Many high schools offer vocational courses in woodworking. Maybe you’ve taken some of these courses. Maybe you enjoyed them and found you had a knack for building things out of wood. Discovering a passion and a talent is an excellent way to decide on a career! If you enjoyed woodworking as a class, you would probably also like carpentry. What is the difference between these two trades? Which one should you pick?
Carpenters work mainly on residential, commercial, and industrial job sites to build and repair structures—like stairways, door frames, and window frames—and install fixtures, like cabinets and flooring. Carpenters are involved from the beginning of a construction project until the end, and depending on the work environment, they may do anything from build structural foundations to build concrete forms for tunnels. They may also install insulation and siding, design and build fences and decks, and even lay carpeting. As you can see, carpenters are the main tradespeople on a construction crew; in fact, the general contractor is often also a carpenter.
Woodworking involves using wood to make things like furniture and cabinets. Cabinet makers are types of woodworkers. On a construction project, a woodworker would make the cabinets, but a carpenter would install them. Many of the skills you might have learned in woodworking class—like reading specifications and using machinery—are transferable to carpentry. Like carpenters, woodworkers need to be able to read architectural drawings and blueprints; use cutting, boring, and sanding tools; and also be physically fit to do the job. These days, with advancements in technology, woodworkers use computerized machines for a lot of tasks, so they must also be comfortable working with computers.
Both woodworkers and carpenters need to go through extensive training, in the classroom and on the job. Woodworkers usually learn their trade on the job or through a technical school or community college. It takes about three years for them to become fully proficient. Carpenters may go to technical schools or community colleges, but the bulk of their training happens during an apprenticeship program that typically takes four years.
Looking at it from a financial standpoint, both the job outlook and the salary for carpenters is better than that for woodworkers. Although employment growth is expected in both trades, it is predicted to be three times higher for carpenters. In addition, carpenters make on average about $10,000 more per year than woodworkers do.
So, if you like building things and want to make a career out of it, both woodworking and carpentry are growing occupations with a lot of future potential. If you are still unsure about which one is right for you, consider taking a couple of courses in both to see what is the best fit.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Carpenters. Occupational Outlook Handbook.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Woodworkers. Occupational