Upholstery and Leatherworking
Furniture and automotive manufacturing are two industries that utilize the skills of upholsters and leatherworkers. Learn about employment outlook, salary information, certificate programs and course topics.
Is Leatherworking and Upholstery for Me?
Leatherworkers use a variety of tools to cut, sew and rivet pieces of leather to make products, such as shoes or wallets. Upholstery workers fit and secure materials on furniture and car seats. Both jobs usually include repair work, so knowledge of fabrics and restoration methods is necessary.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of leatherworkers is expected to decline by 14% from 2012-2022; meanwhile, the number of jobs for upholsterers is projected to increase 1% during that same decade (www.bls.gov). In May 2013, leatherworkers made a median annual income of $25,030, and upholsterers made $30,750, according to the BLS. You can eventually become a manager for an upholstery or leatherworking business with enough experience. If you have an understanding of business practices, you can possibly even open up your own business.
How Can I Work in Upholstery and Leatherworking?
Training and Education Overview
These occupations do not require extensive education, and not all leatherworkers and upholsterers have completed high school. Aspiring leatherworkers usually learn your leatherworking skills from an experienced leatherworker, and training can last up to two years. Upholstery workers also learn from experienced workers, and you may need up to three years to complete training. You might also train through an apprenticeship for either occupation.
Although postsecondary education is not required, it can give you more employment opportunities or allow you to work in supervisory positions. Classes and certificate programs are available for both professions.
You can take career training programs in saddle making and boot making if you want to become a leatherworker. If you would prefer to make items like purses, belts and other clothing accessories, you can take courses in leather materials, leather manipulation techniques and decorative leather.
You can earn a certificate in auto or household upholstery. These programs cover basic techniques for installing upholstery, as well as the methods for the specific area of upholstery installation you hope to work in. Some upholstery certificate programs cover both auto and household upholstery. A sample of possible courses you can take in a certificate program includes furniture restoration, decorator accessories and designer fabrics. After enough training and experience, you can work on designing upholstery for custom projects.
You need good dexterity and to be comfortable using your hands if you want to work as a leatherworker. These same qualifies will serve you well if you want to work as an upholsterer instead.