Painters and Paperhangers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Although a high school education is not essential, it is preferred that workers have at least the equivalent, such as a GED diploma. Shop classes can help prepare you for the manual work involved in painting and paperhanging, while art classes will help you develop an eye for color and design. Chemistry classes will be useful in dealing with the paints, solvents, and other chemicals used in this work.

Postsecondary Training

To qualify as a skilled painter or paperhanger, a person must complete either an apprenticeship or an on-the-job training program. The apprenticeship program, which often combines painting and paperhanging, consists of three years of carefully planned activity, including work experience and related classroom instruction (approximately 144 hours of courses each year). During this period, the apprentice becomes familiar with all aspects of the craft: use of tools and equipment, preparation of surfaces as well as of paints and pastes, application methods, coordination of colors, reading of blueprints, characteristics of wood and other surfaces, cost-estimating methods, and safety techniques. Courses often involve the study of mathematics as well as practice sessions on the techniques of the trade.

On-the-job training programs involve learning the trade informally while working for two to three years under the guidance of experienced painters or paperhangers. The trainees usually begin as helpers until they acquire the necessary skills and knowledge for more difficult jobs. Workers without formal apprenticeship training are more easily accepted in these crafts than in most of the other building trades.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for painters and paperhangers, but voluntary certification can help workers enhance their level of training and skills. For example, for those interested in industrial painting, NACE International offers certification in several specialized areas, including corrosion and protective coatings. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also offers a certification for lead containment. When working on homes built on 1978 or earlier, this certification is critical to preventing health problems for yourself and residents.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience as a painter or paperhanger will generally take place on the job. Painters and paperhangers must have excellent attention to detail, manual dexterity, and physical stamina as the hours can become long in the spirit of getting the job done on time. For protection of their own health, applicants should not be allergic to paint fumes or other materials used in the trade. Paperhangers must have a keen sense of measuring to ensure a perfect fit.

Knowledge of business practices such as invoicing, payroll, advertising, and accounting are critical if you want to go into business for yourself. Painters and paperhangers who own their own company likely see higher annual earnings if they demonstrate punctuality and competence.