How do I get a painter’s licence in NSW? [Australia 2023]

April 26, 2023

Our interview

how to get a painting licence

To help you understand what you need to get a painter's licence in NSW, Dan from PaintAccess and Maria from BorisDoes teamed up to interview industry expert Peter Higgs. The video is available in full right here:

What do you need to get a painter’s licence in NSW? | Interview with Peter Higgs from Ultimo TAFE.

Peter has been in the painting industry since 1984. He started teaching and assessing tradespeople in 1992 and later joined Ultimo TAFE as a full-time painting trades teacher. He has wide-ranging industry knowledge and technical skills, and has played a key role in shaping the painting industry in NSW for the last few decades. There's a good chance some of our customers and painting tradies were taught by Peter and they can attest to his experience and expertise.

To help you out even further, we have summarised the key parts of our interview with Peter:

What are the benefits of having a painter's licence?

Beyond being able to tell your customers and clients that you're a qualified tradesperson, having a painter's licence has a number of distinct benefits. In NSW, you need to be a licensed tradesperson to complete any construction industry work (interpreted broadly) valued at more than $5,000. Not having one means you need to stick to smaller jobs while licensed professional painters pick up those larger contracts.

Having a painting and decorating qualification and licence are often minimum requirements for joining professional associations like Master Painters Australia. Being a Master Painter, on top of being a licenced tradie, means being able to complete a wider range of jobs, including work for large institutions like government departments.

Peter also points out, "a lot of people especially in strata and builders now, and insurance companies, are wanting a licensed painter"- rewrite,  and says that if you don't have a licence, "you can’t do any work". Those organisations are far less likely to hire unlicensed painters and look for painting contractors who have relevant experience and qualifications.

What happens if your licence expires?

Peter makes it clear, too, that it's important to renew your current licence too. An expired licence is no more valuable than a non-existent licence. Manage your licence renewals or you risk having to go through the entire process again.

Training requirements

To obtain a NSW painter's licence you'll need a Certificate III in Painting and Decorating. There's a few different ways to get that qualification. You can go through a private educational institution and get a private certifier to assess your skills and competency for a Certificate III.

Or you can head to TAFE and complete one of the courses offered there. In our interview, Peter explains the various courses available

Three different ways to obtain your certificate

ways to obtain painting licence

  • The Skills Express Program is designed for non-residents of Australia (primarily recent migrants who want to transfer their skills). The course costs approximately $3,000 and is designed to include regular course material as well as gap training which - as the name suggests - is designed to address any gaps in your skills. At Ultimo TAFE, this program is offered with both day and night training configurations.
  • The Smart and Skilled Program is designed for those painters with more than 4 years' experience in the painting and decorating industry. While this course can be more expensive because the components are far more customised (up to $12,000) there are various government incentives to reduce this cost.

In both instances, recognition of prior learning (RPL) can be used to reduce the number of hours of study and practical training a student needs to undertake. RPL assessment considers previous study, other private training you have completed, overseas qualifications, and practical on-the-job experience and determines whether a combination of those things is enough to consider you competent in one or more of the certificate's 29 subjects.

  • Apprenticeship programs are designed to allow you to gain practical experience on site while completing both theory and practical study on campus. The Certificate III in Painting and Decorating includes 29 units of competency, including 26 core and 3 speciality units covering everything from running a business to airless spraying of specialist texture coatings.



Experience required

Course length



Skills Express Program

Some experience required (including overseas experience).

3 years part time

Approximately $3,000

Yes in some cases

Smart and Skilled Program

Around 4 years’ experience

3 years part time

Up to $12,000



No experience required

3-4 years alongside practical experience

$14,000+ though FEE-HELP is available.

Usually no

Peter recommends that those seeking to complete training with TAFE NSW have a construction induction card (white card) at a minimum. A white card certifies that you understand the basics of workplace health and safety and can work safely on a construction site. Because practical training elements of the Certificate III course include actual painting and decorating work, students are expected to have at least a basic understanding of workplace health and safety regulations and best practice.

Once you have completed the course requirements and have been awarded your Certificate III in Painting and Decorating you're considered a qualified painter.

Completing the course

Completing a Certificate III in Painting and Decorating involves a combination of theory and practical study and assessment, as well as recognition of prior learning (RPL) for those with previous experience in painting and decorating. For most people who seek a career in painting and decorating TAFE is a familiar pathway.

The course itself includes new modules like 30611 and 30620 and traditional painting trade concepts for those who want to establish themselves as the go-to tradie in their area when someone wants to give their house a fresh coat of paint.

Course content 

Course content covers everything from calculating the number of coatings by brush and minor repairs to paint, through to site and customer safety and steps for establishing a painting business like getting an ABN and buying public liability insurance.

Classroom study is still a component of the course, but Ultimo TAFE has a focus on practical skills development and leverages the previous experience of their teachers to deliver engaging course material that students will find meaningful and that professional painting contractors will respect.

Applying for a licence

Once you have the transcript of your Certificate III in Painting and Decorating, you can take that to your nearest Service NSW service centre and fill out the relevant application form. Peter explains that the process for getting your transcript and then certificate can take a few weeks.

The processing of licence applications can also take 3 - 4 weeks, which is longer than other licence types but is a result of the need for NSW Fair Trading (via Service NSW) to review your transcript and competencies. Once that has been done you will be notified that your painting licence has been approved and you should receive a licence card with details of your painter's licence.

About Ultimo TAFE...

As outlined, Peter is an experienced trades teacher and works for the highly regarded Ultimo TAFE in Sydney, which has long been recognised as a leading institution of trades teaching and learning. Ultimo TAFE were kind enough to lend Peter to us for this interview so that he could let us know about the training courses TAFE is currently offering. But Ultimo TAFE is much more than just painting certifications.

The institute has been providing high-quality training programs for over 130 years and offers a range of courses and services to cater to the diverse needs of students. Ultimo TAFE offers vocational education and training (VET) courses across business, engineering, hospitality, design, IT, health, and trades. They also offer a range of apprenticeships and traineeships that allow students to combine on-the-job training with off-the-job learning. Like all NSW TAFE institutes, Ultimo offers recognition of prior learning (RPL) which allows students to gain credit towards a qualification and reduce the time and cost of completing a course. Ultimo TAFE also offers a range of customised training solutions, short courses, and language, literacy, and numeracy (LLN) support.

Ultimo TAFE provides a range of services that cater to the diverse needs of students and employers. The institute's focus on hands-on training, industry-relevant skills, and customised solutions has made it a leading provider of vocational education and training in Australia. Whether you are looking to gain a qualification, upskill, or improve your language, literacy, or numeracy skills, Ultimo TAFE has a service that can help you achieve your goals.


We set out to complete this interview in an effort to help those interested in becoming licensed painter in NSW to understand what they need to do to obtain a painter's licence.

We're thankful to Peter for his time. If you have any questions, or you would like more information about completing a Certificate III in Painting and Decorating so that you can obtain a painter's licence, we have included contact details at the end of this post.

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