Painter, Construction and Maintenance Career Description


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


What they do

Painters typically do the following:

  • Protect floors, furniture, and trim by covering surfaces with drop cloths and tarps and securing with tape
  • Install scaffolding and raise ladders
  • Fill holes and cracks with putty or plaster
  • Prepare surfaces by removing outlet and switch covers and by scraping, wire brushing, or sanding to a smooth finish
  • Calculate the size of the area to be painted and the amount of paint needed for the area
  • Apply primers or sealers so the paint will stick to the surface
  • Apply paint, coatings, or other finishes, using hand brushes, rollers, or sprayers

Painters apply liquid coatings and other sealers that dry into solids to add texture or color to interiors and to protect exterior surfaces from damage caused by weather, sunlight, and pollution.

For each job, painters must choose the correct tool, such as a roller, power sprayer, or brush. There are several ways to apply paint, and deciding on which tool to use typically depends on both the type of surface to be painted and the characteristics of the paint. Some employers require painters to provide their own tools

The following are types of painters:

Commercial painters prepare and paint the interiors and exteriors of offices, businesses, and other nonresidential buildings. Commercial painters may work with and be responsible for large areas due to the size of buildings involved in nonresidential projects.

Industrial painters prepare and paint large machinery, such as industrial or manufacturing equipment; vehicles, such as cars and ships; and structures, such as bridges and water towers. Industrial painters may also apply special coating materials to structure or equipment surfaces to protect them from corrosion or deterioration.

Industrial painters must contain the area in which they are working to prevent hazardous materials from contaminating the environment and exposing the public to risks. Industrial and commercial painters also must perform quality control and quality assurance to ensure that they find mistakes, meet technical specifications, and use materials appropriately.

Residential painters prepare and paint the interiors and exteriors of homes and multifamily residential buildings. Residential painters may interact with customers living in the home while painting is in progress. As a result, residential painters may need to adjust their hours or work plans to accommodate customer needs or schedules.


Work Environment

Painters work on a variety of structures, including bridges, machinery, and the interiors and exteriors of buildings. Painting requires a lot of bending, kneeling, reaching, and climbing. Those who paint bridges or buildings may work at extreme heights or in uncomfortable positions; some painters are suspended by ropes or cables as they work.

Painters typically work both indoors and outdoors. When working outside or in confined spaces, painters may be exposed to extreme temperatures.


How to become a Painter, Construction and Maintenance

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

There are no formal education requirements to become a painter. Some technical schools offer optional certificates in painting.

Painters typically learn on the job: how to prepare surfaces, apply coating, hang wall covering, and match colors. Painters may have to complete additional safety training in order to work with scaffolding and harnesses.

Although less common, painting apprenticeships lasting 3 or 4 years may be available for candidates who have a high school diploma or equivalent and who are at least 18 years old. For example, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, in conjunction with the Finishing Trades Institute, offers a 3-year apprenticeship for painters. For each year of a typical program, apprentices must complete a predetermined number of hours of technical training and paid on-the-job training before becoming journey workers. Apprenticeship program requirements differ based on the type of program and by region.

Although most painters learn their trade on the job or through an apprenticeship, some new workers enter training programs offered by the hiring contractor.

Those interested in industrial painting can earn several certifications from NACE International Institute or from the Society for Protective Coatings



The median annual wage for painters, construction and maintenance was $40,280 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $67,560.


Job Outlook

Employment of painters is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029.

The expected increase in new construction activity will continue to create a need for painters. Investors who sell or lease properties also will require painters’ services. However, many homeowners choose to paint themselves, which will temper employment growth for painters.


Similar Job Titles

Facilities Painter, Foreman, Highway Painter, House Painter, Industrial Painter, Journeyman Painter, Maintenance Painter, Painter, Painter Foreman, Senior Painter


Related Occupations

Terrazzo Worker and Finisher, Glazier, Insulation Worker-Floor/Ceiling/Wall, Insulation Worker-Mechanical, Paperhanger


More Information

The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field.  Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas.  As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.

  • Associated Builders and Contractors - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades - Our members work in the Finishing Trades as industrial and commercial painters, drywall finishers, wall coverers, glaziers, glass workers, floor covering installers, sign makers, display workers, convention and show decorators and in many more exciting occupations.
  • Painting and Decorating Contractors of America - PCA is a national trade association dedicated to the success of painting and decorating contractors through ethics, education and excellence.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - AGC works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry; providing opportunities for firms to learn about ways to become more accomplished; and connecting them with the resources and individuals they need to be successful businesses and corporate citizens.


Magazines and Publications



Video Transcript

Watching paint dry may be famously boring, but putting on a fresh coat can bring a dull space to life. Painters apply paint and stain to bring a new look and weather protection to surfaces of homes, buildings, and other structures. Painters uncover the original surface, and even out any imperfections before applying primer or sealant. To protect adjacent surfaces, they tape off, or cover them with tarps. Only after careful preparation do they paint— using hand brushes, rollers, or sprayers. Industrial painters work on bridges, oil rigs, and tall buildings. They may operate sand blasters to remove old coatings, and work from scaffolding, or suspended by cables from harnesses. Artisan painters use special techniques to create unique finishes. Helpers haul materials and tools, clean work areas and equipment, and perform other basic tasks as assigned. Painters typically work both indoors and outdoors, spending the day climbing, bending, kneeling, and reaching. They have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Falls from ladders, muscle strains from lifting, and exposure to irritants such as drywall dust are common risks. Protective eyewear and clothing is worn when needed. Most painters work full time, and many are self-employed. There is no education requirement and most painters learn on the job. Some learn the trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship that combines paid work experience with more formal training.


Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
CareerOneStop, O*Net Online