Should You Hire a Journeyperson or Master Carpenter?

Angie Hicks
Written by Angie Hicks
Updated January 13, 2015
A woman working as a carpenter in her workshop
Photo: ljubaphoto / E+ / Getty Images

Choosing whether to hire a journeyperson or master carpenter depends on the job type, project size, and your overall budget

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Whether you're planning a new addition or upgrading your home’s interior with crown molding, carpentry projects can add significant value to your property. Both a journeyperson and a master carpenter are skilled pros capable of undertaking many carpentry tasks. To help you make the most informed hiring decision, check out our guide, which explains the key differences between each role.

What’s the Difference Between a Journeyperson Carpenter and a Master Carpenter?

High angle view of a journey person using a tablet at her work
Photo: Maskot / DigitalVision / Getty Images

The most notable difference between a journeyperson carpenter and a master carpenter is the years of experience they bring to the table. Both types of professionals have the knowledge and skills needed to perform most, if not all, types of carpentry work, including blueprint reading, building and erecting structures, cutting and shaping wood, completing home repairs, and installing windows and doors. In addition, they are adept with both hand tools and power tools. 

Keep in mind that some carpenters may choose to specialize in a specific niche within this skilled trade to increase their earning potential. Plus, both types of pros are more likely to work under a general contractor or a carpentry company unless they are self-employed, insured, and bonded.

Journeyperson Carpenter 

The path to becoming a journeyperson usually starts by completing a two- to four-year apprenticeship program from an accredited institution like a community college, vocational school, or sometimes even a union. A prospective journeyperson then will get real work experience as a carpenter's apprentice, helper, or laborer in a company where they learn the practical skills of the trade.  

Once someone starts a journeyperson apprenticeship program, they will gain the necessary experience and skills through theoretical and practical lessons to perform all of the related duties that a carpenter handles. If a journeyperson earns a certificate through formal education (like a trade school), they can obtain a verification card from a union after learning the ins and outs of the trade. In the U.S., a person needs to have a high school degree and be at least 18-years old to start this type of program. 

Master Carpenter

Compared to a master electrician or a master plumber, there is no specific education, certification, or formal training to become a master carpenter. And because there is no education or certification for this title, anyone can technically call themselves a "master carpenter." That said, most skilled carpenters who describe themselves with such titles have at least 10 to 15 years of experience in the field. For someone to become a master carpenter, it is commonly accepted in the building industry that they first have to become a journeyperson and gain trade work experience.

Journeyperson Pros and Cons 

Pros

  • Formal education is required 

  • Can provide proof of being a journeyperson 

  • Has gained theoretical and in-the-field training  

  • May be more affordable than hiring a master carpenter 

Cons

  • May not be as experienced in all carpentry fields 

Master Carpenter Pros and Cons 

Pros

  • Has more than 10 years of experience 

  • Can work on very intricate projects 

  • Well-versed in all carpentry work 

  • Expertise in both rough and finish carpentry 

Cons

  • No specific certification required 

  • Higher project costs 

Journeyperson vs. Master Carpenter 

Depending on your exact needs, one pro or the other may be a better fit for the job. Determining factors include the project size, budget, and type of work, especially since some tasks are a better fit for someone who is more experienced.

Experience

Most master carpenters have an average of 12 years of experience under their belts compared to a journeyperson. After completing their education and working on-site, a journeyperson usually has around five to seven years of trade experience. 

Most project experience: Master carpenter 

Cost

The cost to hire a master carpenter is more expensive than a journeyperson. The average hourly rate of a master carpenter is about $125. On the other hand, for a journeyperson, the cost per hour is around $35

Most cost-effective: Journeyperson 

A carpenter working with wood in his workshop
Photo: Kelvin Murray / Stone / Getty Images

Residential and Commercial 

When it comes to residential and commercial carpentry work, both a journeyperson and a master carpenter have the skills to take on projects in both industries. While a master carpenter has more experience in blueprints and large projects, a journeyperson is equally qualified to work in both fields. In the end, it comes down to the kind of contractor license they or their company has, since some may choose to only offer services for residential properties while others specialize in supporting commercial properties or both. 

Best for residential and commercial work: Master carpenter and journeyperson 

Large Projects 

Suppose you have a bigger carpentry project, or it requires a more significant investment, such as an addition to your house. In that case, you may want to hire a master carpenter. The reason? A master carpenter will have more skills and experience working with and managing large projects.

Winner for large projects: Master carpenter 

Small Projects 

When you are considering hiring a carpenter for a small project—like building an interior wall and adding wooden shelves or built-ins—a local journeyperson carpenter will be more cost-effective. 

Best for small projects: Journeyperson 

Tip: For any contractor you want to hire, it is always a good idea to get multiple estimates. Be sure to ask family members or friends for recommendations, check out the carpenter's work samples, verify their credibility by asking for references, and review their online presence. 

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.