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Become A Finish Painter

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Working As A Finish Painter

  • Getting Information
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Repetitive

  • $37,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Finish Painter Do

Painters apply paint, stain, and coatings to walls and ceilings, buildings, bridges, and other structures.

Duties

Painters typically do the following:

  • Cover floors, furniture, and trim with dropcloths, tarps, and masking tape, to protect surfaces
  • Remove and replace pictures and outlet and switch covers
  • Fill holes and cracks with putty or plaster
  • Prepare surfaces by scraping, wire brushing, or sanding to a smooth finish
  • Calculate the area to be painted and the amount of paint needed
  • Apply primers or sealers so the paint will adhere
  • Install scaffolding and set up ladders
  • Apply paint or other finishes, using handbrushes, rollers, or sprayers

Applying paint to interior walls makes surfaces attractive and vibrant. In addition, paints and other sealers protect exterior surfaces from damage caused by weather, sunlight, and pollution.

Because there are several ways to apply paint, workers must be able to choose the proper tool for each job, such as the correct roller, power sprayer, or brush. Choosing the right tool typically depends on the surface to be covered and the characteristics of the material applied.

A few painters—mainly industrial—use special safety equipment. For example, painting in confined spaces, such as the inside of a large storage tank, requires workers to wear self-contained suits to avoid inhaling toxic fumes. On some projects they may operate abrasive blasters to remove old coatings, which may require the use of additional clothing and protective eyewear. When painting bridges, ships, tall buildings, or oil rigs, painters may work from scaffolding, bosun’s chairs, and harnesses in order to reach work areas.

The following are examples of types of painters:

Construction painters apply paints, stains, and coatings to interior and exterior walls, new buildings, and other structural surfaces.

Maintenance painters remove old finishes and apply paints, stains, and coatings later in a structure’s life. Some painters specialize in painting or coating industrial structures, such as bridges and oil rigs, to prevent corrosion. These workers are sometimes called industrial painters.

Artisan painters specialize in creating distinct finishes by using one of many decorative techniques. One such technique is adding glaze for increased depth and texture. Other common techniques include sponging, distressing, rag rolling, color blocking, and faux finishing.

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How To Become A Finish Painter

Most painters learn their trade on the job. No formal education is typically required to enter the occupation.

Education

There are no specific education requirements to become a painter, but high school courses in mathematics, shop, and blueprint reading can be useful. Also, some 2-year technical schools offer courses through apprenticeships affiliated with union and contractor organizations. Credits earned as part of an apprenticeship program usually count toward an associate’s degree.

Training

Most painters learn their trade on the job. They typically begin by doing simple tasks, such as helping carry materials and laying drop cloths, and then move on to more complicated tasks, such as priming surfaces to be finished.

Some painters learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship, although a few local unions have additional time requirements. For each year of the typical program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Through technical instruction, apprentices learn how to: use and care for tools and equipment, prepare surfaces, mix and match paint, and read blueprints. In addition, they may learn about application techniques, the characteristics of different finishes, including wood finishing, and safety practices. 

After completing an apprenticeship program, painters are considered journey workers and may perform tasks on their own.

Unions and contractors sponsor apprenticeship programs. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Physically able to do the work

Although the vast majority of workers learn their trade on the job or through an apprenticeship, some contractors offer their own training program for new workers. The National Association of Home Builders through the Home Builders Institute offer Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT), which covers information for eight construction trades, including painting.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Those interested in industrial painting can earn several certifications from NACE International Institute or from the Society for Protective Coatings. The most common certification, from both groups, is called Protective Coating Specialist. Courses range from 1 day to several weeks, depending on the certification program and specialty. Applicants also must meet work experience requirements.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Painters must be able to identify and differentiate between subtle changes in color.

Customer-service skills. Workers who paint the inside and outside of residential homes often interact with clients. They must communicate with the client, listen to what the client wants, and help select colors and application techniques that satisfy the client.

Detail oriented. Painters must be precise when creating or painting edges, because minor flaws can be noticeable.

Physical stamina. Painters should be able to stay physically active for many hours, because they spend most of the day standing with their arms extended while climbing ladders.

Physical strength. Painters must lift and move numerous items during the course of a job. For example, a 5-gallon bucket of paint weighs over 40 pounds.

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Average Length of Employment
Journeyman Painter 6.4 years
Painter Foreman 5.8 years
Spray Painter 4.8 years
Lead Painter 4.1 years
Finish Painter 4.0 years
Carpenter/Painter 4.0 years
Finish Carpenter 3.8 years
Roof Painter 3.7 years
House Painter 3.5 years
Industrial Painter 3.4 years
Painter 3.2 years
Buildings Painter 3.0 years
Interior Painter 2.9 years
Painter Apprentice 2.1 years
Painter Helper 2.0 years
Painter Assistant 1.9 years
Top Careers Before Finish Painter
Painter 29.1%
Finisher 5.7%
Cashier 5.4%
Owner 4.9%
Assistant 3.7%
Manager 3.4%
Foreman 3.1%
Server 2.9%
Specialist 2.6%
Top Careers After Finish Painter
Painter 29.0%
Owner 5.7%
Finisher 5.4%
Driver 3.9%
Supervisor 3.3%
Foreman 3.3%
Operator 3.3%
Technician 3.0%
Carpenter 2.7%
Cashier 2.7%
Handyman 2.4%

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Top Skills for A Finish Painter

  1. Finish Drywall
  2. Aircraft Parts
  3. Surface Preparation
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Paint all trim and rooms, touch up paint in apartments to be rented, and finish drywall installation.
  • Operated paint sprayer* Maintained equipment* Stained and restored decks* Provided customer service
  • Stained, sealed and sanded all products to finish them on the conveyor to be shipped out to customers.
  • Painted various faux finishes, murals, etc.
  • Squared frame and positioned and fastened sheetrock, using tape measure, nails, hammer, screws and power screwdriver.

Finish Painter Demographics

Gender

Male

76.7%

Female

11.9%

Unknown

11.4%
Ethnicity

White

67.5%

Hispanic or Latino

12.5%

Black or African American

11.8%

Asian

4.9%

Unknown

3.3%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

77.8%

Polish

11.1%

Finnish

11.1%

Finish Painter Education

Schools

Kaplan University

9.1%

South Central College

7.3%

Florida State University

7.3%

Lakeshore Technical College

5.5%

Community College of the Air Force

5.5%

Western Technical College

5.5%

University of Phoenix

5.5%

Danville Area Community College

5.5%

North Georgia Technical College

5.5%

Wichita Area Technical College

5.5%

Oakland Community College

5.5%

Pima Community College

3.6%

Richland Community College

3.6%

Barry University

3.6%

Johnson & Wales University

3.6%

Ashworth College

3.6%

Liberty University

3.6%

University of Alabama

3.6%

Albany Technical College

3.6%

Lansing Community College

3.6%
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Majors

Business

15.8%

Automotive Technology

10.3%

Fine Arts

9.1%

General Studies

8.5%

Graphic Design

6.1%

Nursing

4.8%

Psychology

4.8%

Criminal Justice

4.2%

Electrical Engineering Technology

3.6%

Education

3.6%

Liberal Arts

3.6%

Construction Management

3.6%

Culinary Arts

3.0%

Management

3.0%

Interior Design

3.0%

Music

3.0%

Design And Visual Communication

2.4%

Precision Metal Working

2.4%

Industrial Technology

2.4%

Electrical Engineering

2.4%
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Degrees

Other

48.1%

Associate

19.8%

Bachelors

15.1%

Certificate

10.7%

Diploma

2.8%

Masters

2.2%

License

0.9%

Doctorate

0.3%
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