Painting and Coating Workers

Summary

painting and coating workers image
Painters use spray guns to apply paints and coatings in factories.
Quick Facts: Painting and Coating Workers
2015 Median Pay $34,340 per year
$16.51 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 169,500
Job Outlook, 2014-24 1% (Little or no change)
Employment Change, 2014-24 2,100

What Painting and Coating Workers Do

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

Work Environment

Most painting and coating workers are employed full time. They often stand for long periods in specially ventilated areas.

How to Become a Painting and Coating Worker

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

Pay

The median annual wage for painting and coating workers was $34,340 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of painting and coating workers is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. Employment growth will vary by specialty and industry. As with many manufacturing jobs, employers often report difficulty finding qualified workers. Therefore, job opportunities should be very good for those with painting experience.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for painting and coating workers.

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about painting and coating workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Painting and Coating Workers Do About this section

Painting and coating workers
Painting and coating workers paint many different surfaces, including wood.

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

Duties

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

Millions of items ranging from cars to furniture are coated by paint, varnish, rustproofing, or other types of liquid applications. Painting or coating is used to make a product more attractive or 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 need to prepare the surface by sanding or cleaning it carefully to prevent dust from becoming trapped under the paint. Masking is frequently required and involves carefully covering portions of the product with tape and paper.

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.

Dippers use power hoists to immerse products in vats of paint, liquid plastic, or other solutions. This technique is commonly used for small parts of electronic equipment, such as cell phones.

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.

Spraying machine operators use spray guns to coat metal, wood, ceramic, fabric, and paper products with paint and other coating solutions.

Transportation equipment painters are the best known group of painting and coating workers. There are three major specialties:

  • Transportation equipment workers, or automotive painters, usually refinish old or damaged cars, trucks, and buses in automotive repair and paint shops by applying paint by hand with a spray gun. Those who work in repair shops are among the most competent manual spray operators: they perform intricate, detailed work and mix paints to match the original color—a task that is especially difficult if the color has faded. Painting an old car is similar to painting other metal objects.
  • Transportation equipment painters work on new cars and oversee several automated steps. A modern car is first dipped in an anticorrosion bath, then coated with colored paint, and finally painted with several coats of clear paint to prevent damage to the colored paint.
  • Other transportation equipment painters either paint equipment that is too large to paint automatically—such as ships or giant construction equipment—or do touchup work to fix flaws in the paint that are caused by damage either during assembly or during the automated painting process.

Work Environment About this section

Painting and coating workers
Workers must wear masks, gloves, and other protective equipment.

Painting and coating workers held about 169,500 jobs in 2014. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up painting and coating workers in 2014 was distributed as follows:

Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders  97,700
Painters, transportation equipment  54,300
Painting, coating, and decorating workers  17,500

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

Coating workers often stand for long periods. When using a spray gun, they may have to bend, stoop, or crouch in uncomfortable positions to reach different parts of the products.

Injuries and Illnesses

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.

Work Schedules

The vast majority of painting and coating workers are employed full time. Automotive painters in repair shops often work overtime, depending on the number of vehicles that need painting.

How to Become a Painting and Coating Worker About this section

Painting and coating workers
Painting and coating workers can usually become proficient in less than 1 year.

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

Education

Painting and coating workers in the manufacturing sector usually must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers outside of manufacturing sometimes hire workers without a high school diploma.

Taking high school courses in automotive painting is recommended.

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.

Training

Most entry-level workers receive on-the-job training that may last from a few days to a few months.

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

Manufacturing transportation equipment painters typically learn to paint on the job.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Voluntary certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is recognized as the standard of achievement for automotive painters. To obtain certification, painters must pass a written exam and have at least 2 years of experience in the field. Recertification is required every 5 years. Few painting and coating workers other than automobile painters obtain certification.

ASE-approved training in refinishing taken while one is enrolled in high school, a trade or vocational school, or a community college may substitute for up to 1 year of work experience. To keep the certification, painters must retake the exam at least every 5 years.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Some 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 over 50 pounds.

Pay About this section

Painting and Coating Workers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Painting and coating workers

$34,340

Production occupations

$32,250

 

The median annual wage for painting and coating workers was $34,340 in May 2015. 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 $21,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $56,910.

Median annual wages for painting and coating workers in May 2015 were as follows:

Painters, transportation equipment $41,150
Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders 31,940
Painting, coating, and decorating workers 29,270

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

Trucking companies, bus lines, and other organizations that repair and refinish their own vehicles generally pay by the hour.

The vast majority of painting and coating workers are employed full time. Automotive painters in repair shops often work overtime, depending on the number of vehicles that need repainting.

Job Outlook About this section

Painting and Coating Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Painting and coating workers

1%

Production occupations

-3%

 

Employment of painting and coating workers is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. Employment growth will vary by occupation and industry.

Employment of coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders— the largest occupation in this profile—is projected to show little or no change from 2014 to 2024. Although many consumer, commercial, and industrial products require painting or coating and thus will provide job opportunities for these workers, productivity gains are expected to offset any employment growth.

Employment of transportation equipment painters is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The majority of new jobs will be driven by the need for painters in repair shops.

Employment of painting, coating, and decorating workers is projected to decline 2 percent from 2014 to 2024. Increased automation in most manufacturing facilities will reduce job opportunities for these workers.

Job Prospects

As with many manufacturing jobs, employers often report difficulty finding qualified workers. Therefore, job opportunities should be very good for those with painting experience.

Many job openings should result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation and from increased specialization in manufacturing.

Employment projections data for painting and coating workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Painting and coating workers

169,500 171,700 1 2,100

Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders

51-9121 97,700 97,000 -1 -700 [XLSX]

Painters, transportation equipment

51-9122 54,300 57,500 6 3,200 [XLSX]

Painting, coating, and decorating workers

51-9123 17,500 17,200 -2 -300 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of painting and coating workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Automotive body and glass repairers

Automotive Body and Glass Repairers

Automotive body and glass repairers restore, refinish, and replace vehicle bodies and frames, windshields, and window glass.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,880
Painters, construction and maintenance

Painters, Construction and Maintenance

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

No formal educational credential $36,580
Metal and plastic machine workers

Metal and Plastic Machine Workers

Metal and plastic machine workers set up and operate machines that cut, shape, and form metal and plastic materials or pieces.

High school diploma or equivalent $34,080

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about job opportunities for painting and coating workers, visit

  • Local manufacturers
  • Automotive body repair shops
  • Motor vehicle dealers
  • Vocational schools
  • Local unions representing painting and coating workers
  • Local offices of state employment services

For a directory of certified automotive painting programs, visit

National Automotive Technician Education Foundation

National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence

O*NET

Coating, Painting, and Spraying Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders

Painters, Transportation Equipment

Painting, Coating, and Decorating Workers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Painting and Coating Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/painting-and-coating-workers.htm (visited May 23, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.