Surface Painter: Job Description and Requirements

Surface painter jobs typically require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties, and apprenticeship details to see if this is the right career for you.

Surface painters perform many different paint jobs in a number of industries. They must know all the fundamentals of painting, from selection to how it's done. This trade can be learned at various places, but those who complete apprenticeships and earn certifications may have better job opportunities.

Essential Information

Surface painters deal with a variety of painting jobs, including homes, cars, bridges, and ships. This job requires a high school diploma or the equivalent. A 2-4 year apprenticeship along with classroom instruction is highly recommended by employers. Voluntary certifications are offered by a number of industry organizations. This job might appeal to an individual with interests in painting, design, and maintenance.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Additional Recommendations 2-4 year apprenticeship
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 7% for construction and maintenance painters
Median Annual Wage (2015)* $36,580 for construction and maintenance painters

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Surface painters may begin a new job by choosing the best type of brush or tool for the application. Paint may be placed with brushes of various types, sizes and textures, as well as mechanized tools, like air guns, sprays or rollers. In addition, surface painters may be required to know what types of paint work best for various surfaces and in various conditions, climates, and environments.

Since the surface painter is responsible for painting only the surface(s) that they have been hired to paint, they must understand how to keep paint, dirt and other indelible marks off of areas they aren't painting. Finally, the surface painter must ensure that paint and tools are safe to work with.

Construction and maintenance painters made a median salary of $36,580 in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). An average growth of 7% was expected for painters in the construction and maintenance fields from 2014-2024.


Surface painters generally start by preparing the area to be painted. This may include smoothing and cleaning it, in addition to removing old paint. They then make sure to protect the area around which they will paint with drop cloths or tarps. After preparing the area, the surface painter is ready to paint.

Although many paints are now premade, some surface painters are responsible for preparing their own paint. Next, surface painters provide a smooth, even base coat of primer. Following this, they apply the paint, ensuring that it is smooth and even. Lastly, surface painters may need to apply a top coat or veneer to make certain that the surface is not susceptible to insects, oxidation, or other insidious environmental damage.


While surface painters may learn the trade through do-it-yourself stores, community college courses, and on-the-job training, the BLS reports that those who complete an apprenticeship may have the best job opportunities ( Apprenticeships usually last 2-4 years and require a high school diploma or its equivalent. Apprentices receive on-the-job training supplemented with classroom instruction on such topics, such as safety, painting techniques, and tools.


Surface painters may enhance their job opportunities by completing voluntary certifications. For example, these professionals may consider earning the Protective Coating Specialist conferred by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers ( Certification requirements differ based on the painters educational background, but may include accruing a set level of work experience, completing a training course and passing a qualifying exam. Certified painters must renew their certifications every three years by completing 60 professional development hours.

As a surface painter, one will choose the right paints, prepare the surface, and do the job. Painting skills can be acquired through apprenticeships, among other means. One can also opt for certification to improve their qualifications in this field, which is expected to grow 7% in the 2014-2024 decade, according to the BLS.

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