Painter and Decorator

Painters and decorators in the building industry are dedicated to achieving two main objectives - to provide the final finishes to buildings and to protect surfaces from dirt and damp.

Modern builders can consider painters and decorators to be among their most valued employees. This trade offers a wide spectrum of job opportunities to someone with an artistic inclination.

Painters and decorators put the finishing touches to new buildings, but are also called upon from time to time, to work on existing homes, offices, shops or public buildings that have to be renovated or redecorated. Painters are virtually the last people on site, which means that the actual finish of the building on which they are working is entirely in their hands. As a result, they must be craftsmen of the highest calibre, for they can either spoil or perfect the work of all the other trades that preceded them.

Painters and decorators paint, varnish or stain the indoor and outdoor walls, roofs, doors and window frames of buildings. They measure surfaces to be treated and determine quantities of the materials needed. They prepare surfaces by sanding, scraping or burning away old coverings (sometimes special chemicals need to be used) and fill nail holes, cracks or other problem areas with plaster, putty or other compounds. After applying a primer or sealer coat, they mix paints and match colours and then apply the paint or other coating evenly to the surface.

Painter and decorators may use rollers or spray guns rather than brushes, as these tools allow paint to dry more quickly. They also put up scaffolding or use swinging chairs when working on high buildings or other structures.

Personal Requirements

  • at least 16 years old
  • neat and well organised
  • good colour sense
  • enjoy working with your hands
  • numerical aptitude for finalising estimates
  • some artistic flair
  • manual dexterity and good eye-hand coordination
  • good health and stamina

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 9 Certificate
  • Grade 10 Certificate or N1 is recommended

What to Study

There are three ways to qualify as a registered artisan:

1. An apprenticeship is a fixed contract between company and apprentice, ranging in duration from between 18 months and 4 years. At the end of the contract, the apprentice writes a trade test leading to professional certification.

2. A learnership is a structured learning programme ranging from about a year to 3 years. A learnership comprises theoretical and practical training. Practical training is conducted on site (on the premises of the organisation). This has the advantage that the learner gets experience whilst training.

3. TVET colleges offer theoretical training to prospective artisans via the new National Certificate Vocational (NCV). During this 3-year programme (levels 2 to 4), learners complete a school-leaving certificate (NCV) similar to the new National Senior Certificate (NSC) in schools. They are also exposed to a practical workshop component.

All learners are required to complete a practical internship under the supervision of an experienced artisan. As an alternative to doing the full qualification, a learner can apply to do a skills programme at a TVET College. Skills programmes are short practical hands-on courses.

For more information about qualifications and skills programmes, contact your nearest TVET College. TVET Colleges are accredited and funded by a SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) such as MerSETA or ChietaSETA. They also receive bursary funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the NCV programme.


  • building trade and general contractors
  • government concerns
  • businesses that do their own construction and alteration work
  • restoration and renovation companies
  • private homeowners
  • self-employment, with the necessary experience can practise privately or start own business

Further Information

Construction Education Training Authority (CetaSETA)
Midrand Builders Centre
183 Kerk Street (cnr Old Pretoria Main Road)
Halfway House Midrand, 1685
Tel: (011) 265-5900

Master Builders South Africa (MBSA)
No. 1 Second Road
Midrand, South Africa   
Tel: (011) 205-9000

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a building company or painting contractor
  • arrange to speak to a painter and decorator about this type of career.
  • contact the Department of Labour about learnership possibilities in your area

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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