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How to Become a Woodworker

Although some entry-level jobs can be learned in less than 1 year, becoming a fully trained woodworker requires many skills and generally takes at least 3 years of on-the-job training. Skill with computers and computer-controlled machinery is increasingly important.

Education and Training

Many employers seek applicants who have a high school diploma or the equivalent, because of the growing sophistication of machinery and the constant need for retraining. People seeking woodworking jobs can enhance their employment and advancement prospects by completing high school and getting training in computer applications and math.

Some woodworkers obtain their skills by taking courses at technical schools or community colleges. Others attend universities that offer training in wood technology, furniture manufacturing, wood engineering, and production management. These programs prepare students for jobs in production, supervision, engineering, and management and are increasingly important as woodworking technology advances.

Education is helpful, but woodworkers are primarily trained on the job, where they learn skills from experienced workers. Beginning workers are given basic tasks, such as putting a piece of wood through a machine and catching the wood at the end of the process.

As they gain experience, new woodworkers do more complex tasks with less supervision. In about 1 year, they can learn basic machine operations and job tasks. Becoming a skilled woodworker often takes 3 or more years. Skilled workers can read blueprints, set up machines, and plan work sequences.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Woodworkers must pay attention to details to be certain that the products meet specifications and to keep themselves safe.

Dexterity. Woodworkers must make precise cuts with a variety of saws, so they need a steady hand and good hand-eye coordination.

Math skills. Knowledge of basic math and computer skills are important, particularly for those who work in manufacturing, where technology continues to advance. Woodworkers need to understand geometry to visualize how the wood pieces will fit together to make a 3-dimensional object, such as a cabinet or piece of furniture.

Mechanical skills. Modern technology systems require woodworkers be able to use programmable devices, computers, and robots on the factory floor.

Physical strength. Woodworkers must be strong enough to lift bulky and heavy sheets of wood, such as plywood.

Stamina. The ability to endure long periods of standing and repetitious movements is crucial for woodworkers, as they often stand for extended periods when manufacturing parts and products.

Technical skills. Woodworkers must be able to understand blueprints and technical manuals for a range of products and machines.

Troubleshooting skills. To avoid unnecessary and costly waste, woodworkers must recognize mistakes during the manufacturing or finishing process.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition