What is a Cabinetmaking Degree?

A degree program in cabinetmaking teaches students technical building skills, construction concepts, and how to properly use equipment fundamental to the trade. Graduates come away with knowledge in several areas:

  • Designing and constructing furniture
  • Reading specifications and blueprints
  • Construction-related math and algebra
  • Computer-aided drafting and drawing
  • Choosing the right type of wood for specific projects
  • Wood finishing and re-facing, including painting, waxing, varnishing, and lacquering wood materials
  • Proper use of and maintenance of hand tools like clamps, vises, augers; and power tools like saber saws and sanders
  • Programming a computerized numerical control (CNC) Router (a computer-controlled cutting machine)
  • Installing cabinets and custom woodworking
  • Safety practices
  • Construction estimating

Program Options

Both certificate and degree programs are available to students who want to become cabinetmakers. Degrees are offered at both the associate and bachelor level. Your long-term objective regarding employment in the field will probably determine which degree you pursue:

Certificate in Cabinetmaking - Four to Six Month Duration

  • This four- to six- month degree is targeted at individuals who are seeking an entry-level position in or related to cabinetmaking.
  • Common career paths include positions in cabinet shops, home improvement centers, and retail furniture stores.

Associate Degree in Cabinetmaking - One to Two Year Duration

  • This one- or two- year degree is targeted at individuals who want an entry-level position in the cabinetmaking field.
  • Common career paths include cabinetmaking, bench carpentry, upholstering, and first-line supervision of production workers.

Bachelor’s Degree in Cabinetmaking - Four to Five Year Duration

  • This four- or five-year degree is targeted at individuals who seek management positions and career advancement.
  • Common career paths include industrial design, industrial production management, furniture design, and sales management. Individuals considering self-employment often opt for a bachelor’s degree.

Degrees Similar to Cabinetmaking

While cabinetmaking is a very specific occupation, some students interested in the field also consider earning a diploma or degree in other woodwork-related disciplines, such as antique furniture restoration, wood finishing, woodworking, craft/artistic woodworking, carpentry, or construction technology. All of these fields demand similar precision skills and attention to detail.

Skills You’ll Learn

Perhaps surprising to some people, cabinetmakers acquire skills that are transferrable to – and valued in – other careers. The ability to visualize 3D objects from 2D drawings and blueprints, for example, is applicable to many industries in a world driven by technology. In addition to hard skills like this one, cabinetmakers develop a valuable set of soft skills:

  • Listening and communication skills
  • Creativity / ability to respond to specifications provided by clients, designers, architects, and contractors
  • Design layout
  • Project planning
  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • Exemplary hand-eye coordination

What Can You Do with a Cabinetmaking Degree?

Individuals with a cabinetmaking degree have employment options that are probably more diverse than you think. All of the occupational categories listed below present opportunities for cabinetmakers, as employees and/or as contractors who wish to take the self-employed, freelance, entrepreneurial route.

Luxury Home Contractors
Custom homes are exactly that – custom, and that means unique and tailored to the individual customer’s vision and desires. This segment of the homebuilding industry may be relatively small, but its clientele often spares no expense. Opportunities for accomplished cabinetmakers, therefore, can be lucrative.

Real Estate Developers
These entrepreneurs buy land, develop it, and manage the construction process. Their properties can be residential or commercial – and in many cases their construction involves the services of cabinetmakers. The building of multi-unit properties often provides long-term employment or contracts to tradespeople.

Interior Designers / Individual Homeowners
It is not uncommon for interior designers to be hired to completely furnish or refurnish a new or existing home. Neither is it uncommon for homeowners to commission custom pieces, some of which may require cabinetmaking expertise.

Custom Furniture Stores
While prefabricated, mass-production furniture is a permanent fixture in the industry, so too is the custom-made, higher-end market. Cabinetmakers are often among the permanent employees of custom furniture stores.

Case Study

Cabinetmaking is not the only field in which the transferrable skills learned can sometimes lead to rather unexpected opportunities. This story of one cabinetmaker is particularly noteworthy.

As a student, Jonathan earned a bachelor’s degree in the field from a community college. For the first four and a half years after graduating, he worked as a cabinetmaker in two different roles. For two years he was employed by a family-owned cabinetmaking company in Toronto. He soon discovered that he was very good at his craft and so decided to venture out and start his own business.

The next two and a half years were at times challenging, as they are for most new entrepreneurs. There were both very busy times, and very lean times. But, Jonathan’s destiny was determined when he was hired by a couple building a custom home. The project required him to build cabinets for two kitchens, as well as two very specialized wood pieces for a den and a games room. The clients were more than pleased with the outcome.

When one of the homeowner’s brother visited, he too was impressed. As it turned out, the brother worked in the Toronto live theatre industry. A colleague of his had been looking for a set builder for more than three months, to no avail. Jonathan met with the theater production designer and the rest, well, is history. He has now been with the production company for 11 years. The moral of the story: cabinetmakers are artisans and sometimes, artisans find themselves in unexpected places.


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