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Career Overview

Most painters are employed in the construction industry or with home improvement contractors. They apply paint, varnish or whatever coating the surface calls for, based on the condition of the surface and exposure to weather. Often a painter spends extensive time on a job preparing a surface by sanding it, cleaning it, stripping off old paint or removing old wallpaper.

Some painters specialize in industrial jobs that is principally meant to control corrosion and rust. Painters working in industrial environments often use powerful solvents and specialized coatings, requiring protective clothing and head gear.


As with many building trades, painters usually learn their trade through an apprenticeship or understudy role of some sort lasting two to four years. Apprenticeships are available in some areas and require classroom work as well as on the job training. Many individuals who are interested in a painting career take the classroom courses at a vocational school or through an online educational program.

Current Employment

There were about 470,000 painters working in the United States in 2006, according to the Department of Labor. Forty two percent of them are independent contractors, working for themselves or hiring on with a contractor on a single job basis.

Job Outlook

This job classification is expected to grow at the average overall rate projected for all job categories - about 11 % over the ten year period from 2006 - 2016. Opportunities should be excellent however, due to the retirement of a significant percentage of the current workforce.

Salary Range

Lowest 10%  $10.44  $21,720
Median Salary  $15.42  $31,080
Highest 10%  $25.93  $53,930

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

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