

The following are examples of types of woodworkers:

Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters cut, shape, assemble, and make parts for wood products. They often design and create sets of cabinets that are customized for particular spaces. In some cases, their duties begin with designing a set of cabinets to specifications and end with installing the cabinets.

Furniture finishers shape, finish, and refinish damaged and worn furniture. They may work with antiques and must judge how to preserve and repair them. They also do the staining, sealing, and top coating at the end of the process of making wooden products.

Wood sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders specialize in operating specific pieces of woodworking machinery. They may operate CNC machines.

Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing, operate woodworking machines, such as drill presses, lathes, routers, sanders, and planers. They may operate CNC machines.

Work Environment for woodworkers

Woodworkers held about 263,500 jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up woodworkers was distributed as follows:

Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters: 109,300

Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing: 77,100

Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood: 54,800

Furniture finishers: 22,400

The largest employers of woodworkers were as follows:

Furniture and related product manufacturing: 39%

Wood product manufacturing: 38%

Self-employed workers: 8%

Specialty trade contractors: 3%

Working conditions vary with the specific job duties. At times, workers have to handle heavy, bulky materials and may encounter noise and dust. As a result, they regularly wear hearing protection devices, safety glasses, and respirators or masks.

Injuries and Illnesses

Woodworkers are exposed to hazards such as harmful dust, chemicals, or fumes, and must often wear a respirator or mask. Others may be exposed to excessive noise and must wear hearing protection devices.

Most injuries involve sprains, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and hernias. These injuries or illnesses come from excessive amounts of awkward bending, reaching, twisting, and overexertion or repetition.

Work Schedules

Most woodworkers work full time during regular business hours.

How to Become a Woodworker

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to become a woodworker. Although some entry-level jobs can be learned in less than 1 year, becoming fully proficient generally takes several years of on-the-job training. The ability to use computer-controlled machinery is becoming increasingly important.


Because of the growing sophistication of machinery, many employers are seeking applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent. People seeking woodworking jobs can enhance their employment prospects by getting training in computer applications and math.

Some woodworkers obtain their skills by taking courses at technical schools or community colleges. Others attend universities that offer training in wood technology, furniture manufacturing, wood engineering, and production management. These programs prepare students for jobs in production, supervision, engineering, and management, and are becoming increasingly important as woodworking technology advances.


Education is helpful, but woodworkers are trained primarily on the job, where they learn skills from experienced workers. Beginning workers are given basic tasks, such as placing a piece of wood through a machine and stacking the finished product at the end of the process.

As they gain experience, new woodworkers perform more complex tasks with less supervision. In about 1 month, they learn basic machine operations and job tasks. Becoming a skilled woodworker often takes several months or even years. Skilled workers can read blueprints, set up machines, and plan work sequences.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, becoming certified can demonstrate competence and professionalism. It also may help a candidate advance in the profession. The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America offers a national certificate program, with five progressive credentials, which adds a level of credibility to the work of woodworkers.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Woodworkers must pay attention to details in order to meet specifications and to keep themselves safe.

Dexterity. Woodworkers must make precise cuts with a variety of hand tools and power tools, so they need a steady hand and good hand-eye coordination.

Math skills. Knowledge of basic math and computer skills are important, particularly for those who work in manufacturing, in which technology continues to advance. Woodworkers need to understand basic geometry in order to visualize how a three-dimensional wooden object, such as a cabinet or piece of furniture, will fit together.

Mechanical skills. The use of hand tools, such as screwdrivers and wrenches, is required to set up, adjust, and calibrate machines. Modern technology systems require woodworkers to be able to use computers and other programmable devices.

Physical stamina. The ability to endure long periods of standing and repetitive movements is crucial for woodworkers, who often stand all day performing many of the same functions.

Physical strength. Woodworkers must be strong enough to lift bulky and heavy pieces of wood.

Technical skills. Woodworkers must understand and interpret design drawings and technical manuals for a range of products and machines.

salaries for Woodworkers

The median annual wage for woodworkers was $30,850 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,360.


Median annual wages for woodworkers in May 2017 were as follows:

Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters: $33,920

Furniture finishers: $31,300

Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing: $29,110

Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood: $29,080

In May 2017, the median annual wages for woodworkers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Specialty trade contractors: $36,290

Furniture and related product manufacturing: $32,290

Wood product manufacturing: $29,040

Most woodworkers work full time during regular business hours.

Job Outlook for Woodworkers

Overall employment of woodworkers is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026.

Employment growth will stem from greater demand for domestic wood products. In particular, the continuing need to repair and renovate residential and commercial properties will likely require more woodworkers.

However, automation and a greater emphasis on computerized numerical controlled machines may limit the employment growth of some woodworkers in the wood product manufacturing industries.

Job Prospects

Woodworkers who know how to create and carry out custom designs on a computer should have the best job opportunities in manufacturing industries.

Those who can demonstrate leadership, problem-solving, and advanced math skills should also have the best job prospects.

Some job openings will result from the need to replace those who retire or leave the occupation for another job.

Employment projections data for Woodworkers, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 263,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 266,300

Change, 2016-2026: +1%, +2,800

Careers Related to Woodworkers


Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow.

Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition. Craft artists create handmade objects, such as pottery, glassware, textiles, and other objects that are designed to be functional. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original works of art for their aesthetic value, rather than for a functional one.


Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings, bridges, and roads.

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers design, construct, adjust, repair, appraise and sell jewelry.

Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used in heating and air conditioning systems.

CarpentersHigh school diploma or equivalent$45,170
Computer ProgrammersBachelor's degree$82,240
Craft and Fine Artists$49,160
Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal WorkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$37,960
Machinists and Tool and Die Makers$44,110
Sheet Metal WorkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$47,990
IronworkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$51,320


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Woodworkers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/woodworkers.htm