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How to Become a Painting and Coating Worker

Most painting and coating workers need a high school diploma or equivalent. Although training for new workers usually lasts from a few days to several months, those who paint automobiles generally need 1 to 2 years of training and experience.


Painting and coating workers in the manufacturing sector usually must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers in other sectors may be willing to hire workers without a high school diploma.

Automobile repair painters often get training in technical school to learn the intricacies of mixing and applying different types of paint.


Training for beginning painting and coating machine setters, operators, and tenders and for painting, coating, and decorating workers may last from a few days to a few months. Workers who modify the operation of computer-controlled equipment may require additional training in computer operations and programming.

Transportation equipment painters typically learn their skills on the job or through postsecondary education in painting.


Voluntary certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is recognized as the standard of achievement for automotive painters. To obtain certification, painters must pass a written exam and have at least 2 years of experience in the field.

High school, trade or vocational school, or community college training in automotive refinishing that meets ASE standards may substitute for up to 1 year of experience. To keep the certification, painters must retake the exam at least every 5 years.

Few painting and coating workers other than automobile painters obtain certification.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Some workers make elaborate or decorative designs. For example, some automotive painters specialize in making custom designs for vehicles. 

Color vision. Workers must be able to properly blend new paint colors to perfectly match existing colors on a surface.

Mechanical skills. Because workers must operate and maintain sprayers that apply paints and coatings, they should have good mechanical skills.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition