Why Carpentry Jobs Are Awesome: 9 Powerful Rewards
By Luke Redd
| Last Updated August 17, 2020
Woodworking and carpentry jobs are often well loved by the people who have them. In fact, some adults end up changing careers so that they can experience what many skilled tradespeople already know: Being a professional carpenter or woodworker can make you feel more alive, more connected, and more accomplished.
Maybe it's because carpentry goes back hundreds of years. It's one of the world's oldest and most important trades. Building and making things out of wood has been essential to humanity's progress. And the trade has continued to expand and evolve as new techniques, technologies, and materials have been developed.
Or maybe woodworking jobs and carpentry careers feel so worthwhile because of their close relationship with the cycle of creation. After all, they involve using a natural product of the forest to create structures and items that enable human beings to live comfortable and enjoyable lives.
Of course, the biggest reasons why a lot of carpenters and woodworkers love their jobs may have more to do with the practical benefits. For example, check out these nine top carpentry benefits:
1. An Amazing Variety of Job Paths
Learning skills for this trade can allow you to pursue many types of carpentry jobs. As a matter of fact, carpentry and woodworking represent one of the most versatile occupational sectors that you can enter. It doesn't just touch most aspects of construction; it also touches many aspects of our lives that we might not think about as much.
As a result, people who go into this wide-ranging trade often have the chance to specialize in particular areas that align with their own interests and abilities. For instance, after some basic carpentry training, you might choose to pursue a career as one of the following types of carpenters or woodworkers:
- Framing and residential carpenter—Help build various kinds of homes, from condos and townhouses to single-family residences. Carpenters in this category are often involved in framing exterior and interior walls, building stairs, and framing decks and roofs. Some of them even build forms for concrete foundations or put up drywall. And some carpenters in this category specialize in working on finishing touches such as installing cabinets, doors, wood floors, and crown molding. They often use job titles like "finish carpenter" or "trim carpenter."
- Commercial carpenter—Assist in the construction of hotels, office towers, schools, hospitals, restaurants, retail developments, and other types of commercial buildings. In addition to wood, carpenters in this area of the trade also frequently work with steel or other materials when framing exterior walls, curtain walls, and interior partitions. Many of them also specialize in building concrete forms or performing various finishing tasks like laying floors or installing paneling, ceilings, and windows.
- Industrial carpenter—Work on important public infrastructure projects or in major industries like resource extraction, energy production, or manufacturing. Big construction projects often require specialized carpenters to build safe and sturdy scaffolding, strong bracing, firm partitions, or precise concrete-pouring forms. Such carpenters often contribute their skills to civil engineering projects such as bridges, tunnels, and dams. And they can also be found working on the construction of industrial projects like power plants or underground structures for mining.
- Bench carpenter or cabinetmaker—Contribute to the cutting, shaping, and assembling of wood products. Or take on tasks like setting up and operating power saws, mortisers, jointers, and other kinds of woodworking machinery. Many cabinetmakers don't just get to fabricate wooden cabinets; they also frequently get to design custom cabinets and install them in customers' homes or offices.
- Carpentry assistant—Help established carpenters with basic tasks as you learn fundamentals like how to read blueprints, make accurate measurements, and use hand tools and power tools safely and effectively. This job path is good for getting a feel for the trade before beginning an apprenticeship.
- Furniture finisher—Take on jobs that involve restoring worn or damaged furniture by using skills related to shaping wood and applying stains, sealing agents, or topcoats. Many woodworkers in this part of the trade repair or refinish wooden antiques and educate people on how to best preserve them.
- Woodworking machine operator—Specialize in the use of automated equipment such as computerized numerical control (CNC) machines for the production of various kinds of items made from wood, laminates, veneers, or a combination of wood-related materials.
While exploring this trade, you might also wonder what the difference is between rough carpentry and finish carpentry. Basically, rough carpenters specialize in building things like concrete forms, scaffolding, and frameworks for large structures. In contrast, finish carpenters are specialists at final touches such as laying floors, building stairs and banisters, and installing trim, paneling, and moldings.
As carpenters advance in their careers, many of them have the opportunity to take on higher-paying roles with more responsibility. Those can include job paths like becoming construction supervisors or starting their own companies as independent contractors. In addition, some carpenters venture into related areas of construction such as becoming industrial millwrights or heavy equipment operators.
2. Opportunities to Earn Good Wages
For a highly skilled carpenter or woodworker, the sky is the limit when it comes to earning potential. The pay is often especially compelling if you become a lead carpenter (i.e., a supervisor), operate your own contracting business, or gain a management position in the commercial or industrial sector. Of course, everyone who gets into this trade begins at the entry level as an apprentice or carpenter helper. But even many carpentry apprenticeship jobs pay good wages once you've moved beyond the basics. And most apprenticeships only take between three and four years to complete, which can earn you the title of "journeyman carpenter."
Based on 2019 estimates from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, average annual wages for tradespeople in this career sector looked like this:
- Construction supervisors (including lead carpenters)—$71,440 ($34.35 per hour)
- Journeyman carpenters—$52,850 ($25.41 per hour)
- Cabinetmakers—$37,620 ($18.09 per hour)
- Furniture finishers—$34,350 ($16.51 per hour)
- Woodworking machine operators—$32,180 ($15.47 per hour)
- Carpenters' helpers—$33,830 ($16.26 per hour)
Many carpentry and woodworking professionals earn well above the national average wages for their trades, especially if they have a lot of experience or work in high-paying industries or regions. For example, OES program data shows that, in 2019, the most high-paid carpentry jobs offered yearly wages of over $84,690 ($40.72 per hour). The petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry paid carpenters the highest average wages—$81,190 ($39.03 per hour). And the states where carpenters earned the most money, on average, were Hawaii, New Jersey, Illinois, Alaska, and New York. Average pay in those states ranged from $65,850 ($31.66 per hour) to $76,930 ($36.98 per hour).
Plus, some carpentry and woodworking jobs come with employer benefits such as paid vacation, health and dental insurance, and retirement savings plans. Union jobs, in particular, are known to provide excellent benefits. So it's worth looking into organizations such as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC). Getting some basic woodworking or carpentry training before applying for union apprenticeships can make you a more attractive candidate. Many trade schools offer short carpentry programs that provide exactly that.
3. The Ability to Take On Woodworking Jobs From Home
Carpentry is a good job for people who are interested in working from home. Having the skills to cut, shape, and finish wood can mean having a huge world of other moneymaking opportunities available to you. In fact, you don't have to confine yourself to just building privacy fences or decks in your spare time for extra cash. With relatively few startup costs, you might also be able to begin doing fun woodworking jobs from home.
Even a lot of non-professional woodworkers are able to succeed with home-based businesses. So imagine what you might be able to do as a true craftsperson with professional carpentry skills and a better knowledge of the tools, materials, and possibilities. For example, some people have achieved success by making and selling products such as:
- Unique birdhouses
- Handcrafted wooden toys
- Dollhouses and related accessories
- Distinctive wooden signs or plaques that are funny, clever, or inspirational
- Custom-designed furniture like chairs, coffee tables, and bookshelves
- Laser-cut or laser-engraved wooden objects like clocks, maps, rolling pins, cuff links, or ornamental trinkets
- Customized wooden instruments like guitars or violins
- Various types of home decor and accessories
The point is to use your imagination and master a particular niche. People all over the world are seeking high-quality wooden products that have a distinctive flair. And they are often willing to pay top dollar for them. Plus, the Internet has made it easier than ever to find and serve niche markets. Etsy is just one of many online marketplaces where you can easily begin selling what you make from home.
Other possibilities for doing woodwork at home include restoring or repairing wooden antiques, refinishing old furniture, or assembling or painting wooden products for various manufacturers. Just be careful about signing on with work-from-home companies. Although many of them are legitimate, some of them are scams. So it's best to check out every company thoroughly, especially if you're being asked to send upfront payments for supplies.
4. Potential Growth in the Number of Job Openings
America's population continues to rise. And the fastest-growing areas of the country always experience an upsurge in demand for qualified carpenters. After all, as more people move into a region, the need to construct new homes, schools, hospitals, and commercial developments tends to grow.
But even in slower-growing regions, many homeowners and organizations need professional carpenters for remodeling and renovation projects. Older buildings are abundant in America. And so are older pieces of public infrastructure. When governments decide to invest in the construction of new bridges and other infrastructure projects, the demand for commercial and industrial carpenters often rises significantly.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), America was already home to 1,025,600 carpenter jobs in 2016. Yet, between 2016 and 2026, that number could rise by 83,800 jobs. And if you factor in the need to replace retiring carpenters, then the total number of job openings over that period could amount to more than one million. In addition, about 4,700 total openings could become available for carpenters' helpers. And 2,500 total openings might become available for cabinetmakers and bench carpenters.
5. Enjoyment and Satisfaction
A lot of carpenters and woodworkers genuinely look forward to each day's work. They enjoy building things with their hands while using plenty of skill, precision, and creative ingenuity. And they put their hearts into their jobs so that they can stand back at the end of a project and see that it was built to last. They always know that their efforts can be easily measured and appreciated.
Plus, many people in the woodworking and carpentry trade are able to set their own hours. In fact, the OOH says that about one-third of carpenters were self-employed in 2016.
6. Mental and Emotional Benefits
Carpentry and woodworking require a lot of focus, especially for complex projects. Paying attention to the details is essential since accurate cuts and measurements are what allow projects to be successfully completed. As a result, this trade is terrific for helping you develop laser focus while also forcing you not to rush through things.
That's why many experienced carpenters and woodworking professionals get to the point where their jobs feel almost like meditation. Their minds are focused, yet they become so good at what they do that their minds are also free to wander and think through other things. So they often end their days feeling grounded and good about themselves.
7. Physical Health Advantages
It's true that using carpentry tools and working on building sites requires paying special attention to safety precautions. Some tradespeople do get injured while on the job. But if you're careful, this trade can actually benefit your health. Since it involves a lot of daily physical activity, having a carpentry job might lower your long-term risks of contracting illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. And the trade is well known for its positive impacts on physical strength, endurance, body control, and hand dexterity.
8. Opportunities to Save Money
Why pay huge markups on wooden furniture or pay someone else to build you a deck, fence, or tool shed? When you're a master craftsperson and have all of the necessary tools and woodworking skills, you can build and create a lot of items that other people usually have to pay high prices for. And as a professional carpenter, you might even be able to buy the raw materials you need at wholesale prices.
9. Transferable Skills
One of the most overlooked benefits of working in this vocational area is that some of the skills you acquire might be valuable if you ever decide to pursue a different career. For example, consider the ability to visualize 3D objects and understand how 2D renderings or blueprints translate into built reality. In today's technology-driven world, more and more industries are utilizing computerized 3D modeling, so having such visualization skills can be highly advantageous. Or consider the communication skills that you might attain while working with various clients, builders, designers, or architects. The ability to listen and communicate clearly and effectively is something that employers in every industry place a high value on.
Build a Future That You Can Be Proud Of
Is carpentry a good career for you? If the carpentry benefits described above match what you want from a job, then it's probably a great choice. Plenty of excellent woodworking and carpentry jobs are out there, ready for motivated people like you to fill them. And you don't need much training before you can start getting paid. So find an on-campus or online carpentry program today by entering your zip code into the school finder below!