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I want to be a painter. What will my salary be?

Painters’ jobs can vary from painting houses to industrial locations to large structures such as bridges.

Marius Gheorghe Barzu/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Job: Painter

Role: Journeyperson painters – who have formal on-the-job training and designations – select, prepare and apply paint for a variety of different surfaces such as wood, concrete and steel. They work across a number of industries, painting residential and commercial buildings as well as industrial structures such as bridges and equipment. David Holmes, a painter and business manager at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 38, says he has painted almost everywhere – from homes to hospitals. He's also hung off bridges and transit stations in the Lower Mainland in B.C. where he's based.

Salary: Apprentices start at around $14 an hour and journeypersons can earn up to $40 an hour, plus overtime. Some employers offer competitive pension and extended health benefits in addition to wages, says Mr. Holmes. He says good painters can earn more than $100,000 a year.

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Education: To become a professional painter you need a Red Seal journeyperson ticket in painting and decorating. Mr. Holmes says most painters have completed a three-level apprenticeship program from a government-accredited training facility. During the apprenticeship, he says aspiring painters work with an experienced mentor to learn the skills of the trade first hand and get direct feedback on painting techniques and procedures. Most painters are also constantly upgrading their skills, Mr. Holmes says. For example, industrial painters may also seek a Coating Application Specialist 2 (CAS2) certificate from The Society for Protective Coatings. "Career-long skills upgrading and safety training is important to the development of an efficient journeyperson painter," he says.

Job prospects: "Every single structure will be painted and repainted at some point," says Mr. Holmes. That, coupled with the number of baby boomers retiring from the work force, should mean growing demand for painters in the future, as long as the economy is expanding. "Painters are an integral part of the finishing trades," says Mr. Holmes. "Whether working on new construction or maintenance and repairs, there are opportunities for a hardworking journeyperson painter and decorator throughout Canada." For example, he says industrial painters are finding a lot of work in Canada's natural resource sector right now.

Challenges: You need to be fit and feel comfortable working in different environments, whether it's high up on a building outside in the summer heat or inside an industrial tank. Painters also need good communication skills. "In the construction building process, painting usually comes last so having the ability to communicate clearly is key to keeping a harmonious workplace," says Mr. Holmes.

Why they do it: Painters like the varied work environments and seeing a finished product, says Mark Tenbroek, head instructor for painting at the Finishing Trades Institute of BC. "You get to see what you've done at the end of the day … There's a creative outlet to it as well," he says.

Misconceptions: It's not all brushing and rolling on paint in homes. The work is a lot more varied across structures and industries and can be highly technical, says Mr. Tenbroek. "Many people don't understand how vast the trade really is," he says.

Give us the scoop: Are you a painter? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to careerquestion@globeandmail.com and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.

Want to read more stories from our Salaries Series? Find more here.

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