Bureau of Labor Statistics

Woodworkers

woodworkers image
Workers use automated machinery, such as computerized numerical control (CNC) machines, to do much of the work.
Quick Facts: Woodworkers
2020 Median Pay $33,750 per year
$16.23 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2020 247,100
Job Outlook, 2020-30 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 20,900

Summary

What Woodworkers Do

Woodworkers manufacture a variety of products, such as cabinets and furniture, using wood, veneers, and laminates.

Work Environment

Most woodworkers are employed in manufacturing industries. Although their working conditions vary, woodworkers may encounter machinery noise and wood dust.

How to Become a Woodworker

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to become a woodworker. Although some entry-level jobs may be learned in 1 month or less, becoming proficient typically requires several months to more than a year of on-the-job training. The ability to use computer-controlled machinery also is important.

Pay

The median annual wage for woodworkers was $33,750 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of woodworkers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 28,400 openings for woodworkers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for woodworkers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of woodworkers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about woodworkers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Woodworkers Do

Woodworkers
Woodworkers ensure that products meet industry standards and project specifications.

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

Woodworkers typically do the following:

  • Read 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 and watch for excessive vibration in machinery
  • Ensure that products meet industry standards and project specifications, adjusting as necessary
  • Select the proper cutting, milling, boring, and sanding tools for completing a job
  • Use handtools to trim pieces or assemble products
  • Maintain machines, such as by cleaning and oiling them or replacing worn blades

Woodworkers make 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.

Modern woodworking is highly technical. Skilled operators use automated machinery, such as computerized numerical control (CNC) machines, to ensure accuracy in all phases of their work. Woodworkers do many of their tasks  on an assembly line, but some customized work must be done by hand.

Woodworkers set up, operate, and tend all types of woodworking machines, such as saws, milling machines, drill presses, sanders, and wood-fastening machines. Operators use equipment to cut and shape wooden parts and to verify dimensions, using a template, caliper, and rule. 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.

The following are examples of types of woodworkers:

Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters cut, shape, and assemble parts for wood products. They often design and create sets of customized cabinets, sometimes seeing a project all the way through to installation.

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 production process.

Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders use band saws, circular saws, hack saws, or other equipment to cut wood. They also use drill presses, lathes, sanders, and other types of woodworking equipment to smooth and shape wood.

Work Environment

Woodworkers
Woodworkers make wood products from lumber and synthetic wood materials.

Woodworkers held about 247,100 jobs in 2020. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up woodworkers was distributed as follows:

Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters 103,900
Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing 74,600
Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood 50,500
Furniture finishers 18,100

The largest employers of woodworkers were as follows:

Wood product manufacturing 39%
Furniture and related product manufacturing 37
Self-employed workers 7
Specialty trade contractors 3

Working conditions vary. At times, woodworkers handle heavy, bulky materials and may encounter noise and dust. As a result, they regularly wear hearing protection, safety glasses, and respirators or masks.

Injuries and Illnesses

Wood sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. These workers use saws and other tools and equipment that may be dangerous and can cause cuts or lacerations. Workers must wear safety equipment and be mindful of their surroundings to avoid injury.

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

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

Work Schedules

Most woodworkers work full time during regular business hours. Work schedules vary for some woodworkers.

How to Become a Woodworker

Woodworkers
After high school, most woodworkers are trained on the job, learning from more experienced workers.

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to become a woodworker. Although some entry-level jobs may be learned in 1 month or less, becoming fully proficient may take several months to more than a year of on-the-job training. Woodworkers also must be able to use computer-controlled machinery.

Education

A high school diploma is typically required to enter the occupation. Training in computer applications and math may enhance employment prospects.

For woodworking production jobs, employers may prefer to hire candidates who have taken some vocational-technical or college courses.

Training

Typically, entry-level woodworkers train on the job, learning their skills from experienced workers. Beginning workers do basic tasks, such as feeding a piece of wood through a machine and stacking the finished product at the end of the process. As they gain experience, woodworkers do more complex tasks with less supervision.

Becoming a skilled woodworker often takes several months or years. Skilled woodworkers read blueprints, set up machines, and plan work sequences.

Some workers also receive training through apprenticeships offered by employers or unions.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, credentials often demonstrate competence and professionalism. They also may help a candidate advance in the occupation.

The Woodwork Career Alliance of North America offers a national certificate program, with five progressive credentials.

Because of the prevalence of CNC machines in production, workers also may benefit from obtaining CNC machine certification. Certification is offered by community colleges and CNC machine manufacturers.

Advancement

With experience, skilled woodworkers may advance to other positions that offer greater responsibility. For example, they may be promoted to team lead or floor supervisor, positions in which they help to oversee the work of other 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 handtools and power tools, so they need good hand-eye coordination.

Math skills. 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 handtools, such as screwdrivers and wrenches, is required to set up, adjust, and calibrate machines. These automated systems also require woodworkers to use computers and other programmable devices.

Physical stamina. Woodworkers often stand for long periods performing many of the same functions.

Physical strength. Woodworkers must be able to lift bulky, heavy pieces of wood.

Technical skills. Woodworkers must be able to interpret design drawings and technical manuals for a range of products and machines. They also should be able to troubleshoot issues as they arise.

Pay

Woodworkers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Production occupations

$37,440

Woodworkers

$33,750

 

The median annual wage for woodworkers was $33,750 in May 2020. 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 $23,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $51,520.

Median annual wages for woodworkers in May 2020 were as follows:

Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters $36,710
Furniture finishers 32,970
Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing 32,160
Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood 31,560

In May 2020, the median annual wages for woodworkers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Specialty trade contractors $38,280
Furniture and related product manufacturing 35,260
Wood product manufacturing 31,880

Most woodworkers work full time during regular business hours.

Job Outlook

Woodworkers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Woodworkers

8%

Production occupations

0%

 

Overall employment of woodworkers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 28,400 openings for woodworkers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Much of the projected employment growth in these occupations is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020 and is likely to occur early in the decade.

High demand for wood products for home renovation projects and constructing outdoor structures for restaurants and other businesses will support growth early in the decade for woodworkers. Some demand for woodworkers is expected in residential and commercial property repairs and renovations. However, automation, especially the use of computer numerical control (CNC) machines in wood product manufacturing, should limit the overall need for these workers over the decade.

Employment projections data for woodworkers, 2020-30

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Occupational Title

Woodworkers

SOC Code
Employment, 2020247,100
Projected Employment, 2030267,900
Percent Change, 2020-308
Numeric Change, 2020-3020,900
Employment by Industry
Occupational Title

Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters

SOC Code51-7011
Employment, 2020103,900
Projected Employment, 2030113,100
Percent Change, 2020-309
Numeric Change, 2020-309,100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Furniture finishers

SOC Code51-7021
Employment, 202018,100
Projected Employment, 203019,100
Percent Change, 2020-306
Numeric Change, 2020-301,000
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders, wood

SOC Code51-7041
Employment, 202050,500
Projected Employment, 203053,900
Percent Change, 2020-307
Numeric Change, 2020-303,400
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing

SOC Code51-7042
Employment, 202074,600
Projected Employment, 203081,900
Percent Change, 2020-3010
Numeric Change, 2020-307,300
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of woodworkers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Carpenters Carpenters

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

High school diploma or equivalent $49,520
Computer programmers Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly.

Bachelor's degree $89,190
Craft and fine artists Craft and Fine Artists

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition.

See How to Become One $49,120
Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $41,900
Machinists and tool and die makers Machinists and Tool and Die Makers

Machinists and tool and die makers set up and operate machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

See How to Become One $47,040
Sheet metal workers Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets.

High school diploma or equivalent $51,370
Structural iron and steel workers Ironworkers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $53,210

Contacts for More Info

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities for woodworkers, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local firms that employ laborers, or local union-management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For more information about woodworkers, visit

Architectural Woodwork Institute

Association for Manufacturing Technology

Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International

National Tooling and Machining Association

Woodwork Career Alliance of North America

Wood Industry Resource Collaborative

Woodworking Machinery Industry Association

O*NET

Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters

Furniture Finishers

Sawing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Wood

Woodworking Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Except Sawing

Last Modified Date: Monday, October 18, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Woodworkers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/woodworkers.htm (visited December 22, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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