Painter and decorator

Construction and building

Career outlook for painter and decorator

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would decorate and protect surfaces such as plaster, metal and wood to create pleasant spaces for people to live and work in.

You could work on everything from redecorating living rooms to painting large structures like bridges.

When working in a home, you would use paint, varnishes and wallpaper to decorate rooms. You would follow instructions about colours, textures and wallpaper patterns.

You would:

  • Measure areas to work out how much paint or wall covering you need
  • Strip off old wallpaper or paint
  • Fill holes and cracks and make sure surfaces are level
  • Prepare surfaces with primer and undercoat
  • Mix paint to the right shade, either by hand or using computerised colour-matching equipment
  • Apply layers of paint and hang wallpaper
  • Tidy up after finishing a job

On some jobs you might apply specialist finishes such as rag rolling, graining and marbling. You would often work from ladders or raised platforms to reach ceilings.

For industrial projects, such as bridges or ships, you would remove old paintwork with abrasive blasting methods before applying new coatings using industrial paint spraying equipment. You would use a cradle or safety harness when working.

Paints and solvents give off fumes, so you may have to wear a protective mask or use fume extraction equipment on some jobs.

You’d need a good awareness of health and safety issues for this role.

Working conditions


You would work around 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Extra hours may be necessary to meet deadlines.


You would mostly be working indoors decorating the insides of homes and business. Sometimes you might also need to work on the outsides of structures, however.


You would be expected to travel from site to site and some jobs may require overnight stays away from home. You would usually transport your equipment in a van.

UK employment status





Self employed


Create a qualification route

We've found some examples of the qualifications that could help you get this job.

Discover my route

Search course options

Thinking about your future? There are lots of courses available that could interest you. Use our course search to explore course options.

Find courses

Search job opportunities

If you're looking for your new career our job search can help you. Discover interesting opportunities and decide your next steps.

Find a job

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Cooperating
  • Creative
  • Observation
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Time management

Skills Explorer

Your skills can help you choose the career that's right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

Our Skills Explorer tool will help you understand what skills you have and match them to jobs that might suit you.

Use the Skills Explorer tool

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


You would need a Modern Apprenticeship leading to relevant qualifications such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification Decorative Finishing Occupations (Construction): Painter and Decorator (SVQ level 3).

You must register with the Scottish Painting and Decorating Apprenticeship Council (SPADAC) or the Scottish Building Apprenticeship Training Council (SBATC).

You do not always need formal qualifications for an apprenticeship but four Standard Grades or National 4s (SCQF level 4) or National 5s (SCQF level 5) are sometimes required. You usually have to pass an aptitude test before entry an apprenticeship.

Some employers may ask for qualifications at SCQF level 4/5. 

Useful subjects

  • Maths
  • Practical technologies
  • English
  • Art and design subjects

You will also need

  • A Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card or equivalent safety passport, and pass a health and safety test to train or work on construction sites
  • A driving licence, for some jobs

Helpful to have

Qualifications that show understanding of the industry and practical skills such as Skills for Work Construction Crafts (SCFQ level 4/5).