Painter

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Job Description

Painters paint walls, equipment, buildings, bridges, and other structural surfaces, using brushes, rollers, and spray guns.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • A sense of accomplishment when you finish a project
  • Autonomy: You can work as much and as little as you want.
    • Typically you start at 6:30am-3:30pm: Able to do other projects in the afternoon.
  • Work with your hands!: “When you are mechanically inclined, the trades are excellent for that.”
  • Travel: If you are an international painter, you could do a job in another country if you want to. When you are young before you have a family and want to travel, you can work in different states and even different countries.


“I took my kids to the California Academy of Sciences. I ran that project when it was first built. They love going there and being able to tell people that “my daddy painted this.” To see the pride and joy in their eyes…that they were almost a part of it. It’s about having the pride in the workmanship of being a craftsman.” Robert Williams III, Business Rep, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16, Northern California

The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities
  • Covers floors and furniture with drop-cloths and tarps to protect surfaces.
  • Removes fixtures such as pictures, door knobs, or electric switch covers.
  • Puts up scaffolding and set up ladders.
  • Fills holes and cracks with caulk, putty, plaster, or other compounds.
  • Prepares surfaces by scraping, wire brushing, or sanding to a smooth finish.
  • Calculates the area to be painted and the amount of paint needed.
  • Applies primers or sealers so the paint will adhere.
  • Chooses and mixes paints and stains to reach desired color and appearance.
  • Applies paint or other finishes using hand brushes, rollers, or sprayers.
Skills Needed on the Job
  • Manual dexterity: good with your hands
  • Hand eye coordination
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving: You will encounter unexpected problems and you will have to figure them out in a timely fashion.
  • Attention to detail
  • Physical strength and stamina
Different 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.

 

  • Artisan painters specialize in creating distinct finishes by using one of many decorative techniques. One technique is adding glaze for added depth and texture. Other common techniques may include sponging, distressing, rag-rolling, color blocking, and faux finishes.​​​​​​
  • Painting and coating workers apply materials to manufactured products, such as furniture, toys and pottery, as well as transportation equipment including trucks, buses, boats, and airplanes. For more information about these painters, see the profile on painting and coating workers.
Where do they work?
  • Painting and covering contractor company: Range from mom and pop shop (4-8 painters) to large shops (200+ painters)
  • It’s common that you stay with one contractor your whole career but you can also move around.
Work Environment
  • Indoors and Outdoors: Because painters apply finishes to a wide variety of structures—from bridges to the interiors and exteriors of buildings.
  • Physical: Requires a lot of climbing, bending, kneeling, and stretching.
Why become a union painter?
  • Union negotiates competitive rates: For example) In SF Bay Area, $33.86 per hour as journeyman which is the position after you are an apprentice.
  • Full medical benefits (medical, dental, vision)
  • Pension
  • Annuity
  • Access to better jobs and amazing opportunities


“I’ve worked on the Golden Gate bridge, the top of the tower of the new Bay Bridge, and every aspect of the California Academy of Sciences. Those opportunities would not have been given to me if I wasn’t a union painter.” Robert Williams III, Business Rep, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16, Northern California

Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Dangerous: Those who paint bridges or building infrastructure may be exposed to extreme heights and uncomfortable positions; some painters work suspended with ropes or cables.
  • Irregular work schedule: Sometimes you might work really early in the morning. Sometimes at night.
  • Might have to drive long distance for job site.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Building and fixing things! : working with your hands
  • Being outside in nature.
  • Sports
  • "I liked working on cars."


“Some of us we have more Neanderthal DNA than others. You’ve got to be able to express that in the best way possible. We all have a sense of creativity that can be shown and it’s finding that way to show that creativity. Some people they can do that behind a computer, other people it’s great to be able to build a building. It all comes into that sense of being of whatever makes you feel alive.” Robert Williams III, Business Rep, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16, Northern California

2016 Employment
381,500
2026 Projected Employment
403,400
Education and Training Needed
  • High school diploma or equivalent.
  • Pre-apprenticeship training
  • 3- or 4-year apprenticeship program
    • For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Unions sponsor these apprenticeship programs.
    • Through technical instruction, apprentices learn how colors go together; how to use and care for tools and equipment, to prepare surfaces, mix and match paint, and read blueprints; application techniques; characteristics of different finishes; wood finishing; and safety practices.
Basic requirements for apprenticeship program

Unions and contractors sponsor apprenticeship programs. The basic qualifications to enter an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Minimum age of 18
  • Driver’s license
  • High school diploma or equivalent (GED or take an aptitude test)
  • Physically able to do the work
How to find a local apprenticeship program

Click here for a list of programs.

Things to do in high school
  • Classes: English, math.
  • Shop class and learn about blueprint reading. 
Education Stats
  • 39.8% with HSDiploma
  • 4% with Associate’s
  • 6.1% with Bachelor’s
  • 1% with Master’s
  • 0.3% with Professional
Typical Roadmap
Painter Roadmap png
How to Land your 1st job
  • Finish the apprenticeship program (note: you are working with pay while you are an apprentice)
  • Union will give you the signatory list: local union will give you some leads, you start making calls to contractors on the list.
  • Contact Job Corps
  • Ask the local union for help. They will put you on the "out of work" list.
Description of the different positions
  • Estimator: Budgets the job then bids on the job.
  • Project Manager: Behind the scenes, paperwork. Make sure request for information is filled out. Money is getting paid. Work in conjunction with Superintendent.
  • Superintendent: Takes care of the manpower needs on a jobsite. Materials and workers.
  • Foreman: Takes care of the job.
  • Lead person: Right hand man of the foreman.
How to stay competitive and climb the ladder
  • Dedication
  • Person who is best with tools and the union elevates these people.
  • Leader/Teacher: someone who knows the craft so well and they teach others.
Plan B

Related Careers: Carpenter, Painting and Coasting workers, Plasterers

Words of Advice

“You can get what you want out of it depending on how hard you want to invest yourself into it and how dedicated you want to be. You can just get by or you can flourish and rise up in the industry. It’s all up to the individual.” Robert Williams III, Business Rep, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16, Northern California

Infographic

Click here to download the infographic

Painter Gladeographix

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Source: Interview, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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