Get in the Trade

Become a Painter and Decorator

If you become a painter or painter decorator you will work on all kinds of jobs, ranging from re-decorating houses to applying heavy-duty finishes to huge structures.
If you wish to become a painter decorator it is pretty physical work so you will need to be fairly fit. Work will often involve moving up and down ladders or raised platforms to reach high ceilings. 
Job and work opportunities are good for painter decorators, with the industry expected to need over 8,000 new painters and decorators over the next couple of years.

What does the job of a painter decorator involve?

As a painter decorator, you can work for a wide range of organisations, for example building and specialist painting contractors, local authorities and hospitals. Some companies specialise in particular techniques, such as Artexing or heavy industrial painting.
With experience, you can progress to supervisory positions or move into related areas of work within a company, such as estimating and contract management. You can also train to specialise in restoration work. Another popular option is to set up as self-employed painter decorator and work on a sub-contract basis for organisations or private householders.
For households, painters and decorators use paint, varnishes and wallpaper to decorate rooms. They follow the client’s requests for colour, finishing texture and choice of wallpaper patterns. They apply the finishing touches to make homes look the business. Key tasks include:

  • measuring surface areas to work out paint or wall covering required
  • stripping off old wallpaper or paint
  • filling holes and cracks
  • preparing surfaces with primer and undercoat
  • mixing paint to the required shade
  • applying layers of paint and hanging wallpaper

Painters and decorators may apply more complex finishes to a job including Artexing, rag-rolling, graining and marbling.On an industrial job, painters work on structures like bridges or ships, using abrasive blasting methods to remove old coatings before applying new ones with industrial paint spraying equipment.

Hours and environment

Learndirect states that as an average painter and decorator you will work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday.
Work for a painter decorator will normally involve travelling from site to site, so a driving licence is really a necessity and if you plan to work for yourself you are likely to need a reliable van.

Painter and decorator skills and interests

Below are a few attributes that help to make a good painter / decorator:

  • have good practical and creative skills
  • have the ability to work accurately and have an appreciation for detail
  • be able to work alone and as part of a team
  • be comfortable working at height

Painter decorator training

You do not need any academic qualifications to become a painter and decorator but employers tend to prefer people with some on-site experience. Once you are working, your employer may offer you further training in painting and decorating. There are two main college courses that will give you some of the skills needed for the job:

  • City & Guilds Skills in Construction: Painting and Decorating (6212)
  • Intermediate/Advanced Construction Award in Decorative Occupations

Painter and decorator apprenticeshipsA common route for young people is to train as an apprentice, starting at 16 to 19 but entry may be possible up to 24. To be eligible, you may need some GCSEs/S grades in subjects such as maths, English and design and technology, or equivalent vocational qualifications such as Edexcel Introductory Certificate/Diploma in Construction which includes options in painting and decorating.
Visit for information on apprentice schemes and funding opportunities.
Once you are working as a painter decorator you will usually train on the job, with day or block release at a local college or training centre.
You can work towards NVQs/SVQs in Decorative Finishing and Industrial Painting Occupations levels 1 to 3. These are split into two main areas of study:

  • Painting and decorating – covering brush and roller techniques for interiors and exteriors, fitting and hanging wall coverings, decorative finishes and installing coving and centre pieces.
  • Industrial painting – working on industrial structures, preparation of work areas by special treatments and abrasive blasting and application of industrial finishes including paint spraying methods.

There is an optional unit at level 3 for restoration and conservation work, covering normal painting and decorating techniques but also advanced specialised finishes and detailed replica work.

Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)

By 2010, workers within the construction sector must hold a CSCS card or be registered with an affiliated scheme. Many construction firms and their clients already insist that workers hold a relevant CSCS card to work on site. To obtain a card, you must hold an NVQ/SVQ or acceptable equivalent and pass a health and safety assessment.
Your card is graded according to your qualifications and experience. If you have experience without formal qualifications, you can use On-Site Assessment and Training (OSAT) or the Experienced Worker Practical Assessment (EWPA) scheme to achieve a qualification.

Painter and decorator annual income

Guideline figures for painter decorator salaries:

  • New entrants between £13,500 and £16,500
  • Average salaries for qualified workers between £17,000 and £21,000
  • With supervisory duties or specialist skills you can earn over £22,000

Other sources of information

So if you wish to become a painter and decorator then please feel free to let us know your thoughts – has this information helped you and are there any other questions you’d like an answer to? Let us know…

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  • Reply
    Amanda Mcintosh
    1st April 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Hello, my name is Amanda McIntosh, I would like to know what kinds of educational skills you may need to complete the move of becoming a painter/ decorator apprentice?
    For example: math skills-area,volume,physics etc. or english-communication skills, reading,writing etc. or maybe computer skills-ms word,ms excel etc.
    Please contact me at with any information that will help me on my way to become a painter/ dectorator.
    Amanda. McIntosh.

  • Reply
    Louise Taylor
    1st April 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Hi Amanda
    Thank you for your comments:
    All the information you should need can be found in this article, where there are links to take you to further information sources.
    There are no hard and fast rules for the educational skills you need so I would say look into getting some training and speak with local painter decorators who may be interested in hiring an apprentice.
    Best of luck with your career.

  • Reply
    2nd June 2009 at 10:04 am

    hi i would like to no how i can get in to become a apprentice painter / decorator. As i have recently been laid off from work and this is something i have real passion for and want to do.

    • Reply
      3rd June 2009 at 3:13 pm

      Hello Jamie – I would get in touch with local colleges as a first step see what courses are avaliable. Colleges often have links to local businesses with apprentices etc, so this is a good place to start. Also visit your local authority and see a business adviser again these people have great contacts with local small business inc “Painter decorators”. On top of that have a ring around some local painters and decorators and see if they need some help, as the one thing you need more than anything at this stage is experience. If you use our local decorators search to help you.

  • Reply
    Painter Glasgow
    31st August 2009 at 9:44 pm

    For those thinking about becoming a Painter & Decorator, getting that first bit of experience is the most difficult part. But take it from me, it’s a hugely rewarding career choice – not financially but if you enjoy your work, it really does make all the difference.

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