What is a Woodworking Degree?

Woodworkers are artisans. Some make fine furniture. Some make objects with a wood shaping machine called a lathe. Some, known as luthiers, build and restore stringed musical instruments. Degree programs in the field teach the technical and artistic skills needed to create with wood. Students learn about the science and different species of wood, the essentials of design, traditional and modern woodworking techniques, and how to use the tools of the trade.

Program Options

Associate Degree in Woodworking – Two Year Duration
Associate degree programs in woodworking teach the skills needed to design fine furniture and build it using both power and hand tools. Throughout their training, students apply both traditional and contemporary techniques to develop a portfolio of work that demonstrates their ability to design and build original and reproduction pieces.

The associate curriculum includes education classes in areas such as communication, mathematics, the natural and physical sciences, and the social and behavioral sciences.

Here is a typical associate level woodworking curriculum:

  • Introduction to Woodworking – introduction to traditional woodworking techniques and modern machinery; in-depth instruction of hand, power, and stationary tools; elements of design, shop drawings, and wood science
  • Elements of Design – sketches, shop drawings, and model making in furniture design
  • Introduction to Turning – introduction to woodturning, the craft of making objects in wood using a lathe (a machine for shaping wood) and handheld tools; lathe components, tools, and sharpening
  • Finishing Wood – a look at a variety of finishes and stains, from the oldest to modern formulations; experimenting with colorations and surface finishes on different species of wood; wood finish application techniques
  • Table Making – advanced wood joinery, the craft of connecting and securing the separate pieces of wooden construction to one another by means of specific cuts on the ends and/or sides of the pieces; production style of table building; fine craft and design of a table that incorporates curved elements and joinery
  • Carcass Construct – advanced joinery, using hand- and power-tool techniques in frame and carcass-style construction; students will design and create a free-standing solid-wood cabinet (tables and chairs, which have a surrounding frame, are examples of frame construction; furniture shaped like a box is an example of carcass construction)
  • Chair Making – advanced joinery, using hand- and power-tool techniques in constructing a chair
  • Contemporary Furniture Making – introduction to the business of contemporary studio furniture; students will create designs and prototypes and construct a final piece of furniture
  • Entrepreneurial Operations – small business operations and management; marketing, finance, business plans, and obtaining financing to start a business

Certificates in Woodworking – Up to One Year Duration
Many woodworking schools offer distinct certificates in focused areas of woodworking, from making furniture and cabinets to turned objects and stringed musical instruments. Certificate programs teach only subjects in the major and do not incorporate any general education courses.

Here are some examples of courses that may lead to specific woodworking certificates:

  • Wood Carving
  • Woodturning
  • Veneering and Marquetry – the surface decoration of wood by applying cut pieces of different woods to form decorative patterns and designs
  • Cabinetmaking
  • Door Making
  • CNC Woodworking Router – using a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machine to dictate the movement of tools in woodworking
  • Classical Guitar Construction
  • Steel-String Guitar Construction
  • Electric Guitar Construction
  • Guitar Setup and Repair

Degrees Similar to Woodworking

Degree programs in cabinetmaking teach students how to build, install, and repair wooden cabinets, furniture, and fixtures. The curriculum covers construction concepts, creating drawings of proposed pieces, choosing the right wood, and proper usage of equipment and tools fundamental to the trade.

Carpentry training programs teach the skilled trade of cutting, shaping, and assembling wood for buildings and other structures. Students of the trade learn about the two basic types of carpentry. (1) Rough carpentry – framing carpentry; example: making the structural parts of a building, including the posts, rafters, beams, and roofing, that do not require a fine finish because they are going to be covered and (2) Finish carpentry – carpentry that is going to be visible and therefore needs to be neat, clean, and finely finished; example: flooring, staircases, window installation and moldings, trims.

Ceramics degree courses and programs teach the creative art of sculpture, usually with clay. The curriculum covers hand-built and wheel-thrown ceramics; molding, glazing, and trimming techniques; and master kiln operation. It aims to develop both technical skill and artistic style and is composed of some classroom lectures and many hands-on studio hours.

Construction Management
Construction managers plan, organize, direct, control, supervise, and evaluate construction work. Construction management degree programs teach the various aspects of the occupation, which include preparing cost estimates and contracts, budgeting, hiring subcontractors, managing staffing schedules, enforcing building codes and safety regulations, labor relations, liaising with clients, and overall project management.

Students who major in sculpture learn how to create three-dimensional works of art, how to represent abstract forms by carving stone or wood or by casting metal or plaster. They may also learn other shaping techniques such as welding.

Skills You’ll Learn

After completing their studies and training, woodworking grads are equipped with these transferable skills:

Communication Skills
Clear communication with clients and colleagues is essential to the smooth operation of a project.

It is important to pay attention to the client’s wishes and ideas, but it is also important to be able to present alternative creative and innovative ideas.

Eye for Detail
Woodworking requires attention to specifications and precise measurements.

Hand-Eye Coordination / Manual Dexterity
Woodworkers are required to make precise cuts using hand and power tools.

Math Skills
Woodworkers use math skills to calculate sizes, distances, and quantities of material.

Physical Strength and Stamina
Woodworking is physical work that calls for physical strength.

Technical Skills
Understanding and interpreting design drawings is essential for woodworkers.

What Can You Do with a Woodworking Degree?

Because of the specific nature of woodworking, most graduates in the field work in roles that are directly related to their training. Most positions are in furniture and wood product manufacturing. Less than 10 percent of woodworkers in the United States are self-employed.

Here are the most common jobs and titles:

  • Fine Furniture Maker
  • Furniture Restorer
  • Woodturner
  • Wood Finisher
  • Wood Carver
  • Cabinetmaker
  • Lutherie Artisan
  • Lutherie Restorer
  • Lutherie Technician
  • CNC Designer
  • CNC Operator
  • CNC Production Manager
  • Lumber Mill Operator
  • Machine Operations and Tooling Specialist
  • Mill Worker


Find out what graduates typically earn.

Read about Salary