California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters in California

May also be called: Cabinet Assemblers; Cabinet Builders; Cabinet Installers; Frame Builders; and Wood Machinists

What Would I Do?

Cabinetmakers are skilled woodworkers. They are also known as Bench Carpenters in some locations. They design, make, repair, alter, and install fine wooden cabinets, fixtures, and furniture. They may also use fiberboard, laminated plastic products, and vinyl surfacing materials as they cut, shape, prepare the surface, assemble the parts, and install the final product. Cabinetmakers usually build custom-made items, unlike semiskilled production woodworkers who set up, operate, and tend woodworking machines in sawmills, plywood mills, and manufacturing plants.

Cabinetmakers use machines and hand tools that include various saws, shapers, planers, jointers, routers, mortisers, tenoners, molders, sanders, planes, chisels, and wood files. They use hand tools to assemble and finish the frame, hang doors, fit drawers, and attach hardware. They also may do shaping, curving, and inlay work. Before or after a wooden product is assembled, some woodworkers finish by sanding, taping off sections if necessary, and staining or painting the product. Sometimes, the wood is sealed after the stain or paint dries.

Some shops that employ Cabinetmakers specialize in making only cabinets for homes and businesses, while others make furniture such as booths, counters, and panels for restaurants. Some cabinet shops work only as subcontractors for general building contractors.

While technology has had a great impact on workers in the largest firms, precision or custom woodworkers—who generally work in smaller firms—have continued to employ the same production techniques they have used for many years. Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters and those in other woodworking occupations who work on a customized basis often build one-of-a-kind items. These workers normally need substantial training and the ability to work from detailed instructions and specifications. In addition, they often are required to exercise independent judgment when undertaking an assignment.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Set up and operate machines, including power saws, jointers, mortisers, tenoners, molders, and shapers, to cut, mold, and shape woodstock and wood substitutes.Mechanical
Match materials for color, grain, and texture, giving attention to knots and other features of the wood.Near Vision
Cut timber to the right size and shape and trim parts of joints to ensure a snug fit, using hand tools such as planes, chisels, or wood files.Critical Thinking
Produce and assemble components of articles such as store fixtures, office equipment, cabinets, and high-grade furniture.Multilimb Coordination
Attach parts and subassemblies together to form completed units, using glue, dowels, nails, screws, and/or clamps.Equipment Selection
Verify dimensions, and check the quality and fit of pieces in order to ensure adherence to specifications.Quality Control Analysis
Reinforce joints with nails or other fasteners to prepare articles for finishing.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Establish the specifications of articles to be constructed or repaired, and plan the methods and operations for shaping and assembling parts, based on blueprints, drawings, diagrams, or oral or written instructions.Reading Comprehension
Measure and mark dimensions of parts on paper or lumber stock prior to cutting, following blueprints, to ensure a tight fit and quality product.Mathematics
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Most cabinet shops and locations where the finished products are installed have adequate lighting and ventilation, although not all shops are heated or air-conditioned. Working conditions include machine and tool noise, wood dust, and finishing vapors. Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters must wear protective equipment for ear, eye, skin, and lung hazards. They must also follow operating safety instructions and use safety shields or guards when operating equipment to prevent accidents.

Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters normally work 40 hours in a five-day week but may work overtime on certain jobs, especially in the summer.

The work involves moderate physical activity and usually includes heavy lifting. Journey-level Cabinetmakers may be expected to have all of their own hand tools, although some shops only require them to have a few basic tools and provide the rest.

Some Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters belong to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Most of these workers in California are not members of a trade union. However, Cabinetmakers who work in shops that have agreements with the union must be members of the local union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Cabinetmaker may appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages for those in a union apprenticeship program begin considerably less than journey-level wages and increase every six months.


The median wage in 2020 for Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters in California was $36,560 annually, or $17.58 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters may receive benefit packages that include medical, dental, vision, and life insurance, vacation and retirement, and limited sick leave. Those who are self-employed are responsible for purchasing their own insurance and funding their retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Employment in this occupation is highly sensitive to economic cycles. During economic downturns, workers are subject to layoffs or reductions in hours. Demand for Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters will stem from increases in population, personal income, and business expenditures, in addition to the continuing need for repair and renovation of residential and commercial properties. Therefore, opportunities should be available for workers who specialize in such items as custom cabinets.

Technological advances will continue to increase productivity among woodworkers, preventing employment from rising as fast as the demand for wood products, particularly in the mills and manufacturing plants where many processes can be automated. The demand for wood may be reduced somewhat, as materials such as metal, plastic, and fiberglass continue to be used in many products as alternatives to wood.

In larger firms, job prospects will be best for highly skilled Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters with knowledge of computerized numerical control (CNC) machine tool operation.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters are expected to increase by 5.8 percent, or 700 jobs between 2016 and 2026.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Employers look for applicants who have at least a high school diploma. Most Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters learn their trade on the job. Starting with simple tasks, beginning Cabinetmakers can progress to more complicated jobs as they learn the trade. They may start by doing basic machine operations in a few weeks or months. Learning all aspects of the job can take several years.

The training process can be shortened somewhat by taking woodworking classes that emphasize the safe operation of machines, different types of wood, basic shop mathematics, and construction and finishing techniques. A background in construction can be helpful, though there are many aspects of cabinetmaking that are unique to that industry.

Some Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters acquire skills through vocational education or by doing carpentry work on construction jobs. Others may attend trade schools, community colleges, or universities that offer training in areas including wood technology, furniture manufacturing, wood engineering, and production management. These programs prepare students for positions in production, supervision, engineering, and management.

Those who plan to enter self-employment would benefit from taking business courses or workshops.

Early Career Planning

High school preparation should include courses in carpentry, wood shop, basic mathematics, science, computer applications, drafting, and English. Students should approach building contractors for part-time or temporary work as a helper during the school year or in the summer for work experience.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

There are no specific apprenticeship programs for Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters, although a general program for carpenters is offered. This consists of four years of classroom and on-the-job training. Programs are offered at various places throughout California, and are overseen by the California Department of Industrial Relations. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.

Courses for Cabinetmakers are available through Regional Occupation Programs (ROP) in some areas. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

There are no continuing education requirements, but advanced journey-level classes are available to upgrade skills for union workers.


No license is required by law to work as a Cabinetmaker or Bench Carpenter. However, those wishing to pursue self-employment are required to obtain a contractor's license. The specialty license issued by the California State Contractor’s License Board is for Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information.Click on the license title below for details.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Furniture and Related Product Mfg54.8%
Other Wood Product Manufacturing14.6%
Building Finishing Contractors7.5%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Newspaper classified ads and Internet job listings provide helpful local job leads. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters.

  • Cabinetmakers
  • Furniture
  • Wood Carving
  • Wood Finishing, Refinishing and Repairs
  • Wood Specialties
  • Wood Turning
  • Wood Workers

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Advancement opportunities often are limited and depend upon availability, seniority, and a worker’s skills and initiative. Sometimes experienced Cabinetmakers become inspectors or supervisors responsible for the work of a group of woodworkers. Production workers often can advance into these positions by assuming additional responsibilities and by attending workshops, seminars, or college programs. Those who are highly skilled may set up their own cabinetry shops.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters with links to more information.

Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and PlasticProfile
Structural Metal Fabricators and FittersProfile
Textile Cutting Machine Setters, Operators, and TendersProfile
Woodworking Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Except SawingProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification51-7011
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters51-7011.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RCE
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Cabinetmaking and Millwork.480703
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Mill and Cabinet Work095250