What does a painter do?

As a painter, you will mainly apply a coat of primer and one to two coats of paint with a brush, roller or spray gun to walls, ceilings and objects. In a construction environment, you would comprise an integral part of the finishing crew. There's not much variety in this job, but your worksite will vary if you choose a construction application.

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What is the average salary of a painter?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a painter is $45,590 per year, or $21.92 per hour. Depending on your experience, location and size of the organization, painters can earn as much as $67,000. The range for these positions varies vastly. The bottom 10% of the workers in this position earn about $29,770 per year, while those in the top 10% of these workers earn more than $70,570. Working for a government organization as a painter pays the best, with a typical median annual salary of $60,570.

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Working as a painter

Do you love the idea of being an essential worker that a construction crew or manufacturing plant depends on for every job? You can enjoy that position as a painter and machinist. If you are organized, dependable and exhibit good spatial capabilities, you may like a career as a painter.

What are the responsibilities of a painter?

Your typical workday will include the following responsibilities:

  • Cover surfaces of trim, floors and furnishings with drop cloths, tarps and tape to protect them
  • Raise ladders and install scaffolding
  • Plaster or putty cracks and holes in walls, ceilings and floors
  • Prepare surfaces before painting by sanding, scraping or wire brushing them smooth and by removing switch plates and outlet covers
  • Conduct essential mathematical calculations, including calculating the area of the painting project and the number of gallons of paint needed to coat the surfaces properly
  • Apply coats of primer or sealant so the paint will adhere
  • Apply paint or stain using rollers, hand brushes or sprayers

What type of equipment do painters use?

Painters typically use sprayers to cover large surface areas and paint smooth exteriors. They use a wide range of hand brushes of varying sizes to paint the trim and decorative surfaces that include beveling or carving. They use rollers to paint the walls and ceilings of smaller rooms. When painting a mural or creating a textured treatment on a wall or ceiling, they may use sponges or sponge brushes.

What is the work environment of a painter?

As a painter, your work environment ranges from construction sites and homes to offices and industrial complexes. The work environment of a painter might also include outdoor surfaces such as exterior walls, billboards and signs. If you work in a manufacturing plant as a painter, you will apply paint, typically using a sprayer, to products such as bicycles, motorcycles and automobiles. If you take a job working in construction, you might get to travel to construction sites throughout the country.

Who are your colleagues as a painter?

When you work as a painter on a finishing crew, your co-workers consist of others in the construction industry. Your employer might function as a subcontractor, providing you with added co-workers since you'd work with the main contractor and their employees. These positions would include other painters, drywall workers, carpenters and general laborers.

What is the work schedule of a painter?

Most construction gigs use a Monday through Friday schedule with hours that resemble a full-time office schedule. This usually involves working a 40-hour workweek. Painters typically work from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. If construction falls behind schedule, you might need to work some nights or weekends.


What is the career outlook for a painter?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be about 18,300 new openings for painters between 2020 and 2030. That is a 5% growth rate for the position. In 2020, about 350,800 painter positions existed. By 2030, the BLS expects 369,100 painter positions to exist.

What are the advantages of working with Spherion as a painter?

A leading staffing company, Spherion works with numerous businesses across an array of industries. The Spherion team includes employee champions who work with you one on one to locate the ideal position for you. Think of Spherion as a networking opportunity. By partnering with Spherion, you have options. Other advantages include:

  • Getting paid on a weekly basis
  • Training opportunities for gaining more painter skills
  • Flexible scheduling options
  • A personal contact to assist you with your job search

What education do you need as a painter?

You typically only need a high school diploma or GED to work as a painter. The position requires no further education. You would need to undergo significant on-the-job training. This type of apprenticeship doesn't pay at the same level as a full-time, regular position as a painter. The typical three-year apprenticeship for painters requires choosing an organizational track, either the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades or the Finishing Trades Institute. You will typically earn $15 to $19 per hour while undergoing this training period. Some employers require painters to obtain a valid driver's license.

Skills & competencies

Painters need to hone essential skills and maintain their health and well-being. Painters should work well at heights. They must feel comfortable on lifts, ladders and scaffolding. This position requires good communication skills for co-worker and client communication, especially regarding paint color selection and application techniques. 

Painters need a detail-oriented nature and a knack for color theory plus good color vision. Both physical stamina and strength prove important since the painter climbs, stands and remains physically active throughout the workday. Those in this position typically must lift items weighing 50 pounds and work with heavy machinery at times.

Licensing for specialty painting

Working in the area of industrial painting requires several certifications from the Society for Protective Coatings or the NACE International Institute. Certification requires work experience plus successful completion of coursework. These courses range in length from one day to multiple weeks. Working as an industrial painter also requires a certification for lead paint abatement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition to this, some states require lead paint removal licensing. The state licensing board in your location can tell you if your state requires this license.



Painters improve the look of homes, automobiles and other items and work with a variety of materials. The following covers some frequently asked questions about working as a painter. 

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