Though the word "painter" most commonly conjures the image of a fine artist, painters work in any many industries. Many work in construction and home maintenance. Those who work in manufacturing must often receive on-the-job training to properly operate painting and spraying machinery.
As of 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that fine artists working in the United States earned an average of $25.67 an hour and $53,400 a year, making them the highest-paid of all painters. Those working as independent artists averaged $49,930 a year. Those who managed to find work in the motion picture and video industries as set designers or in other capacities reported even higher annual earnings, an average of $65,980 a year.
Construction and Maintenance Painters:
Most painters -- about 185,000 as of 2011, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates -- work in construction and maintenance. Most of these work as building finishing contractors, earning an average of $38,020 a year. Painters who work primarily in the building and painting of highways and bridges earned an average of $44,080 per year in 2011. Those who worked for the government earned even more, an average of $48,260 a year for local workers and $49,830 for federal workers.
Transportation Equipment Painters:
Painters of transportation equipment earned a mean hourly wage of $20.69 and mean annual income of $43,040 in 2011. Aerospace manufacturing was one of the most lucrative industries for this occupation, where painters earned an average of $50,530 a year. Those working in railroad manufacturing averaged $42,980 a year, while those employed in the shipbuilding industry averaged just $39,290 a year. As for the automobile industry, painters working in motor vehicle manufacturing earned the most, an average of $49,830 a year. Those working in automobile dealerships averaged $45,420 a year, and painters in auto body shops made an average of $43,420 a year.
Painting, Coating and Decorating Workers:
Painting, coating and decorating workers tend to earn the lowest wages among painters. The average hourly wage for this occupation in 2011 was $13.21, and the average annual income was $27,480. Still, those employed by the federal government reported high average salaries of $51,320 a year, and those working in foundries averaged $44,080 a year. More typical earnings for this profession are those experienced by workers in furniture and cabinet manufacturing, who averaged $28,460 a year. Those working in clay product manufacturing averaged $24,370 a year, and those in the glass product manufacturing industry earned an average of $23,050 a year.