Painting and Coating Workers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Painting and coating workers paint and coat a wide range of products, often with the use of machines.

Work Environment: Most painting and coating workers are employed full time. They frequently stand for long periods in specially ventilated areas.

How to Become One: Most painting and coating workers learn on the job after earning a high school diploma or equivalent. Training for new workers usually lasts several months.

Salary: The median annual wage for painting and coating workers is $36,810.

Job Outlook: Employment of painting and coating workers is projected to grow 2 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by specialty and industry.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of painting and coating workers with similar occupations.

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What Painting and Coating Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Painting and coating workers paint and coat a wide range of products, including cars, jewelry, and ceramics, often with the use of machines.

Duties of Painting and Coating Workers

Painting and coating workers typically do the following:

  • Set up and operate machines that paint or coat products
  • Select the paint or coating needed for the job
  • Clean and prepare products to be painted or coated
  • Determine the required flow of paint and the quality of the coating
  • Apply paint or coating
  • Clean and maintain tools, equipment, and work areas

Painting and coating workers paint items ranging from cars to furniture. They apply paint, varnish, rustproofing, or other types of liquid applications to make a product more attractive and protect it from the elements. The paint finish on an automobile, for example, makes the vehicle more attractive and provides protection from corrosion.

Before workers begin to apply the paint or other coating, they often prepare the surface by sanding or cleaning it carefully to prevent dust from becoming trapped under the paint. Workers also may mask or cover portions of the product with tape and paper before painting the product.

After the product is prepared, workers may use a number of techniques to apply the paint or coating. A common technique is dipping an item in a large vat of paint or some other coating. Spraying products with paint or another coating is also common. Many factories use automated painting systems.

The following are examples of types of painting and coating workers:

Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders position the spray guns, set the nozzles, and synchronize the action of the guns with the speed of the conveyor carrying products through the machine. During the process, these workers program the machine, tend the equipment, watch gauges on the control panel, and check products to ensure that they are being painted evenly. The operator may use a manual spray gun to touch up flaws.

Painting, coating, and decorating workers apply coatings to furniture, glass, pottery, toys, books, and other products. Paper is often coated to give it a gloss. Silver, tin, and copper solutions are frequently sprayed onto glass to make mirrors.

Transportation equipment painters are the best known group of painting and coating workers. They paint various types of transportation equipment, including cars, aircraft, and boats.

Work Environment for Painting and Coating Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Painting and coating workers hold about 163,100 jobs. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up painting and coating workers is distributed as follows:

Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders 92,300
Painters, transportation equipment 58,100
Painting, coating, and decorating workers 12,600

The largest employers of painting and coating workers are as follows:

Automotive body, paint, interior, and glass repair 16%
Coating, engraving, heat treating, and allied activities 10%
Machinery manufacturing 7%
Furniture and related product manufacturing 4%
Self-employed workers 2%

Painting and coating is usually done in specially ventilated areas. Nonetheless, workers must wear masks or respirators that cover their nose and mouth.

Painting and coating workers often stand for long periods. They also may have to bend, stoop, or crouch in uncomfortable positions to reach different parts of the products they work on.

Injuries and Illnesses for Painting and Coating Workers

Both transportation equipment painters and painting, coating, and decorating workers have higher rates of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Hazards include muscle strains and exposure to toxic materials. More sophisticated paint booths and fresh-air ventilation systems are increasingly being installed in factories to provide a safer work environment.

Painting and Coating Worker Schedules

The majority of painting and coating workers are employed full time.

How to Become a Painting and Coating Worker[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Painting and Coating Workers near you!

Most painting and coating workers learn on the job after earning a high school diploma or equivalent. Training for new workers usually lasts several months.

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Education for Painting and Coating Workers

Painting and coating workers usually must have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some employers hire workers who lack a high school diploma.

Taking high school courses in automotive painting can be helpful.

Some automotive painters attend a technical or vocational school where they receive hands-on training and learn the intricacies of mixing and applying different types of paint.

Painting and Coating Worker Training

Although some worker training may last only a few days, most entry-level workers receive on-the-job training that may last from 1 month to several months.

Workers who operate computer-controlled equipment may require additional training in computer programming.

Important Qualities for Painting and Coating Workers

Artistic ability. Some painting and coating workers make elaborate or decorative designs. For example, some automotive painters specialize in making custom designs for vehicles.

Color vision. Workers must be able to blend new paint colors in order to match existing colors on a surface.

Mechanical skills. Workers must be able to operate and maintain sprayers that apply paints and coatings.

Physical stamina. Some workers must stand at their station for extended periods. Continuous standing or activity can be tiring.

Physical strength. Workers may need to lift heavy objects. Some products that are painted or coated may weigh more than 50 pounds.

Painting and Coating Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for painting and coating workers is $36,810. 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 $24,520, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $59,810.

Median annual wages for painting and coating workers are as follows:

Painters, transportation equipment $42,280
Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders $34,800
Painting, coating, and decorating workers $31,050

The median annual wages for painting and coating workers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Automotive body, paint, interior, and glass repair $42,930
Machinery manufacturing $36,960
Furniture and related product manufacturing $31,890
Coating, engraving, heat treating, and allied activities $31,790

Automotive painters in repair shops may receive a bonus or commission in addition to their wages.

The majority of painting and coating workers are employed full time.

Job Outlook for Painting and Coating Workers[About this section] [To Top]

Overall employment of painting and coating workers is projected to grow 2 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by occupation and industry.

Much of the job growth for painting and coating workers will occur in automotive repair shops, where the irregular nature of the work makes automation difficult.

Although many consumer, commercial, and industrial products require painting or coating and thus will provide job opportunities for these workers, automation in many manufacturing facilities is expected to reduce job opportunities for these workers.

Job Prospects for Painting and Coating Workers

In addition to job growth in some industries, many job openings should result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for Painting and Coating Workers, 2018-28
Occupational Title Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28
Percent Numeric
Painting and coating workers 163,100 165,800 2 2,700
  Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders 92,300 92,200 0 -100
  Painters, transportation equipment 58,100 60,800 5 2,700
  Painting, coating, and decorating workers 12,600 12,700 1 100


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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