How to Advance (Advancement)
Voluntary certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is recognized as the standard of achievement for automotive painters. For certification, painters must pass a written examination and have at least 2 years of experience in the field. High school, trade or vocational school, or community or junior college training in automotive refinishing that meets ASE standards may substitute for up to 1 year of experience. To retain the certification, painters must retake the examination at least every 5 years. Outside of automobile painters, few receive certifications.
Some automotive painters go to technical schools to learn the intricacies of mixing and applying different types of paint. Such programs can improve employment prospects and speed up promotion. Experienced painting and coating workers with leadership ability may become team leaders or supervisors. Many become paint and coating inspectors. Those who get practical experience or formal training may become sales or technical representatives for chemical or paint companies. Some automotive painters eventually open their own shops.
Painting and coating workers held about 192,700 jobs in 2008. Coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders accounted for about 107,800 jobs, while transportation equipment painters constituted about 52,200. Another 32,700 jobs were held by painting, coating, and decorating workers.
Approximately 2 out of 3 workers were employed by manufacturing establishments, particularly those that manufacture fabricated metal products, transportation equipment, industrial machines, household and office furniture, and plastic, wood, and paper products. Outside manufacturing, workers were employed by independent automotive repair shops and by motor vehicle dealers. About 6 percent were self-employed.
Overall employment is expected to grow slower than the average for all occupations, but employment change will vary by specialty. Good job prospects are expected for skilled workers with painting experience.
Overall employment of painting and coating workers is expected to increase by 4 percent from 2008-2018, which is slower than the average for all occupations. This growth will be driven primarily by the increasing number of goods requiring painting or coating. However, growth will be limited by gains in efficiency from automation and other processes. For example, operators will be able to coat goods more rapidly as sophisticated industrial machinery moves and aims spray guns more efficiently. Much of the growth in these occupations will be seen in the retail sector, as automation is less common in this industry.
Like many manufacturing occupations, employers report difficulty finding qualified workers. Opportunities should be good for those with painting experience. Job openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation and from increased specialization in manufacturing.
Median hourly wages coating, painting, and spraying machine setters, operators, and tenders were $13.66 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $11.00 and $16.97 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.18, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $20.35 an hour.
Median hourly wages transportation equipment painters were $17.86 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.99 and $24.01 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $11.31, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $29.93 an hour. Median hourly wages of transportation equipment painters were $17.86 in automotive repair and maintenance shops and $26.61 in motor vehicle manufacturing.
Median hourly wages of painting, coating, and decorating workers were $11.57 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $9.46 and $14.60 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.15, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $18.55 an hour.
Many automotive painters employed by motor vehicle dealers and independent automotive repair shops receive a commission, based on the labor cost charged to the customer. Under this method, earnings depend largely on the amount of work a painter does and how fast it is completed. Employers frequently guarantee commissioned painters a minimum weekly salary. Helpers and trainees usually receive an hourly rate until they become sufficiently skilled to work on commission. Trucking companies, bus lines, and other organizations that repair and refinish their own vehicles usually pay by the hour.
Some painting and coating machine operators belong to unions, including the United Auto Workers and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Most union operators work for manufacturers and large motor vehicle dealers.
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