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

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

Painting and coating workers paint items ranging from cars to furniture. They apply paint, varnish, rustproofing, or other types of liquid applications to make a product more attractive and 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 prepare the surface by sanding or cleaning it carefully to prevent dust from becoming trapped under the paint. Workers also may mask or cover portions of the product with tape and paper before painting the product.

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.

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.

Transportation equipment painters are the best known group of painting and coating workers. They paint various types of transportation equipment, including cars, aircraft, and boats.

Work Environment About this section

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

Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders held about 151,400 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders were as follows:

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

Painting, coating, and decorating workers held about 12,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of painting, coating, and decorating workers were as follows:

Miscellaneous manufacturing 15%
Furniture and related product manufacturing 9
Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing 8
Transportation equipment manufacturing 6

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

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. More sophisticated paint booths and fresh-air ventilation systems are increasingly being installed in factories to provide a safer 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.

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

Education

Painting and coating workers usually must have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some employers hire workers who lack a high school diploma.

Taking high school courses in automotive painting can be helpful.

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

Although some worker training may last only a few days, most entry-level workers receive on-the-job training that may last from 1 month to 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. 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 more than 50 pounds.

Pay About this section

Painting and Coating Workers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Total, all occupations

$39,810

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

$38,150

Painting and coating workers

$37,770

Production occupations

$36,000

Painting, coating, and decorating workers

$32,950

 

The median annual wage for coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders was $38,150 in May 2019. 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 $25,760, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,220.

The median annual wage for painting, coating, and decorating workers was $32,950 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,070, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $51,540.

In May 2019, 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 $43,530
Transportation equipment manufacturing 42,410
Machinery manufacturing 37,410
Fabricated metal product manufacturing 34,370
Furniture and related product manufacturing 33,510

In May 2019, the median annual wages for painting, coating, and decorating workers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Transportation equipment manufacturing $35,510
Miscellaneous manufacturing 34,470
Furniture and related product manufacturing 32,770
Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing 29,950

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 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Painting and coating workers

2%

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

2%

Painting, coating, and decorating workers

-1%

Production occupations

-4%

 

Overall employment of painting and coating workers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will vary by occupation and industry.

Much of the job growth for painting and coating workers will occur in automotive repair shops, where the irregular nature of the work makes automation difficult.

Although many consumer, commercial, and industrial products require painting or coating and thus will provide job opportunities for these workers, automation in many manufacturing facilities is expected to reduce job opportunities for these workers.

Job Prospects

In addition to job growth in some industries, many job openings should result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation.

Employment projections data for painting and coating workers, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Painting workers

51-9120 164,200 166,700 2 2,500 Get data

Painting, coating, and decorating workers

51-9123 12,800 12,700 -1 -100 Get data

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

51-9124 151,400 153,900 2 2,600 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

Painters, Transportation Equipment

Painting, Coating, and Decorating Workers

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