How to Become an Aircraft Painter: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an aircraft painter. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career as an aircraft painter.

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Should I Become a Aircraft Painter?

An aircraft's exterior is exposed to extreme temperatures, air pressures, the degradation of sunlight and weather extremes. As an aircraft painter, you'll be responsible for prepping and applying primers and paint for the purpose of protecting and beautifying airplanes and other aircraft. Another part of your job will be to observe and assess unsafe conditions with the aircraft's body, such as corrosion or superficial damage, then make repairs using materials such as fiberglass and sealants.

Working in the painting and coating profession can be physically demanding at times. You're also likely to be exposed to toxins, but you can use safety precautions to lessen the risk.

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Career Requirements

Education Level High school diploma or equivalent at minimum; certificate or associate's degree recommended
Field of Study Aircraft painting or automotive painting
Experience 1-3 years
Key skills Knowledge of paint processes, products and equipment including epoxies, enamels, lacquer, urethanes and acrylics; ability to read blueprints and engineering documentation and use spray paint guns
Mean Salary for Transportation Equipment Painters (2014) $44,580

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Obtain Training

Certificate or degree programs for aircraft painting are rare, but they are available. The advantage of enrolling in an aircraft paint technology program includes coursework that teaches students aircraft-specific skills, such as reading blueprints, aerospace project management and aircraft systems & components.

Employers who are seeking aircraft painters will often accept applicants who have experience in automotive painting. Therefore, prospective aircraft painters may start on this career path by obtaining a certificate from a community college or technical school in automotive painting. These programs can often be completed in less than a year and usually cover surface preparation, priming, color application, finishing techniques and developing proficiency in a variety of mediums such as acrylic, urethane or enamel. Associate's degree programs include automotive body work as well as painting.

Success Tip

  • Include self-study. There are a variety of reading materials, as well as instructional videos, that give an overview of the aircraft painting profession. Utilizing these self-help resources could help you gain additional experience in aircraft painting.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Once the student has completed a certificate or degree program, he or she can obtain experience by working as an automotive or aircraft painter under the supervision of an experienced painter. Some employers will accept aircraft painter applicants who have less than a year of experience, while others prefer applicants with a few years of experience. Automotive painter jobs are readily available and will provide valuable experience to the aspiring aircraft painter.

Step 3: Stay Informed

Paint technology is constantly improving, often to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements and minimize the environmental effects of toxic substances and fumes. An aircraft painter seeking to advance their career should ensure continued proficiency with the latest paint removal products and coatings to remain competitive.

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