Carpenter or Electrician: Which to Choose? (Must Read)

Should you choose to become an electrician or a carpenter? I will not be the judge of that. However, I do want to help you pick the trade that suits you best and your future plans. There are some key things to consider when figuring out to pursue the career path of a sparky or a chippy (slang names of electricians and carpenters). Here are some of the following conclusions, which you will get to further explore in this article.

Working as an electrician myself, I’ve found that carpenters do have a more physically demanding job on a daily basis. Electricians, on the other hand, have to be more knowledgeable in math theory, and proper safety regulations while installing and maintaining electrical components.

In this article, I will go into further depth on the important things to consider when choosing to become either an electrician or a carpenter. Even though they seem to be closely similar, particularly in terms of the work environment, there are some key distinctions that are important to know before choosing a career path.

Carpenter or Electrician: Which Trade Should You Choose?

At 29 years old, I decided to become an electrician. The real reason being, that I wanted to escape my previous office job, where I wasn’t happy at all. I needed to be more physically active and I also wanted to do something other than typing emails and attending meetings all day. I took a good look at all the skilled trades but finally decided to join the electrical trade. To be totally honest, this was mostly due to the fact that I could get an apprenticeship through a recommendation from a friend.

Pro tip: If you’re wondering if you’re more fitted to become an electrician or a carpenter, I would highly recommend trying it out in real life. Remember, you could potentially be doing one or the other for many years forward. I would therefore recommend for you to offer the service as a helper worker one week for each trade. In this way, you will be giving yourself a clearer picture of which trade you should consider pursuing.

Also Read: Plumbers vs Electricians: Who gets paid more?

Of all the skilled trades, I have primarily been working closely together with carpenters on various construction sites. As a consequence, I have observed these workers and also noticed some key differences in an electrician’s and a carpenter’s approach in their work on a daily basis.

Which is More Physically Demanding?

From my experience on job sites, I must come to the conclusion that carpenters have a more physically demanding job. I base this on both my own anecdotal observations and the general consensus among skilled tradesmen. During a six-month-long job on a construction site, I and an electrician journeyman did all the electrical installations. And close by our sides were two carpenters and an apprentice. I will tell you one thing for certain. These guys were tough and hardworking with the endurance that would impress most people.

While we as electricians work with objects like cables, power outlets, and other electrical components, carpenters often carry both heavy materials like drywall and other larger building equipment. On the other hand, electricians will oftentimes work in more physically challenging body positions.

Surely, electricians will also have periods of work that will be more physically demanding at times. However, I believe that a person who enters the trade of carpenters has to be prepared for some serious muscle and endurance building.

Which is More Mentally Challenging?

I find the work of an electrician to be somewhat mentally challenging. There are certain aspects of the job, that I find to be more challenging than others. And the things that trigger you will depend from person to person. I personally find it most stressful, when I’m working on a project with things I haven’t yet become familiar with. And if there’s a deadline or an expectation of getting the work done in a certain amount of time, the pressure adds on top of that.

Also Read: Quiz: What skilled trade is right for me?

A survey of 350 workers shows, that 57 percent of electricians report feeling stressed. Especially in situations with a larger amount of responsibility than you are comfortable with. Even though the craft of an electrician and a carpenter are entirely different, both types of tradesmen can experience similar stressful circumstances due to heightened responsibility and tight deadlines.

In my experience as an electrician apprentice, the first year especially proved to be the most difficult mentally. I wasn’t raised in a family of craftsmen. Actually quite the opposite, with the majority of my family being academics. And as a consequence, I didn’t have much experience with handling tools and certainly not electrical components. I found the steep learning curve to be very difficult, which, when looking back, actually was kind of stressful. If you’re in a position like I was, with no real experience, I would advise you to prepare for this pressure – especially in the beginning stages. And I would highly suspect this to be the case for both electricians and carpenters.

Who Gets Paid the Most?

Electricians earn more on average when compared to carpenters with a difference of $7380 per year. However, both electricians and carpenters have many ways of earning more than the average salary, primarily by choosing an industry with a higher earning potential.

This next part should in theory be an easy one to answer. And by measuring the differences in the salary of electricians and carpenters on average it initially also is. However, both electricians and carpenters have a variety of opportunities to earn a lot more if they are either choosing different states or specialized career paths. By simply looking at the average salary provided by data from U.S. Labor Statistics, these are the official numbers.

ProfessionAnnual SalaryHourly Wage
Electrician$56,900 per year$27.36 per hour
Carpenter$49,520 per year$23.81 per hour

A quick calculation shows that an electrician will on average be earning $7380 more than a carpenter per year or $615 per month. However, by diving further into the statistics and specific types of industries, a carpenter has a lot of opportunities to earn much more than that. These are the following industries with the highest average annual salaries for carpenters.

Industries (Carpenters)Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution$85,900$41.34
Natural Gas Distribution$85,450$41.08
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services$80,810$38.85
Motion Picture and Video Industries$73,890$35,52

As observed, the average salary for carpenters is exactly just that. An average. And as these different types of industries for carpenters imply, you will have a chance of earning substantially much more than the basic salary of $49,520. The following are the top-paying industries for electricians.

Industries (Electricians)Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Natural Gas Distribution$106,280$51.09
Land Subdivision$99,780$47.97
Technical and Trade Schools$93,260$44.84
Promoters of Performing Arts, Sports, and Similar Events$93,230$44.82

Which Trade is in Highest Demand?

By choosing a trade, we obviously want to make sure, all the hard work as an apprentice and in electrical trade school pays off in the shape of a full-time job by completion. I’ve covered this part in terms of future demand for electricians in this article. In this section, however, we will compare the differences in future demand for electricians and carpenters. The following are data from the future predictions calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

TradeGrowth rate by 2030Category
Electrician9 %As fast as average
Carpenter2 %Below average

These numbers show the expected growth in job openings by 2030. The trade of electricians is expected to have a growth rate of 9 percent by 2030, which amounts to a total of 84.700 job openings each year. A lot of these positions will be occupied by workers who replace retirees who leave the workforce. Another reason includes the general demand and positive outlook for electricians.

When compared to carpenters, electricians are expected to be in higher demand for the future by measuring the percentage-wise projected growth rate of nine percent by 2030. However, on an annual basis, carpenters will in total numbers have 4600 more available job positions when compared to electricians.

The skilled trade of carpenters is expected to have a growth rate, that is lower than the average of all professions. Although this could be seen as negative, it is still a growth, which cannot be said about all trades. For example, bricklayers (masonry workers) have a negative future projection of minus two percent. The fact that carpenters have a slower growth rate than electricians should not be the determining factor. Compared to electricians, in total numbers, there will actually be more job openings available for carpenters each year. Even though the rate of growth is slower than average, around 89,300 positions will be made available each year.

So, Which is It?

If I were to choose a trade today, the four things covered in this article, are some of the main things I wanted to consider. When I chose to become an electrician, I primarily wanted to make sure, that the trade I entered would exist until the day I retire.

Also Read: At what age do most electricians retire?

Both trades have future job advancement opportunities. Both trades provide the option for you to be your own boss someday. And both electricians and carpenters are expected to be in future demand. As stated in the introduction, I will not be the judge of your own decisions, and only you should make that decision. I would welcome thee gladly to the trade of electricians, although I would also high-five you on the construction site as a carpenter.