Although most plasterers and stucco masons learn informally on the job, a few learn their trade through a formal apprenticeship.
Most plasterers and stucco masons learn through long-term on-the-job training after being hired. Workers typically gain experience by doing jobs under the guidance of experienced workers. For example, they learn how to mix and apply coats of plaster or stucco.
A few plasterers and stucco masons learn through 3- or 4-year apprenticeships. For each year of a program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of related technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. Apprentices learn construction basics such as blueprint reading, mathematics, building code requirements, safety, and first-aid practices.
After completing an apprenticeship program, plasterers and stucco masons are considered journey workers who may perform tasks on their own.
Several groups sponsor apprenticeship programs, including unions and contractor associations. The basic qualifications for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:
Some contractors have their own plasterer and stucco mason training programs. While some workers enter apprenticeships directly, many begin as helpers.
Although there are no formal educational requirements, taking high school courses in math, shop, mechanical drawing, and blueprint reading is considered to be helpful.
Some organizations related to masonry trades offer training and certification intended to enhance the skills of their members. For example, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers’ International Masonry Institute offers certifications in several areas of specialization, including one for plastering. Candidates who complete a 12-week certification program become a “journey level plasterer” by passing a competency-based exam. Experienced candidates can become a “Certified Instructor for Journeyworkers and Apprentices in the Trowel Trades.”
Creativity/Artistic ability. Interior plasterers who apply decorative and ornamental finishes should have a degree of artistic ability so they can make designs or match decorations.
Hand-eye coordination. Workers need to be able to apply smooth, even coats of plaster. Plasterers transfer plaster from hawks to trowels and then spread it on the wall.
Physical strength. Workers need to be strong enough to hold a hawk—a square board with a handle on the bottom—loaded with plaster in one hand while troweling with the other.
Stamina. Because workers apply plaster and stucco from floor to ceiling, they must have enough endurance to spend many hours on their feet while bending and reaching.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition