Woodworkers held about 272,200 jobs in 2018. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up woodworkers was distributed as follows:
|Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters||115,900|
|Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing||80,500|
|Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood||54,600|
The largest employers of woodworkers were as follows:
|Furniture and related product manufacturing||39%|
|Wood product manufacturing||38|
|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.
Wood sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.
Most woodworkers work full time during regular business hours.
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.
Woodworkers typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a woodworker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Woodworkers should also possess the following specific 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 to visualize how the wood pieces will fit together to fabricate a three-dimensional object, such as a cabinet or piece of furniture.
Mechanical skills. Modern technology systems require woodworkers to be able to use robots, computers, and other programmable devices.
Physical stamina. The ability to endure long periods of standing and repetitious 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, such as plywood.
Technical skills. Woodworkers must be able to understand and interpret design drawings and technical manuals for a range of products and machines.
The median annual wage for woodworkers was $32,690 in May 2019. 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 $22,310, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $50,070.
Median annual wages for woodworkers in May 2019 were as follows:
|Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters||$35,790|
|Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing||30,990|
|Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood||30,410|
In May 2019, the median annual wages for woodworkers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Specialty trade contractors||$37,980|
|Furniture and related product manufacturing||34,290|
|Wood product manufacturing||30,730|
Most woodworkers work full time during regular business hours.
Overall employment of woodworkers is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028.
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.
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.
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