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What Painting and Coating Workers Do About this section

Painting and coating workers
Painters use spray guns to apply paints and coatings in factories.

Painting and coating workers apply finishes, often using machines, to products such as 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
  • Measure the thickness of paint or coating material applied
  • Clean and maintain tools, equipment, and work areas

Painting and coating workers apply paint, varnish, rustproofing, or other types of liquid treatments to finish and protect products. They often use machines to spread the liquid over large surfaces but may use handtools on small items or hard-to-reach surfaces.

Before workers apply the paint or other coating, they prepare the surface by sanding or cleaning it to prevent dust from becoming trapped under the paint. They also may cover portions of the product with tape and paper to prevent the paint or coating from touching those areas.

After the product is prepared, workers may use a number of techniques to apply the paint or coating. Common techniques include spraying products with paint or coating and dipping items in a large vat of paint or other coating. Many factories use automated painting systems. Workers may measure the paint thickness using a coating thickness gauge or painter meter.

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

Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders use spraying or rolling machines to apply lacquer, enamel, or other coatings to a variety of products, such as cars, boats, and glassware. These workers 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, they 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 use manual spray guns, pens, or brushes to apply various coatings to furniture, glass, pottery, toys, books, and other products. They also may immerse pieces into the liquid and place the coated items into ovens or dryers to harden the finishes. In addition, these workers examine products to be sure that they meet specifications.

For information about workers who paint walls, equipment, buildings, bridges, and other structures, see the profile on construction and maintenance painters.

Work Environment About this section

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

Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders held about 143,400 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders were as follows:

Fabricated metal product manufacturing 20%
Transportation equipment manufacturing 16
Automotive body, paint, interior, and glass repair 15
Machinery manufacturing 8
Furniture and related product manufacturing 4

Painting, coating, and decorating workers held about 12,400 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of painting, coating, and decorating workers were as follows:

Miscellaneous manufacturing 15%
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 12
Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing 8
Transportation equipment manufacturing 6
Furniture and related product manufacturing 6

Painting and coating is usually done in specially ventilated areas. Workers wear masks or respirators to protect themselves from inhaling microscopic particles or harmful chemicals. They also may wear gloves and other protective equipment to shield their skin and clothing.

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

Painting, coating, and decorating workers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Hazards include muscle strains and exposure to toxic materials. Factories have installed sophisticated paint booths and fresh-air ventilation systems to create a safe work environment.

Work Schedules

Most painting and coating workers are employed full time.

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.

Painting and coating workers typically need a high school diploma or equivalent to enter the occupation. New workers usually train on the job for several months to attain competency.

Education

Painting and coating workers usually need a high school diploma or equivalent for entry-level positions. However, some employers hire candidates who do not have formal educational credentials.

Some automotive painters attend vocational-technical programs in which they receive practical instruction in mixing and applying different types of paint.

Training

To attain competency, painting and coating workers typically receive on-the-job training. Sometimes this training lasts only a few days, but it usually lasts several months.

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

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Some painting and coating workers make elaborate or decorative designs.

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. Workers may have to squat or bend frequently and stand for extended periods.

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

Pay About this section

Painting and Coating Workers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Total, all occupations

$45,760

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

$39,130

Painting and coating workers

$38,670

Production occupations

$37,710

Painting, coating, and decorating workers

$37,330

 

The median annual wage for coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders was $39,130 in May 2021. 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 $29,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,330.

The median annual wage for painting, coating, and decorating workers was $37,330 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,190, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $50,720.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Automotive body, paint, interior, and glass repair $47,500
Transportation equipment manufacturing 47,340
Machinery manufacturing 38,370
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 37,330
Furniture and related product manufacturing 37,270

In May 2021, the median annual wages for painting, coating, and decorating workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing $37,630
Miscellaneous manufacturing 37,460
Furniture and related product manufacturing 36,360
Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing 35,370
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 30,750

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

Most painting and coating workers are employed full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Painting and Coating Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

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

8%

Painting and coating workers

7%

Painting, coating, and decorating workers

6%

Production occupations

0%

 

Overall employment of painting and coating workers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 17,200 openings for painting and coating workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Much of the projected employment growth in these occupations is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020 and is likely to occur early in the decade.

Job growth for painting and coating workers is projected to occur primarily in automotive repair shops, where expertise is necessary for the complicated process of automotive paint repair. Employment of these workers is projected to grow as many consumer, commercial, and industrial products will require painting and coating services. However, automation in manufacturing facilities is expected to limit the number of job opportunities available for painting and coating workers. 

Employment projections data for painting and coating workers, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Painting and coating workers

155,800 167,300 7 11,600

Painting, coating, and decorating workers

51-9123 12,400 13,200 6 800 Get data

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

51-9124 143,400 154,200 8 10,800 Get data

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 Institute for Automotive Service Excellence

O*NET

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

Painting, Coating, and Decorating Workers

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