Painters, Construction, and Maintenance

Quick Facts: Construction and Maintenance Painters
2017 Median Pay $37,960 per year 
$18.25 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, 2016 381,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 21,900

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Painters, Construction, and Maintenance Career, Salary and Education Information

What Painters, Construction, and Maintenance workers Do

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


Painters, Construction, and Maintenance

Duties of painters, construction, and maintenance

Painters typically do the following:

  • Cover floors, furniture, and trim with drop cloths, tarps, and masking tape to protect surfaces

  • Remove and replace pictures and outlet and switch covers

  • Install scaffolding and raise ladders

  • Fill holes and cracks with putty or plaster

  • Prepare surfaces by scraping, wire brushing, or sanding to a smooth finish

  • Calculate the size of the area to be painted and the amount of paint needed for the area

  • Apply primers or sealers so the paint will stick to the surface

  • Apply paint or other finishes, using hand brushes, rollers, or sprayers

Paints and other sealers protect surfaces from damage caused by weather, sunlight, and pollution.

There are several ways to apply paint to a surface, and painters must choose the correct tool for each job, such as a roller, power sprayer, or brush. Choosing the right tool typically depends on the type of surface to be painted and the characteristics of the paint to be used. Some employers require painters to provide their own equipment.

Painters may wear special safety equipment for a job. For example, painters working in confined spaces, such as the inside of a large storage tank, must wear self-contained suits to avoid inhaling toxic fumes. Some painters wear additional clothing and protective eyewear when operating abrasive blasters to remove old coatings. When painting bridges, ships, tall buildings, or oil rigs, painters may work from scaffolding or harnesses.

Work Environment for Painters, Construction, and Maintenance

Painters, construction and maintenance held about 381,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of painters, construction and maintenance were as follows:

Self-employed workers: 42%

Painting and wall covering contractors: 36%

Residential building construction: 4%

Government: 3%

Nonresidential building construction: 2%

Painters work on a variety of structures, from bridges to the interiors and exteriors of buildings, and they typically work both indoors and outdoors. Painting requires a lot of bending, kneeling, reaching, and climbing. 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.

Work Schedules

Most painters work full time. Self-employed workers may be able to set their own schedules.

How to Become a Painter, Construction, and Maintenance

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


There are no formal education requirements to become a painter, although some technical schools offer certificates in painting and some workers learn to paint in apprenticeship programs.


Most painters learn their trade on the job. They learn how to prepare surfaces, apply coating, hang wall covering, and match colors. Painters may have to complete additional safety training in order to work with scaffolding and harnesses.

Although less common, workers who have a high school diploma or equivalent and who are at least 18 years old can become painters through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of a typical program, apprentices complete at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training before becoming journey workers. Some apprenticeship programs give preference to veterans.

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Those interested in industrial painting can earn several certifications from NACE International Institute or from the Society for Protective Coatings. Courses range from 1 day to several weeks, depending on the certification program and specialty. Applicants also must meet work experience requirements.

The National Association of Home Builders, through the Home Builders Institute, offers Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT), which provides entry-level training for painting and other construction occupations.

Important Qualities

Color vision. Painters must be able to identify and differentiate between subtle changes in color.

Customer-service skills. Painters who work in residential settings often interact with clients. They must communicate with clients in order to help select colors and application techniques.

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 much of the workday standing with their arms extended while climbing ladders.

Physical strengthPainters must be able to lift up to 50 pounds, and they move numerous heavy items during the course of a job. For example, a 5-gallon bucket of paint weighs more than 40 pounds.

salaries for Painters, Construction, and Maintenance

The median annual wage for painters, construction and maintenance was $37,960 in May 2017. 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 $25,200, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,620.


In May 2017, the median annual wages for painters, construction and maintenance in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government: $53,940

Nonresidential building construction: $40,790

Residential building construction: $37,220

Painting and wall covering contractors: $36,740

Apprentices make less than fully trained painters, but they receive increases as they learn to do more.

Most painters work full time. Self-employed workers may be able to set their own schedule.

Job Outlook for Painters, Construction, and Maintenance

Employment of painters is projected to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The expected increase in new construction activity will continue to necessitate a need for painters. Investors who sell or lease properties also will require painters’ services. However, many homeowners choose to paint themselves, which will temper the employment growth of painters.

Job Prospects for painters, construction, and maintenance

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 work as painters for a relatively short time and then move on to other types of work with higher pay or better working conditions.

Employment projections data for Painters, Construction and Maintenance, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 381,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 403,400

Change, 2016-2026: +6%, +21,900

Careers Related painters, construction, and maintenance


Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

Construction Laborers and Helpers

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

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.

Flooring Installers and Tile and Marble Setters

Flooring installers and tile and marble setters lay and finish carpet, wood, vinyl, and tile.

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials (hazmat) removal workers identify and dispose of asbestos, lead, radioactive waste, and other hazardous materials. They also neutralize and clean up materials that are flammable, corrosive, or toxic.

Painting and Coating Workers

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

CarpentersHigh school diploma or equivalent$45,170
Construction Laborers and Helpers$33,450
Painting and Coating Workers$36,010
Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers, and TapersNo formal educational credential$43,970
Hazardous Materials Removal WorkersHigh school diploma or equivalent$41,400
Flooring Installers and Tile and Marble SettersNo formal educational credential$40,250


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Painters, Construction and Maintenance, on the Internet at