If you enjoy working with your hands and building or repairing things, a job as a skilled tradesman may be a good fit for you. This guide will help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a career as a carpenter vs electrician.
Carpenter vs Electrician: How To Choose the Right Path for You
The choice between being an electrician or carpenter depends on several factors:
- What you like to do
- How much money you want to make
- What type of education and training you want to get
- Your career goals
Electricians usually earn higher salaries, but also must complete more training and licensing requirements. The electrical field is growing faster, but there are more current jobs in carpentry. Electricians may be required to work long hours to complete emergency repairs, while carpenters usually work fewer overtime hours.
What Does a Carpenter Do?
Carpenters build, repair and install frameworks and structures for buildings. The specific duties of individual carpenters vary depending on their type of carpentry work:
Carpenters in this trade usually work outdoors on large construction projects. Rough carpenters may also build structures, such as scaffolding or sleds to assist with moving materials and sections of structures into place.
Finish carpenters usually specialize in making a particular type of product, such as cabinets, models, instruments or furniture. Finish carpentry requires detail-oriented work.
What Is It Like to Be a Carpenter?
When deciding whether to work as a carpenter vs electrician, it is important to understand what workers in each profession experience on the job. Rough carpenters tend to work outdoors on construction sites, while finish carpenters primarily work in shops, factories or inside buildings.
Carpenters may work with tools and materials that weigh up to 100 pounds. They must be able to stand, bend and climb for many hours every day while doing physical tasks, such as cutting, working or joining wood materials.
Is Being a Carpenter Dangerous?
How risky the environment is may factor into choosing carpentry vs electrical. Carpenters work with heavy and sharp equipment and sometimes must climb ladders and scaffolding. They may be exposed to loud noises, mold, fungi, bacteria and chemicals. Exposure to wood dust has been linked to cancers of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity.
Carpenters work around materials that may be flammable or combustible. They also perform repetitive tasks in sometimes awkward positions that can lead to chronic pain. Some machinery that carpenters work with poses a risk of body part entanglement. Carpenters who work outdoors may be exposed to extreme temperatures. In 2019, 11,670 carpenters suffered injuries that resulted in missed work days and 99 carpenters died as the result of work-related injuries.
How Much Money Do Carpenters Make?
In 2021, the average salary for a carpenter in the United States was $55,190 per year with an average hourly wage of $26.53. The top 10% earned $80,940 per year and the bottom 10% earned $31,880 per year.
What Type of Hours Do Carpenters Work?
Most carpenters work a standard eight-hour workday for five days a week, though some jobs may require overtime. Some carpenters may be required to work evenings and weekends to finish a project on time.
What Kind of Career Opportunities Do Carpenters Have?
Job growth is another important factor to consider when deciding between carpenter vs electrician. Employers in the United States are expected to add 20,100 carpentry jobs through 2030. This represents a slower than average growth rate of 2%. There are expected to be 89,300 job openings per year during the decade.
How Much Education Do You Need To Be a Carpenter?
Most carpenters have a high school degree or equivalent. High school coursework in mathematics and mechanical drawing is recommended.
The majority of carpenters gain experience working as an apprentice. Some carpenters pursue an associate’s degree or certificate at a vocational-technical school. Certificate programs typically cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars and can usually be completed in a year or less. Most associate’s degree programs take two years and cost several thousand dollars to complete.
What Skills Do Carpenters Need?
Though there is some crossover, your skills play a role in whether you should be an electrician or carpenter. Carpenters need a variety of skills to be successful in the occupation:
- Business skills
- Attention to details
- Interpersonal skills
- Reading comprehension
The exact set of skills you need depends on the type of carpentry you do. For example, independent contractors need sharper business skills than carpenters who work for someone else.
Do Carpenters Need a License?
All carpenters must pass a 10-hour OSHA safety course. Licensing requirements vary by state. Some states have no licensing requirements but may require registration. Some states require carpenters to be licensed as general contractors or handymen if they work on projects over a certain monetary value. Others have specialty licenses for some types of carpentry, such as framing, millwork and cabinet making.
Do Carpenters Need Insurance?
Self-employed carpenters and carpentry businesses need insurance to cover any damage that workers may do to clients’ property or any injuries that may be caused due to not following safe practices or doing poor quality work. If you have employees, you must purchase workers’ compensation insurance. States that require carpenters to be licensed may have insurance or bonding requirements as part of the licensing process.
What Does an Electrician Do?
Now that you know what carpenters do, the next step in deciding carpenter vs electrician is to explore what electricians do. Electricians maintain, install and repair electrical lighting, power, communications and control systems in businesses, factories and homes. Electricians commonly perform several tasks:
- Install and maintain lighting systems, wiring and controls
- Repair or replace equipment, wiring or fixtures
- Follow state and local regulations based on the National Electrical Code
- Use testing devices to identify electrical problems
- Inspect electrical components
- Read technical diagrams and blueprints
Electricians may work in homes, factories, commercial and government buildings and construction sites.
What Is It Like to Be an Electrician?
Electricians work both indoors and outdoors and most must commute locally or long-distance between jobs. They often must work in cramped spaces and spend long periods kneeling or standing. They may need to move components that weigh up to 50 pounds.
Recommended: Directory of Electrical Contractor License Requirements by State
Is Being an Electrician Dangerous?
Electricians may be exposed to dust, dirt, fumes and debris on job sites. Outdoor work may occur during extreme weather conditions. Electricians who work in industrial settings may work around loud machinery. Some electrical work requires working at heights on construction sites, electrical poles, roofs, ladders and other areas.
Electrical workers may suffer shocks, burns, falls and other injuries. In 2019, there were 7,400 injuries related to electrical work that resulted in work days missed and 68 fatalities.
How Much Money Do Electricians Make?
The wages for carpentry vs electrical work tend to favor electricians. In 2021, the average salary for an electrician in the United States was $63,310 per year with an average hourly wage of $30.44. The top 10% of earners made $99,800 per year and the bottom 10% earned $37,020 per year.
What Type of Hours Do Electricians Work?
Salary is important for deciding carpenter vs electrician, but work-life balance matters too. Most electricians work a full-time schedule with frequent overtime hours. Some workers may be required to work evenings and weekends.
Electricians may be called to complete emergency repairs at any time of the day or night in some settings and may need to work substantial overtime during times of widespread electrical damage due to weather events and other catastrophes. Self-employed electricians who work in residential construction usually have more flexibility to control their schedules.
What Kind of Career Opportunities Do Electricians Have?
How hard it is to find a job is important when considering electrician or carpenter as a career. Employment opportunities for electricians are expected to grow about 9% from 2020 to 2030, which is about the same rate as the average growth for all occupations in the United States. There are expected to be about 84,700 job openings per year during this time, including an estimated 66,100 new jobs.
How Much Education Do You Need To Be an Electrician?
Electricians need a high school diploma or equivalent. Many pursue a degree or certificate through a technical school at an average cost of several thousand dollars.
Most electricians complete a four to five-year apprenticeship program that includes 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and technical instruction. Some workers can shorten their apprenticeship period by applying experience gained in the construction industry or military or credit from a technical school program.
What Skills Do Electricians Need?
Electricians must be able to identify electrical wires by color and possess several skills:
- Critical thinking
- Customer service
The exact mix of skills needed depends on the type of work. Industrial electricians may not work directly with customers, while residential electricians must frequently interact with homeowners.
Do Electricians Need a License?
Most states require electricians to pass a test on the National Electrical Code to obtain a license. Other requirements to obtain a license vary by state. Some electricians choose to complete certifications to demonstrate expertise in specific areas, such as electrical generating, solar photovoltaic or lighting systems.
Do Electricians Need Insurance?
Self-employed electricians and electrical contractors need insurance to cover injuries or property damage that may result from their work or their employees’ work. They also need workers’ compensation coverage if they have employees. There may be additional requirements for insurance and bonding to obtain an electrician’s license in some states.
Is It Better To Be a Carpenter or Electrician?
Whether it is better to be a carpenter or electrician depends on your preferences, skills and goals. Consider all of the relevant factors when making your decision:
Carpenter vs Electrician Salary
At an average salary of $63,310 per year, electricians earn about $8,120 more per year than the average carpenter’s salary of $55,190 per year.
The work environments for an electrician or carpenter are similar in that both are physically demanding jobs that require substantial walking, standing, kneeling, bending and performing repetitive motions. However, there are variations in working conditions depending on the exact type of carpentry or electrical work you do.
Workers in both professions face risks due to falls and exposure to hazardous materials, noisy machines and extreme weather. Electricians may be required to work in hazardous outdoor weather conditions more often because construction work often does not take place during the winter months.
Carpenters frequently work with cutting tools that can cause severe injuries. Electricians face the unique risk of working with electrical power, though carpenters may also be exposed to electric shocks when doing some types of work. At 189 per 10,000 vs 122.2 per 10,000, carpenters had a higher injury incidence rate than electricians in 2021.
Carpenter vs Electrician Education Requirement
Because electricians must be licensed in most states and pass a test on the electrical code, most electricians complete more formal education than carpenters. Because of this, it may cost more money to complete the training required to become an electrician, though workers in both professions obtain a substantial amount of training through paid on-the-job training programs.
At 9% vs 2%, the electrical industry is expected to grow more than the carpentry industry over the next decade. However, there are projected to be about 5,000 more jobs per year for carpenters.
Can You Be a Carpenter and Electrician?
Because of the specialized skills involved, it would be difficult to do both professions at a high level. However, if you are interested in doing both types of work, you may want to consider a career as a handyman or general contractor.
Carpenter vs Electrician: The Choice Is Yours
Many aspects of being a carpenter vs electrician are similar. Both jobs are physically demanding and can be dangerous if safety protocols are not followed. Electricians have more earning potential and higher job growth. Carpenters may have more career flexibility, spend less time training, have fewer licensing requirements and enjoy a larger current job market. Ultimately, the best choice for you depends on your career goals and personal preferences.