Painters, Construction and Maintenance


painters construction and maintenance image
Painters cover trim and molding before applying paint.
Quick Facts: Construction and Maintenance Painters
2015 Median Pay $36,580 per year
$17.59 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education No formal educational credential
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 360,500
Job Outlook, 2014-24 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 26,500

What Construction and Maintenance Painters Do

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

Work Environment

Painting requires a lot of climbing, bending, kneeling, and reaching. Most industrial painters work outside, almost always in dry, warm weather. Those who paint bridges or buildings may be exposed to extreme heights and uncomfortable positions.

How to Become a Construction and Maintenance Painter

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


The median annual wage for painters, construction and maintenance was $36,580 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of painters is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Overall job prospects should be good, and opportunities for industrial painters and coaters are expected to be excellent, especially in the Gulf Coast region.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for painters, construction and maintenance .

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of painters, construction and maintenance with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

What Construction and Maintenance Painters Do

Painters, construction and maintenance
Painters sometimes wear self-contained suits for protection.

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


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.

Work Environment

Painters, construction and maintenance
Many painters work outdoors.

Painters held about 360,500 jobs in 2014, of which 36 percent were employed in the painting and wall covering contractors industry. About 4 in 10 were self-employed in 2014.

Because painters apply finishes to a wide variety of structures—from bridges to the interiors and exteriors of buildings—they typically work both indoors and outdoors.

Painting requires a lot of climbing, bending, kneeling, and reaching. Those who paint bridges or buildings may be exposed to extreme heights and uncomfortable positions; some painters are suspended by ropes or cables as they work.

Injuries and Illnesses

Painters 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. Maintenance painters who apply industrial coatings may have to go through additional safety training because of concerns related to falls.

Work Schedules

Most painters work full time. About 4 in 10 were self-employed in 2014. Self-employed workers may be able to set their own schedule.

How to Become a Construction and Maintenance Painter

Painters, construction and maintenance
Some specialty painters may need certification.

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


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.


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.


Construction and Maintenance Painters

Median annual wages, May 2015

Construction trades workers


Painters, construction and maintenance


Total, all occupations



The median annual wage for painters, construction and maintenance was $36,580 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 $23,900, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,170.

The starting pay for apprentices is usually between 40 percent and 70 percent of what fully trained painters make. Apprentices receive pay increases as they learn to do more.

Workers who specialize in painting structures, such as bridges, tend to have higher wages.

Most painters work full time. About 4 in 10 were self-employed in 2014. Self-employed workers may be able to set their own schedule.

Job Outlook

Construction and Maintenance Painters

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Construction trades workers


Painters, construction and maintenance


Total, all occupations



Employment of painters is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The relatively short life of paint on homes, as well as changing trends in color and application, will continue to result in demand for painters. Investors who sell properties or rent them out also will require painters’ services. Nonetheless, the ability of many homeowners to do the work themselves will temper employment growth somewhat.

Growing demand for industrial painting will be driven by the need to prevent the corrosion and deterioration of many industrial structures by painting or coating them. Applying a protective coating to the inside and outside of a steel tank, for example, can add years to its life expectancy.

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects should be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year. There are no formal education requirements for entry into this job, so many people with limited abilities work as painters for a relatively short time and then move on to other types of work with higher pay or better working conditions.

Job opportunities for industrial painters should be excellent because the number of positions available should be greater than the pool of individuals qualified to fill them. Although industrial structures that require painting are located throughout the nation, the best employment opportunities will likely be in the Gulf Coast region, where strong demand exists. In addition, workers with military experience are viewed favorably during initial hiring.

New painters and those with limited experience should expect some periods of unemployment. In addition, most new construction painting projects last only a short time.

Employment of painters, like that of many other construction workers, is sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. On the one hand, painters may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, peak periods of building activity may produce shortages of painters.

Employment projections data for painters, construction and maintenance , 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

Painters, construction and maintenance

47-2141 360,500 387,100 7 26,500 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

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 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

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of painters, construction and maintenance .



Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures—such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, rafters, and bridge supports—made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,090
Construction laborers and helpers

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

See How to Become One $30,890
Painting and coating workers

Painting and Coating Workers

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

See How to Become One $34,340
Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers

Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers, and Tapers

Drywall and ceiling tile installers hang wallboard and install ceiling tile inside buildings. Tapers prepare the wallboard for painting, using tape and other materials. Many workers both install and tape wallboard.

No formal educational credential $40,470

Contacts for More Information

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities for painters, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local contractors or firms that employ painters, or local union–management painter apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's ApprenticeshipUSA program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about painters and training opportunities, visit

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

International Union of Painters and Allied Trades

Home Builders Institute


Painting and Decorating Contractors of America

For information about the work of industrial painters and about opportunities for training and certification as a protective coating specialist, visit

NACE International Institute

Society for Protective Coatings


Painters, Construction and Maintenance

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Painters, Construction and Maintenance,
on the Internet at (visited May 04, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015