Carpenter Vs. Ironworker

May 30, 2020

Comparing Carpenters to Ironworkers

Although carpenters and ironworkers both primarily work in construction, their work environments differ because ironworkers commonly work at extreme heights and almost always work outside. Ironworkers earn higher salaries and are currently experiencing a higher rate of job growth than carpenters are.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2019)* Job Outlook (2018-2028)*
Carpenters High school diploma, apprenticeship $48,330 8%
Ironworkers High school diploma and on-the-job training or apprenticeship $53,650 11%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Carpenters vs. Ironworkers

Carpenters and ironworkers work with different materials to contribute to the construction of different types of structures. Both carpenters and ironworkers must follow blueprints, move materials, operate tools and connect materials with fasteners. While carpenters are at risk of falls from ladders, ironworkers work at extreme heights and must wear harnesses. Ironworkers may also weld materials and be required to use welding equipment, which isn't something that carpenters do. Ironworkers must be capable of communicating with those that operate construction equipment, such as cranes. Ironworkers may also work with crews that are tearing down old structures.


Carpenters may work long hours and are often employed at construction sites. Their duties involve using wood to build structures. They may opt to earn certificates to expand their skills and this may help prepare them to pursue advancement opportunities to become construction supervisors. They must manipulate tools and materials and spend a lot of time standing or crawling so they need to be physically fit. Overtime is common for carpenters, although their schedules may be affected by bad weather.

Job responsibilities of a carpenter include:

  • Measuring and cutting wood
  • Putting windows into buildings
  • Connecting materials
  • Operating power tools
  • Following building plans


Ironworkers are primarily employed in construction and manufacturing. They primarily work with steel and are responsible for installing steel on construction projects. It's most common to complete an apprenticeship to work in this field and those interested in a career as an ironworker may also opt to earn certifications in welding and other related areas to improve job prospects. Physical fitness is very important since ironworkers regularly move materials and equipment. It's also essential that ironworkers be comfortable working high above the ground.

Job responsibilities of an ironworker include:

  • Attaching safety harnesses
  • Communicating with crane operators
  • Loading and unloading materials
  • Connecting and welding materials
  • Following blueprints

Related Careers

Another career option those considering carpentry may want to consider is being a tile installer because tile installers also install materials in new buildings. Being a boilermaker involves following blueprints to construct containers and may appeal to aspiring ironworkers because they require some similar skills.

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