Similar Titles

Boring Machine Operator, Cabinet Maker, Knot Saw Operator, Lathe Operator, Machine Operator, Molder Operator, Router Operator, Sander, Sander Operator

Job Description

Humans have been making things out of wood for almost as long as we’ve existed! Wood is abundant, sturdy, and useful for a wide range of things. But it wasn’t until we invented saws and other cutting instruments that woodworking really took off!

Today, we have an array of powered machinery to cut, smooth, and shape wood for furniture, cabinets, and other products. But it takes highly trained Woodworking Machinery Operators to use these types of equipment to craft raw wood into finished pieces or parts.

From band and circular saws to drill presses, lathes, and milling machines, they must be proficient in safe machinery operation techniques to avoid any mishaps while they work! In addition, they have to understand the properties of the wood they’re working on. They frequently collaborate with designers and craftsmen to understand the exact requirements for the items they’re going to produce. 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Creating tangible, often artistic wood products
  • Steady work in furniture, construction, and custom woodwork industries
  • Independence to work on pieces at individual workstations 
2022 Employment
2032 Projected Employment
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Woodworking Machinery Operators typically work full-time, and must frequently travel to job sites. They may work overtime when collaborating with construction teams on larger projects.

Typical Duties

  • Review project drawings, blueprints, or schematics
  • Set up manual and Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) woodworking machines, such as drill presses, lathes, shapers, routers, sanders, planers, and wood-nailers
  • Program basic instructions into computerized machines using G-code, computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software, or machine-specific programs
  • Examine woodstock to make sure it conforms to requirements
  • Position wood pieces correctly and securely before working on them
  • Operate machines safely, according to manufacturer instructions
  • Monitor machine operations for problems or signs of instability, such as excessive vibration. Adjust controls as needed to ensure proper performance
  • Use hand tools as needed to put the finishing touches on products
  • Check finished workpieces to ensure quality (including the correct shape, smoothness, and other specifications). Use measuring instruments such as rules, calipers, templates, and gauges

Additional Responsibilities

  • Conduct routine maintenance on woodworking machinery (i.e., cleaning, oiling, and replacing old parts)
  • Wear proper personal protective equipment such as goggles, gloves, masks, or hearing protection
  • Train and mentor new operators
  • Maintain a clean workstation
  • Document work procedures, as required 
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Accuracy

  • Analytical
  • Cautious
  • Compliance-oriented
  • Critical thinking
  • Detail-oriented
  • Discipline
  • Excellent hand-eye coordination
  • Manual dexterity
  • Monitoring
  • No severe dust allergies or breathing issues
  • Patience
  • Planning and organization
  • Problem-solving
  • Quality assurance
  • Safety-minded
  • Sound judgment
  • Stamina
  • Strong communication skills
  • Time management

Technical Skills

  • Machinist programs like Machinist’s Calculator
  • Computer-aided design programs like Autodesk AutoCAD
  • Computer-aided manufacturing software like Autodesk Fusion 360
  • Industrial control software such as EditCNC
  • Procedure management programs
  • Tools and equipment such as micrometers, vernier calipers, lathes, milling machines, shapers, grinders, drilling machines, cutting tools, etc.
  • Fundamental knowledge of hydraulic systems, electrical wiring, lubricants, and batteries (for portable or cordless tools)
  • Familiarity with various types of wood
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Different Types of Organizations
  • Furniture and related product manufacturing
  • Wood product manufacturing
  • Self-employed workers or contractors
Expectations and Sacrifices

Woodworking Machinery Operators are relied on to produce products that conform to very specific requirements. Thus their work must be meticulous, even under pressure to meet deadlines.

They have to take into consideration multiple factors, including what types of wood can be used with which types of equipment, and how best to cut or shape the wood.

The working environment can be loud and hazardous, requiring workers to wear protective gear, such as goggles and hearing protection. They must carefully follow safety procedures to avoid injury to themselves or others in the area.

The day-to-day job requires stamina because workers are usually on their feet, often in bent or leaning positions. The repetition can get monotonous after a while, but workers have to keep their focus because of the inherent risks of the job so they don’t get hurt! 

Current Trends

The woodworking industry is increasingly embracing automation and CNC technology, significantly enhancing precision and productivity! CNC routers and lathes are helping to facilitate more complex designs, transforming the sector into a more efficient, versatile field.

Alongside technological advancements, there’s also a growing emphasis on sustainability. Customers have more focus on eco-friendly materials and practices in general, such as buying products made from recycled wood or responsibly sourced timber.

Another trend is thanks to the advancements in software like CAD and CAM, which are not only revolutionizing design and production processes but also streamlining operations.

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

People who get into machine-related career fields usually enjoy working with their hands and feel comfortable using tools and stationary heavy equipment. They might have enjoyed math and computer programming courses in high school or liked doing projects in shop classes.

Woodworking Machinery Operators can collaborate with others but don’t mind being on their own for long periods. They might have been very independent growing up and may have always wanted a job where they have some freedom to do their work without a lot of interaction with others.

Education and Training Needed
  • Woodworking Machinery Operators need a high school diploma or equivalent. A college degree is not necessary
  • Workers must have applicable woodworking, carpentry, or construction skills. These can be learned in high school, via vocational courses, apprenticeships, or part-time jobs
  • Some start as helpers or laborers, learning how to safely use hand and power tools before moving on to larger equipment like CNC machines
  • Operators may need to program their CNC machines, so having some knowledge of basic computer applications is useful
  • In addition, certain types of math are commonly used in this profession, such as basic arithmetic, geometry, fractions and decimals, measurement conversions, basic algebra, trigonometry, and proportions and ratios
  • Operators can apply for credentials from the Woodwork Career Alliance of North America such as:
  1. Sawblade Certificate: Focuses on introducing fundamental woodworking skills and safety knowledge
  2. Green Credential: Covers basic woodworking operations and safety practices
  3. Blue Credential: Involves advanced skills and knowledge in woodworking techniques and machinery operation
  4. Red Credential: For demonstrating proficiency in a range of woodworking machinery and techniques
  5. Gold Credential: Represents a high skill level in woodworking, encompassing advanced machinery operation and complex techniques
  6. Diamond Credential: Indicates mastery of woodworking skills and extensive experience in the industry
  • Workers also may benefit from obtaining CNC machine certification via community colleges and directly from machine manufacturers!
  • Safety is an integral part of the job, so an OSHA Safety and Health 
    Fundamentals Certificate or OSHA 10-hour training card can be helpful. Employers can usually explain the details and help workers get signed up!  
Things to look for in an University
  • Woodworking Machinery Operators don’t need to go to college, but if you do take classes, consider the cost of tuition, discounts, and local scholarship opportunities (in addition to federal aid)
  • Think about your schedule and flexibility when deciding whether to enroll in an on-campus, online, or hybrid program. Ideally, you’ll want as much hands-on practice as you can get for many of these courses
  • Read reviews from previous students and check out job placement stats and details about the program’s alumni network
  • Note, some training programs may have connections with local employers!
Things to do in High School and College
  • Woodworking Machinery Operators should take art/design, blueprint reading, general math (arithmetic, fractions, decimals, ratios, proportions), geometry, drafting, computer-aided design, basic computer programming, and woodworking or shop courses
  • Gain hands-on skills under the supervision of a professional who can show you how to use hand and power tools safely
  • High school students can often take community college or vocational training classes simultaneously. Your school counselor should be able to offer details 
  • Get practical work experience through part-time carpentry or construction jobs (or via apprenticeships or entry-level laborer positions)
  • Take ad hoc classes online, from Coursera, Udemy, or other sites
  • Watch related videos on YouTube channels like WOOD magazine and Rob Cosman
  • Educate yourself through relevant books, magazines, blogs, and discussion forums
  • Ask a working Woodworking Machinery Operator if they have time to do an informational interview with you
  • Engage with professional organizations to learn, share, make friends, and grow your network (see our list of Resources > Websites)
  • Start crafting a resume early. Keep adding to it as you go, so you don’t lose track of anything

Note, that many employers in the skilled trades, including machine operations, conduct pre-employment drug tests. This is because the use of machines and tools can be hazardous, so employers and insurance companies want to reduce risks. For apprenticeships, unions may mandate pre-apprenticeship drug tests or random drug tests.

Typical Roadmap
Woodworking Machinery Operator Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • Rack up as much relevant experience as you can in school or through volunteer work, part-time jobs, or an apprenticeship
  • Check out job portals like Glassdoor, Indeed, USAJOBS, or SimplyHired
  • Screen job ads carefully to ensure you meet the requirements
  • Focus your resume on relevant work and academic experiences
  • Review Woodworking Machinery Operator resume templates to get ideas for formatting and phrasing
  • Include keywords in your resume/application, such as:
  1. Assembly Techniques
  2. Blueprint Reading
  3. CAD Software
  4. CNC Machining
  5. Machine Operation
  6. Maintenance Procedures
  7. Material Handling
  8. OSHA Standards    
  9. Precision Measuring
  10. Production Scheduling
  11. Quality Control
  12. Safety Protocols
  13. Technical Documentation
  14. Tool Calibration
  15. Wood Finishing
  16. Woodworking Machinery
  1. Also, ask for help connecting with recruiters and job fairs. They may even have connections to local unions that offer apprenticeships!
  2. If applying for a union apprenticeship, read the application instructions carefully before filling anything out. Note, “most unions don’t expect you to be an expert in your industry,” when you apply for an apprenticeship,” notes Indeed
  • Reach out to your network to let them know you are looking for opportunities
  • Ask potential references in advance to see if they’ll recommend you or write letters of reference
  • Engage in online forums and ask career advice questions
  • Look up common interview questions to prepare for those crucial interviews
  • At interviews, be honest and show a motivated attitude and eagerness to learn  
  • Always dress appropriately for job interview success!
  • Be ready to meet pre-employment requirements
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Woodworking Machinery Operators can work their way up by doing consistently high-quality work, paying attention to details, being on time and ready every day, and getting projects finished on time and on budget
  • Talk to your supervisor about your career goals. Let them know you are willing to knock out any training your employer suggests, such as specialized certifications
  1. Ask about tuition reimbursement or other employer-sponsored educational benefits to cover your expenses as you continue learning about the trade
  • Challenge yourself to work on more complex projects
  • Always prioritize safety and never take shortcuts. One significant mishap or injury could damage your whole career!
  • Demonstrate that you can be trusted to work independently. Set the example for others to follow
  • Study manufacturer and software guides. Become the go-to expert and make yourself invaluable
  • Learn all you can from those with more experience (but also keep in mind to follow procedures as directed by your employer)
  • Collaborate effectively on teams, stay focused, and demonstrate 
    leadership. Keep your cool under pressure, and treat everyone with respect!
  • Train new workers thoroughly. Their mistakes could reflect on your training abilities
  • Stay engaged with professional organizations and unions
Recommended Tools/Resources



  • Machinists’ Ready Reference, by C. Weingartner and Jim Effner
  • Mastering Woodworking Machines (Find Woodworking), by Mark Duginske
  • Woodworking: The Complete Step-by-Step Manual, by DK
  • Woodworking Basics - Mastering the Essentials of Craftsmanship - An Integrated Approach With Hand and Power Tools, by Peter Korn
  • Woodworking Bible: Discover Essential Tools and Equipment to Set Up Your Homebased Workshop. Follow Step-By-Step Techniques to Create Over 50 DIY Plans and Projects, by DIY Academy
Plan B

Woodworking in general is becoming more automated these days, but overall the job outlook seems stable according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, if you want to explore other options, below are several more occupations to consider!

  • Boilermaker
  • Building Maintenance Worker
  • Carpenter
  • Computer Programmer    
  • Construction Worker
  • Cutting, Punching, and Press Machine Operator
  • Drywall Installer    
  • Flooring Installer
  • Forging Machine Operator
  • Furniture Assembler
  • Industrial Machinery Mechanic
  • Insulation Worker
  • Ironworker
  • Jeweler
  • Lathe and Turning Machine Tool Operator
  • Machinist/Tool and Die Maker    
  • Milling and Planing Machine Operator
  • Renovation Specialist
  • Rolling Machine Operator
  • Roofer
  • Sheet Metal Worker 
  • Solar Photovoltaic Installer    
  • Structural Metal Fabricator and Fitter
  • Textile Cutting Machine Operator
  • Tile and Stone Setter    
  • Welder


Online Courses and Tools