Paint Sprayer

The Job and What's Involved

Paint sprayers apply paints, lacquers, varnishes or coating powders to wood, plastic, glass or metal. They could work in construction, in manufacturing and repairing vehicles, or in engineering.

Paint sprayers, depending on which sector they work in, could be applying finishes to vehicles, white goods (such as ovens and dishwashers), yellow goods (such as mechanical diggers and fork-lift trucks), wooden furniture, and everyday items such as telephones, computers and even reading glasses. They could also be spraying steel structures such as ships and bridges, or the interior and exterior of buildings.

Paints and other finishes are needed to prevent rust, decay and general wear and tear, and to give surfaces an attractive finish.

Hand spraying may be carried out in vehicle bodyshops, railway workshops, aircraft workshops, and general manufacturing paintshops. Machine spraying may be carried out in dedicated spray areas on production lines.

Whatever the particular object being sprayed, the job will involve:

  • Setting up spray equipment correctly.
  • Making sure materials are processed and mixed to the right specification.
  • Working carefully to avoid contaminating materials (especially with coating powder used straight from the box).
  • Following written instructions and drawings for the type of finish required.
  • Preparing surfaces and masking parts that are not to be sprayed.
  • Applying a primer coat of paint, followed by a finishing coat - there may be several coats in between.
  • Following strict safety regulations to reduce the chance of environmental pollution or health risks.

They may use hand sprays, usually operated by compressed air, or operate industrial machinery which applies the paint automatically. This may be programmed by the paint sprayer, often using computer technology. All parts of the item being sprayed need to be given an even coat, so an important part of the work is to monitor the amount and thickness of the paint being sprayed.

Increasingly, paint spraying is done using automated machinery, and part of this job involves cleaning and maintaining the machinery, during and after use.

Paint sprayers usually work around 40 hours a week, and there may be shift work. There may be times when they have to work outside normal hours or work overtime to make sure a job is finished on schedule.

In production jobs, most work is carried out in controlled conditions, usually in specially designed paint or powder booths which have extra ventilation and may be set aside from the rest of a factory. Construction site paint sprayers mainly work outdoors. They often work from ladders or raised platforms.

Spraying can involve standing, bending and stretching. The work may be smelly and the chemicals used can be toxic and inflammable.

Sprayers wear air-fed breathing apparatus and special clothing including masks, goggles and gloves to protect their skin, eyes and respiratory system.

This work may not be suitable for people with allergies, or breathing problems such as asthma.

Trained and skilled paint sprayers working in workshops and production may start on around £12,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most paint sprayers work in the manufacturing, maintenance, transport and construction industries.

Most opportunities are with large manufacturers and specialist coating firms. Opportunities with small firms exist, but many now subcontract work to larger companies who can afford to meet the strict environmental protection regulations. In the UK, around 30,000 companies apply finishes to manufactured goods.

Jobs are advertised in the local press, Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices. Some more senior jobs may be advertised in the journal Finishing and the magazines Surface World and Product Finishing.

Education and Training

There are no formal academic requirements for a career as a paint sprayer. GCSEs/S grades in English, maths and a technology subject may be helpful.

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has a pre-Apprenticeship programme for students aged 14 to 16. The scheme offers a fast-track progression route onto a full Apprenticeship with recognised Level 1 Technical Certificates within the Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships frameworks.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) offers a full range of courses and construction Apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training is in the workplace under the supervision of experienced sprayers. Apprentices may work towards NVQ's/SVQ's Levels 1 and 2 in Performing Manufacturing Operations or Performing Engineering Operations, of which some sections are relevant to production paint spraying. NVQ/SVQ Levels 2 and 3 in Painting and Decorating contain units relevant to paint spraying in the construction industry.

The Institute of Metal Finishing (IMF) offers courses in paint and powder coatings and automotive finishing. Candidates need a basic knowledge of maths and chemistry. Courses lead to a Foundation Certificate or Module Certificate. Completion of certain modules leads to the award of a Technician Certificate. Courses are available through distance learning, with some practical work and tutorials.

In the construction industry, equipment and coatings manufacturers provide most training on behalf of employers. Training is normally in the form of a two or three-day course at a manufacturer's training centre. CITB approved courses are available and recognised throughout the industry.

The Institute of the Motor Industry/Thatcham offers Bodyshop Technician Accreditation, which involves completing a full day's practical assessment of a technician's skills, held at the Thatcham training centre in Berkshire. There are three routes: fitter, panel and paint; and three levels: technician, senior technician and master technician.

Featured Job Guide - Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabout

Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.

Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.


Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Paint sprayers need to:

  • Have a steady hand and good co-ordination.
  • Be able to work accurately and pay attention to detail.
  • Be able to handle technical equipment.
  • Be able to work methodically.
  • Be able to follow instructions and keep written records.
  • Be responsible and work safely.
  • Work on their own initiative, and as part of a team.
  • Have normal colour vision.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion options depend on the type and size of company. In a paintshop, the usual route is to paintshop supervisor. Major manufacturers may have opportunities in paint manufacture and development.

Construction paint sprayers may be able to work overseas on large projects, such as bridges, ships and oil rigs.

Paint sprayers with relevant qualifications and experience may be able to work in quality control, health and safety, and production and works management. There is also some scope for self-employment.

Get Further Information

The Institute of Metal Finishing (IMF),
Exeter House, 48 Holloway Head,
Birmingham B1 1NQ
Tel: 0121 622 7387

The Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI),
Fanshaws, Brickendon,
Hertford SG13 8PQ
Tel: 01992 511 521
Website: and

The Surface Engineering Association (SEA),
including the Paint and Powder Finishing Association (PPFA),
Federation House, 10 Vyse Street,
Birmingham B18 6LT
Tel: 0121 237 1123

Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association,
Belmont House, Finkle Lane,
Gildersome, Leeds LS27 7TW
Tel: 0113 253 8333

Other Related Jobs

Additional resources