How Can I Become a Painter?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in painting. Read on to learn more about career options along with education and on-the-job training information, as well as the challenges of self-employment. Schools offering Painting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Painter?

The term 'painter' can be used to describe both those who paint buildings, walls and other surfaces as well as those who create artistic images with paint on canvas or other materials. The two types of painters have very different educational needs and career outlooks. Construction and maintenance painters prepare the surfaces to be painted, prime the surface and apply the paint. They typically use tarps to protect other surfaces and sprayers, rollers or hand brushes to paint. A fine arts painter creates images of landscapes, people, animals and other things to display and/or sell. They usually use various sizes of paint brushes to create their images with acrylic paint, oils, watercolors and more. The following chart gives more information about these careers.

Construction and Maintenance Painter Fine Arts Painter
Training Required On-the-job training or apprenticeship No formal training required, but many artists get certificates, associate's or bachelor's degrees
Education Field of Study Painting Fine arts
Key Skills Creativity, technical use of brushes and rollers, surface prep Artistic ability/techniques, dexterity, physical stamina
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% for all construction and maintenance painters* 2% for all fine artists, including painters*
Median Salary (May 2015) $36,580 for all construction and maintenance painters* $46,460 for all fine artists, including painters*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Type of Painter Can I Become?

As a house painter, you must know how to use tools, such as brushes and rollers, prepare a variety of surfaces to be painted and apply coats of paint to achieve certain visual effects. In addition to painting, you may need to scrape or sandblast old paint layers and work with wallpaper or vinyl covering. You must also be familiar with safety standards for construction projects.

As a painter in the fine arts, you express yourself through the representation of themes or ideas in a variety of oil- and water-based paints. You may create artwork on your own or on commission from clients. This work can include portraiture, landscapes or abstract images. Your paintings may be displayed in galleries or sold directly to individuals.

What Training Do I Need to Become a House Painter?

You can learn about painting as a trade through on-the-job training or apprenticeship programs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that, although formal training isn't necessary, it can provide you with opportunities for higher-level jobs with better pay (www.bls.gov). An apprenticeship program can last 2-4 years and consist of a mix of hands-on experience and classroom instruction. These programs typically result in an associate's degree. In addition to painting techniques, you may learn about drywall and industrial painting.

What Training Do I Need to Become a Fine Art Painter?

Fine art painting can be self-taught, and becoming a painter requires no formal education. Nevertheless, many painters and other artists attend undergraduate programs to hone their skills. Many colleges offer a variety of programs in painting, from short certificate programs to longer 2-year associate's degree programs and 4-year bachelor's degree programs.

Degree programs are often offered generally in fine art, with the option for specialization in a visual art like painting. Your coursework in these programs include general and focused study in the tools, styles and technical aspects of painting, as well as courses in art history, art critique and area studies. You also develop a portfolio that serves as a measure of your progress and a broad representation of your work.

Where Can I Work?

The BLS reported that approximately 36% of trade painters in 2014 worked in the painting and wall covering contractors industry. These painters worked on new construction and remodeling projects. Companies or government organizations that own large buildings that need painting can also hire you.

According to the BLS, roughly 50% of fine artists in 2014 were self-employed. Success as an artist is dependent upon networking possibilities that lead to exposure, the quality of your work and interested patronage willing to purchase artwork. Because these factors may vary greatly, success as an independent artist is considered to be difficult. Moreover, positions in the private sector that employ painters are competitive. These opportunities could include working in art galleries, private design firms or museums.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers are a few careers that are related to construction and maintenance painters. These workers do not require any formal education. Drywall and ceiling tile installers work in construction to create the walls and ceilings of buildings. Tapers work ahead of painters to tape off areas that need to be protected from paint.

A few similar careers to a fine arts painter include jewelers and precious stone and metal workers and fashion designers. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers require a high school diploma or equivalent. They create original pieces of jewelry, as well as repairing and sometimes appraising jewelry. Fashion designers need a bachelor's degree. They design new clothing and accessories.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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