Paint Technician: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a paint technician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

While there are many kinds of paint technicians, a large portion of them work in the automotive industry. A high school diploma is typically the minimum educational requirement, though some highly skilled painting tasks may require some college or vocational training.

Required Education High school diploma
Other Requirements Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) credential (optional, but desirable for automotive paint technicians)
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 10% for transportation equipment painters*
Median Salary (2013) $39,610 for transportation equipment painters*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Paint Technician Job Description

Paint technicians most often work in manufacturing. Many paint technicians work in the automotive industry, where they paint new cars, repair the paint jobs on old or damaged cars and create customized paint jobs for customers. Vehicle painting is a highly specialized job requiring practice and skill. Cars and other products often have to be painted several times to make them corrosion resistant and create a smooth, consistent finish.

Paint technicians in the past were frequently exposed to toxic chemicals from paint fumes. Modern health and safety regulations have done much to decrease the risk. Paint technicians wear masks and other protective equipment and may work in booths that minimize their exposure to toxins.

From 2012 to 2022, no change in employment was projected for the painting, coating and decorating workers category, according to information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Related painting categories were estimated to have various increases in job opportunities: construction and maintenance painters (20%), transportation equipment painters (10%), painting and coating workers (4%) and coating, painting and spraying machine setters, operators and tenders (no change).

The median salary of construction and maintenance painters in general was $35,390, per May 2013 data from the BLS. Transportation equipment painters saw a median income of $39,610 during the same year.

Paint Technician Job Duties

Before they can paint, technicians must prepare the surface to be painted. They sand or grind away imperfections. They then carefully clean the surface, since dust or dirt trapped under the paint can ruin the finished surface. If working with metal, technicians may have to dip the surface to be painted in a chemical bath. Blow torches, lifts, painting robots, power buffers and arc welders are some of the equipment technicians may learn to use.

If working with more than one color or with unpainted parts, technicians may also have to carefully mask parts of the product with paper or tape. While masking, they also might remove mirrors, antennas or other parts that aren't painted. Technicians may also be responsible for controlling temperature, humidity and other factors that determine how a coat of paint dries.

Technicians use painting techniques including dipping and spraying. Spray painting involves operating a spray gun and other machinery. They use formulas to mix the paint that goes into the spray gun. They adjust the flow and viscosity of their paint and control the air pressure to the spray gun by adjusting the nozzle.

Other job duties include properly disposing of hazardous waste, following color charts and removing rust. Paint technicians must disassemble, clean and reassemble their painting equipment.

Paint Technician Requirements

General Requirements

Being a paint technician requires the ability to discriminate between colors and judge brightness and shade. It requires manual dexterity, strength, endurance, flexibility and the ability to see details at close range. Those who work well with little supervision and care about attention to detail do best as paint technicians.

Specialized painting skills often require one to two years of on-the-job training. Technicians may begin as apprentices or helpers to more experienced painters.

Education Requirements

Many paint technician jobs require a high school diploma or its equivalent. The abilities to read and understand formulas and follow written and verbal directions are essential for painting technicians. High school science, mathematics, English and communication courses can be useful.

Computer-operated painting tools may require the user to know some programming. Some technicians take vocational, college or other postsecondary courses to help them learn these skills. Community colleges, vocational and technical school courses in safety techniques are also attractive to potential employers. Employers may also sponsor additional training for employees, sometimes sponsored by the manufacturers of paints and other products.

ASE Certification for Automotive Paint Technicians

Automotive painters may also be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE certification requires a written examination and at least two years of experience. Some vocational and technical training courses qualify as experience. The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) offers online courses that lead to ASE certification.

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