Carpenter Vs. Construction Worker

Jan 30, 2018

There are some similarities in the work that carpenters and construction workers do, and some work together. Construction workers, however, work in a wider range of environments and their duties can vary greatly.

Comparing Carpenters to Construction Workers

Carpenters and construction workers both work in construction. Carpenters have more specific responsibilities and earn a higher salary. Though both complete some of the same tasks, carpenters may supervise construction workers.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Carpenters High school diploma or GED and apprenticeship $43,600 8%
Construction Workers High school diploma or GED and on-the-job training $32,230 (construction laborers and helpers) 12% (construction laborers and helpers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Carpenters vs. Construction Workers

Carpenters assemble the frames for buildings and install fixtures, door frames, and drywall, among other tasks. Construction workers also work on construction projects and may assist carpenters by getting supplies for them or clearing work areas of debris. Carpenters have a more senior role and may direct the tasks of construction workers. Construction workers may also assist other tradesmen, such as electricians, or they may work outdoors and participate in road construction. Carpenters apply their expertise to building structures, while construction workers perform a wide range of basic tasks in different construction environments.


Carpenters typically work with wood and other materials, such as fiberglass, to create and repair structures. They need strong attention to detail in order to correctly measure and cut materials. Physical fitness is important since they spend many hours each day holding equipment, moving materials, climbing and standing.

Carpenters do not necessarily need to be certified, but they have the option of earning certifications in different carpentry specialties. With experience they may qualify to become supervisors. Some carpenters have their own business, while others work in construction.

Job responsibilities of a carpenter include:

  • Cutting wood
  • Interpreting building plans
  • Operating power tools
  • Assigning tasks to apprentices and laborers
  • Identifying and replacing damaged wood
  • Installing cabinets

Construction Workers

The tasks of construction workers change daily depending on the construction site, the status of the project, and whether or not the laborer is a helper for a specific construction trade. Generally, construction workers handle physical labor tasks and help tradesmen with tasks as directed. With specialized training, they may qualify to operate certain types of construction machinery, direct traffic, or remove hazardous materials.

Construction workers typically work for contractors or construction companies. Overtime work is common for construction workers. Since they routinely work outside, their schedule can be affected by weather and they may work long days to make up for delays due to rain or snow. They must be physically strong and capable of lifting heavy equipment and supplies. They also need the stamina to perform physically-demanding tasks for several hours each day.

Job responsibilities of a construction worker include:

  • Ensuring worksites are clean and that hazards are removed
  • Assembling scaffolding
  • Operating equipment such as jackhammers
  • Digging or filling holes and trenches
  • Moving building supplies

Related Careers

Those considering a career as a carpenter may also be interested in becoming a plumber because these professionals often work in similar environments and use comparable tools. Aspiring construction workers may want to learn about what materials handlers do, since they also move equipment and materials from place to place and may play a role in construction projects when hazardous materials have to be removed from a worksite.

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