Bookmark and Share Scholarships

Painters and Paperhangers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Some organizations offer training and certification to enhance the skills of their members. People interested in industrial painting, for example, can earn several designations from the National Association of Corrosion Engineers in several areas of specialization, including one for coating applicators, called Protective Coating Specialist. Courses range from 1 day to several weeks depending on the certification program and specialty, and applicants must usually satisfy work experience requirements.

Painters and paperhangers may advance to supervisory or estimating jobs with painting and decorating contractors. Many establish their own painting and decorating businesses. For those who would like to advance, it is increasingly important to be able to communicate in both English and Spanish in order to relay instructions and safety precautions to workers with limited English skills; Spanish-speaking workers make up a large segment of the construction workforce in many areas. Painting contractors need good English skills to deal with clients and subcontractors.

Painters and paperhangers held about 450,100 jobs in 2008 of which 98 percent were painters. Around 36 percent of painters and paperhangers work for painting and wall covering contractors engaged in new construction, repair, restoration, or remodeling work. In addition, organizations that own or manage large buildings—such as apartment complexes—may employ painters, as do some schools, hospitals, factories, and government agencies.

Job Outlook
Overall employment is expected to grow 7 percent, reflecting as fast as average growth among painters but a rapid decline in the number of paperhangers. Excellent employment opportunities are expected for painters due to the need to replace the large number of workers who leave the occupation; paperhangers will have very limited opportunities.

Job Growth
Overall employment is expected to grow by 7 percent between 2008 and 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment of painters will grow 7 percent, as retiring baby boomers either purchase second homes or otherwise leave their existing homes that then require interior painting. Investors who sell properties or rent them out will also require the services of painters prior to completing a transaction. The relatively short life of exterior paints in residential homes as well as changing color and application trends will continue to support demand for painters. Painting is labor-intensive and not susceptible to technological changes that might make workers more productive and slow employment growth.

Growth of industrial painting will be driven by the need to prevent corrosion and deterioration of the many industrial structures by painting or coating them. Applying a protective coating to steel bridges, for example, is cost-effective and can add years to the life expectancy of a bridge.

Employment of paperhangers, on the other hand, should decline rapidly as many homeowners take advantage of easy application materials and resort to cheaper alternatives, such as painting.

Job prospects for painters should be excellent because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation for other jobs. There are no strict training requirements for entry into these jobs, so many people with limited skills work as painters or helpers for a relatively short time and then move on to other types of work with higher pay or better working conditions.

Opportunities for industrial painters should be excellent as the positions available should be greater than the pool of qualified individuals to fill them. While industrial structures that require painting are located throughout the Nation, the best employment opportunities should be in the Gulf Coast region, where strong demand and the largest concentration of workers exists.

Very few openings will arise for paperhangers because the number of these jobs is comparatively small and cheaper, more modern decorative finishes such as faux effects and sponge painting have gained in popularity at the expense of paper, vinyl, or fabric wall coverings.

Jobseekers considering these occupations should expect some periods of unemployment, especially until they gain experience. Many construction projects are of short duration, and construction activity is cyclical in nature. Remodeling, restoration, and maintenance projects, however, should continue as homeowners undertake renovation projects and hire painters even in economic downturns. Nonetheless, workers in these trades may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls. On the other hand, a shortage of these workers may occur in some areas during peak periods of building activity.

In May 2008, median hourly wages of wage and salary painters, construction and maintenance, were $15.85, not including the earnings of the self-employed. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.13 and $20.55. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.75, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $27.16.

In May 2008, median hourly wages for wage and salary paperhangers were $16.76. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.64 and $23.08. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.82, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $33.48.

Earnings for painters may be reduced on occasion because of bad weather and the short-term nature of many construction jobs. Hourly wage rates for apprentices usually start at 40 to 50 percent of the rate for experienced workers and increase periodically.

Some painters and paperhangers are members of the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades. Some painters are members of other unions.

Back to Page 1

Academic Programs of Interest

Painter and Decorator

The Painter and Decorator Program is designed to teach a student how to apply paint, wallpaper, fabric and other finishes to interior and exterior surfaces of buildings and other structures. A Painter and Decorator student will also learn how to repair cracks and holes in walls and prepare work surfaces ...more


Painting is a model for knowledge, a way of knowing the world. That's the core philosophy of most painting program, where uncovering what you want to say carries equal weight with learning how to say it. Students choose whatever materials, processes, forms, and formats that best enable them to express ...more