Do Qualifications Matter in Decorating?

Updated May 9, 2024 | Posted Mar 20, 2021 | Professional insight, Business | 1 comment

Does it matter whether or not a professional decorator has any formal qualifications? We thought we’d ask a few decorators what they think. This is what they came back with-

Right, here’s my view on whether or not qualifications matter in decorating. This may be a long post, so get comfy

Firstly, I’m the best chancer in Birmingham 💪

I’ve no qualifications and couldn’t read or write until in my late 20’s

I never had the opportunity to go to college or do an apprenticeship due to me being a child runaway and living in the streets. What I have done I spent a lot of time over the years with some really talented people which homed my skills as a decorator.

I had a few years out of the trade while working in the motor industry, where I worked my way up to an assessor again. I had no qualifications but managed to pass an assessors exam with distinction that had a 95% fail rate.

Back in the trade now and have been for a few years. I’m still not qualified, but doing really well for myself. I’m a self-employed decorator, booked up for a few months and get plenty of repeat clients. People say running a decorating business isn’t easy, but it just comes naturally to me.

I’ve worked with qualified & unqualified painter and decorators and believe me, some of the unqualified decorators were far better than any of those with a bit of paper.

Just because you’ve passed a course doesn’t make you a great decorator

Would I have done an apprenticeship or C&G given the opportunity? Probably yes, I would but I couldn’t, so here I am – unqualified

Time to stop this bollox, you can either do it or you can’t, with or without papers

I’ve had a good few qualified guys come to help me and most were useless. Some had no product knowledge at all.

I’ve also had to put right plenty jobs that qualified painters had done 🤷‍♂️

A piece of paper does not make you a better person than me !

John Reagan

Professional Decorator


I got in to decorating purely by chance and I don’t see the point in getting an NVQ.

It wasn’t a decision

I was only meant to be helping out labouring for a week whilst on the dole

I was kept on at a rough firm full of toshers for over a year and I learnt basic things including products, materials etc

I then struck lucky with a local decorator who taught me how to do it properly and to good standards

He was a twit of a boss who gave me a lot of grief. Almost like a drill sergeant lol

I doubt anyone would put up with him nowadays

But he got there though over the course of a few months

He was also the best role model and decorator and new his stuff 30 odd years ago

I never got any certificates or anything

I left school with nothing

I’ve Not done too bad considering

I often wonder what may have happened if it wasn’t for the weeks work cash in hand whilst on the dole in 1983.

I might have ended up a sparky!!

John Swinton

Professional Decorator

I’m qualified, but I never went to collage. I was taken on by a decorator when I was 18 and stayed with him for roughly 6 years. He went out of his way to teach me every aspect of the trade. I’d like to think I was a proper decorator at the end of that 6-year stint.

I wasted a few years doing bits and pieces, then got back into the trade. Still no qualifications until roughly 10 years ago when I decided to spread my wings and become self-employed. I wanted the qualification for my own piece of mind, so I applied for on sight assessment. It was nice and easy to complete. The assessor could tell straight away that I could do the job. He tested my product knowledge on a few things, asked me about the process of applying different systems and how to improve longevity. He even went into how I quoted for works and visited a few of my jobs.

I was awarded an NVQ level 2 which entitled me to something I’m sure. I’ve never used it though and I’m no better off for it.

The point is, I understand some decorators are proud of their qualifications, but I don’t think it sets a tradesman apart from anyone else. You can either do the job or you can’t.

Mike Cupit

Professional Decorator


Beginners, gardeners, and other amateurs.

I see a lot of criticism from decorators on the DFUK Facebook forum directed at people asking so-called “beginners questions”, usually followed with the predictable ‘gardener’ insult.

I’m not a qualified decorator and only do it as part of my property maintenance business (which does include gardening), so would probably be put in the “gardener” category.

Yesterday I was painting the underside of a coach house. A year ago, I’d have just slapped a coat of Sandtex masonry paint on it and job done.

Having asked on the DFUK Facebook forum, I got some decent advice. So, for this job, I ended up using Johnstone’s Pliolite masonry paint, properly prepped and cleaned the area, applied is nicely with my Hamilton perfection roller, really took care in cutting in, and took pride in what I did.

All my work now is a much higher standard and I’m taking a lot of pride in that. I’m even going to buy a Mirka to sand interior walls, even though my clients (landlords) aren’t bothered at all.

Yes, there are a lot of beginners with ‘dumb’ questions, but we are all learning and surely you all want the decorating trade to be as professional as possible? I’m much better thanks to the advice on here, I’m not taking your work away from you, but I am giving the trade a better name and a bit more respect.

There’s a good balance of skill levels here and a lot of knowledge. Let’s keep helping each other regardless of how much we know and give this trade the reputation it deserves. Handymen and multi-trades can make awesome decorators.

Rob Mayer

Professional Decorator

Back in the day, to get a decorating job on a decorators wage, you were required to be time served & fully qualified to City & Guilds Advanced Craft.

Otherwise, you were a brush hand & were paid peanuts.

Then the EU stepped in & everything went out of the window.

(( a bit about CSCS cards as it’s relevant ))

If I wanted to get my CSCS card I would only be required to do the first aid portion, so a couple of days on a course

Whereas the Brush hands are required to attend a 2-week course to cover the basics of the other crap, H&S amongst others

Now that we are finally out of the EU, there’s rumour of going down the road the US use, which is having to apply for licences to carry out works be it private work, or whatever.

Therefore, as in US, if you aren’t Time served & Have the qualifications you will not get the licence to carry out the work.


Time served – 7 years

Advanced Craft – 3 Years

LCG – 2 Years

2 Modules – measurement & Costing

Colour & Design


Retiring soon

1/2 Million £ house – paid for

1/4 Million £ Pension Pot


I was going to retire next month when I reach 55 but I love my craft so may just go part time for a while,

Otherwise I’ll seize up 😂

Kenny Smith

Professional Decorator

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Updated May 9, 2024 | Posted Mar 20, 2021 | 1 comment

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.
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1 Comment

  1. martin pace

    I actually teach construction qualifications at college and have done so for nearly 2 decades.
    A very large proportion of youngsters that come on the courses present as not likely to work in the trade any time soon after completing their courses – simply because they are ‘forced’ to remain in education and they pick construction courses because they think they are easy/non academic OR there simply are no other courses suitable for them because they under achieved in school.
    It mostly boils down to having good guidance/training from your employer – if you produce work to a good standard and present yourself well that should get you to where you need to be IMO.


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