Carpenter Vs. Woodworker

While carpenters and woodworkers may work on similar projects, woodworkers focus primarily on the production of wood products, while carpenters deal with a wide variety of materials in building repair and construction.

Comparing Carpenters to Woodworkers

While both carpenters and woodworkers build things out of wood, and both require the same types of skills, their jobs differ in a few important respects. Woodworkers deal almost exclusively with wood and wood composites, and focus on shaping wood to create products. Carpenters deal with a wide variety of materials and need skills to work on any aspect of building repair or construction. Below are the key characteristics of each job and the differences between these two careers.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Annual Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Carpenter High School Diploma or equivalent $46,590 8%
Woodworker High School Diploma or equivalent $31,550 1%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Carpenters and Woodworkers

Carpenters and woodworkers both build things out of wood, and while their job responsibilities are similar, their day-to-day activities are quite different. A carpenter usually works at a construction site, such as a home or office being built, while a woodworker typically works in a factory or workshop setting. Carpenters are required to be familiar with a wide variety of products and processes in building construction, such as framing floors and walls, selecting and installing windows and doors, and adding drywall and insulation. Woodworkers, on the other hand, tend to deal exclusively with machines and tools that shape and prep wood and wood composite products.


Carpenters typically work at construction sites, where they erect or install parts of buildings or other structures such as bridges. In private homes or office buildings they can work on a wide variety of tasks with many types of materials, but can also specialize in specific materials or tasks. A carpenter can be expected to know how to size and install many different building fixtures, materials and additions, making sure that they are level and square. Another kind of carpenter known as a rough carpenter also works at construction sites for large projects, such as bridges or office towers, where they construct the wood forms for cement foundations, footings and pillars.

Job responsibilities of a carpenter include:

  • Calculating the amount of building materials needed, and placing orders for them
  • Following building or room blueprints
  • Installing structures, framework and fixtures, such as walls, windows and doors, interior and exterior trim, siding, flooring, drywall and insulation
  • Inspecting and replacing damaged parts of buildings or rooms
  • Measuring, cutting and shaping wood, plastic, and other building materials


Woodworkers typically work in factories or workshops. They build products such as cabinets, furniture, or home and office features such as paneling or shelving. While some woodworking products are custom-made and include parts that woodworkers make by hand, the majority of woodworking products are mass produced using specialized, automated machinery. Woodworkers control the quality of wood products by selecting the appropriate wood, judging appearance and accuracy of each shaped part, and examining the finished product for flaws.

Job responsibilities of a woodworker include:

  • Setting up and maintaining automated machines and tools for woodwork manufacturing
  • Reading shop drawings, schematics and blueprints
  • Operating automated machines and woodworking tools, including a variety of saws, drill presses, milling machines, and other wood-shaping machines, to create shaped wood parts
  • Assembling the machined parts, adding fasteners and adhesives, and installing hardware
  • Completing products by sanding, staining and finishing them with protective coatings

Related Careers

If you are interested in carpentry or woodworking, other careers that may interest you include construction worker, joiner, or mechanic. These jobs share some similarities in setting, materials, and skills.

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