SSPC Protective Coating Specialist

SSPC Protective Coating Specialist Certification

SSPC Protective Coatings Specialist (SSPC PCS)

The SSPC Protective Coatings Specialist (SSPC PCS) certification recognizes those individuals who demonstrate a broad depth of knowledge in the protective coatings industry. An SSPC PCS may be involved in specification writing or review, development or review of work plans, development or review of submittal documents, quality assurance, failure investigation, and repair recommendations.

The Protective Coatings Specialist certification program (PCS) identifies and awards recognition to individuals who have in-depth knowledge in the principles and practices of industrial coatings technology.

Who should pursue and apply?

Those with an SSPC PCS certification understand the mechanisms and effects of corrosion for a variety of materials and understand the role coatings play in corrosion control.

Certification holders should also exhibit competence in management and planning of contracts for new construction and maintenance painting, economic analysis, and implementation of environmental and safety regulations and controls.

Purchase Exam Recertification Information

How to achieve certification

  1. Achieve work experience and course and exam requirements

    Option A:
    5 years coating experience, Bachelor’s Degree, C1 Course, and C2 Course completion

    Option B:
    7 years coating experience, Associate’s Degree, C1 Course, and C2 Course completion

    Option C:
    10 years coating experience, HS Diploma / GED, C1 Course, and C2 Course completion

    Option D:
    15 years coating experience, C2 Course completion

  2. Meet certification requirements

    Submit SSPC PCS Application

    Submit (3) professional references

  3. Sit for the exam

    Certification Exam-SSPC PCS Exam

SSPC Protective Coatings Specialist Exam Preparation Guide

PCS Exam Information

Candidates must complete a comprehensive multiple choice and essay question exam and pass with a 70% or better. The Certification is valid for four years, subject to verification of current status as a protective coatings professional. For more information about the PCS Exam see the section below and the sample test questions.

Purchase Exam


Mechanisms of metal corrosion; common types of corrosion; methods of corrosion control.


Mechanisms of corrosion control by coatings; desired film properties; coating components and their functions; mechanisms of coating film formation; comparison of generic coating types; selection of coating systems.


Preparing surfaces before cleaning; surface contaminants causing early coating deterioration; surface preparation methods; recommended removal methods for different contaminants; standards for cleaned steel surfaces; visual aids to surface cleanliness; level of cleanliness required for different coatings; air abrasive blasting equipment; centrifugal blasting equipment; surface profile and blasting abrasives; and blast cleaning procedures.


Brush, roller, and spray application; application of coatings that cure by fusion; handling of paints; application temperatures and humidities; achieving desired film thickness; recommended spraying procedures; coating application defects.


Selecting surface preparation for steel; coating systems appropriate for steel; selection of coating systems by environmental zone; coatings for atmospheric zones; coatings for immersion and marine service; coatings for buried steel; coatings for high-temperature surfaces.


Components of concrete; similar features of all cementitious surfaces; placement of concrete; reasons for coating concrete; pre-coating materials applied to cementitious surfaces; coatings for cementitious surfaces; surface preparation for coating; inspection of coating application.


The specification and its contents; responsibilities of the inspector; monitoring the ambient conditions; pre-surface preparation inspection; post-surface preparation inspection; pre-painting inspection; inspection of paint application.


The corporate coatings program; planning for programmed painting; contracting for coatings work; specifying and testing coating materials; project roles and responsibilities; quality assurance: formal systems; quality control and coating inspection.


Engineering standards for protective coatings; specifications for coatings systems; preparing a coatings specification.


Corrosion and its prevention; selection of construction materials; alternate construction materials; coatings and linings; economic considerations in coatings system selection.


Coordinating and scheduling new construction projects; coating systems selection; shop and field painting; maintenance painting; facility condition survey and analysis; selecting coating systems for maintenance; implementation of the maintenance plan.


Contractor qualification; competitive bidding; project management and inspection.


Causes of coating failures; consequences of coating failure; investigating the cause of failure; laboratory analysis of coating failures; responsibility for failure and repairs.


Environmental regulations affecting the coatings industry; regulating hazardous materials; worker safety and health; OSHA general and construction industry standards; specifying and complying with regulation; hazard communication; hazards from toxic materials and operations; surface preparation hazards and safety requirements; paint application hazards and safety requirements; hazards in high, confined, and remote places; personal protective equipment; other safety issues.

SSPC staff will grade the exams. Candidates will be notified in writing of their pass/fail results within sixty days after the exam date. Passing score for the exam is seventy percent or better.

A candidate has the right to appeal the exam results. The certification panel will resolve any disputes, which arise from the grading of the exams. The results of the panel’s review by majority vote of the exam’s grade shall be considered final and binding.

The exam is revised periodically. Revisions may affect the format of the exam or the % balance of subject areas covered by the exam.

PCS Emeritus
PCS individuals who are retired from the coating industry may qualify for the status of PCS Emeritus. Contact

Renewal Policies
Certification is valid for four years, subject to verification of current status as a practicing industrial protective coatings professional. To re-certify for each four-year period, you must comply with the certification renewal policy.

SSPC Protective Coatings Specialists are required to demonstrate significant, continuing involvement in the protective coatings industry. Such involvement is demonstrated through continuing education and professional work experience.

PCS 4th year recertification requires that the Protective Coatings Specialists satisfy the Recertification Process. This is met by accumulating a minimum of 32 Recertification Units (RU) during the four-year term of certification (from issue date to expiration date) by following PCS Recertification Track 1 or PCS Recertification Track 2 . Recertification Units (RU) are defined as continuing employment and involvement in industry events which provide additional coatings training or activities which demonstrate your commitment to keep up-to-date on coatings technology. In order to make it easy for a PCS to track the Recertification Units SSPC has developed a Recertification Spreadsheet to fill out during the 4 year term. Please contact Silvia Palmieri to get the spreadsheet.

Failure to return a completed renewal form, attestation, or pay fees, will result in loss of PCS certification.

Renewal at the Four-Year Term
Renewal notices are mailed to the last known address of each individual at least 90 days before the certification’s expiration date. (The certified individual is responsible for updating SSPC of any change in personal or contact information. SSPC cannot be held responsible for de-certifications resulting from incorrect addresses, etc.)

Renewal Application Form: Click here for Application

Recertification will occur at the 4th year renewal of a PCSs certification. SSPC will provide PCSís reminders about completing the forms via online emails every six months.
Paperwork required at the 4th year renewal:

  1. Attestation that the individual is in compliance with the standards of professional practice and has not been subject to disciplinary action.
  2. Recertification Worksheet.
  3. Fee of $250 (member rate) every four years. Non-member fee is $450.
  4. Submit a photo ID

SSPC will provide a photo wallet card and a certificate upon completion of the 4th year recertification process. If you have any questions on the new recertification process, please contact PCS Certification Administration at 1-877-281-7772 ext 2201 or email at .

Failure to return a completed renewal form, attestation, or pay fees, will result in loss of PCS certification.

Continuing Education Requirement 
PCS certification renewal requires that the Protective Coating Specialist satisfy a Recertification Units Requirement. This is met by accumulating a minimum of 32 points during the four-year term of certification (from issue date to expiration date).

Standards of Professional Practice 
To maintain the high standard of skills and practice in the protective coatings industry, SSPC Protective Coatings Specialists are required to:

  • Be objective, thorough, and factual in any report or statement pertaining to the protective coatings industry
  • Avoid involvement in any dishonest venture
  • Act in all ways with complete integrity in professional matters
  • Undertake assignments only when qualified by training, experience, and capability.

Disciplinary Action
Documented infractions in professional conduct may result in suspension or revocation of certification.

Disciplinary actions may include issuance of a reprimand, suspension, or revocation of certification for up to one year. Recommendations for disciplinary actions are initiated by the SSPC program administrator, followed by concurrence by a majority of the certification panel or oversight body (such as SSPC Board of Governors).

Decertified individuals are no longer permitted to use the title of Protective Coatings Specialist or their certification ID number. This includes, but not limited to: business cards, letterhead, correspondence, etc. No Exceptions.

The formerly certified individual’s name and information will be removed from the SSPC web site. A de-certified individual is not eligible for any benefit of the certification, present or future.

Reinstatement of Certification
An individual, who has been de-certified due to a failure to submit the annual maintenance paperwork and/or fees before the certification expiration, must take the following steps to reinstate:

Reinstatement within 90 days after expiration

  • Pay reinstatement fee in addition to renewal fee

Reinstatement greater than 90 days after expiration, but before end of original 4-year certification term

  • Complete another application and pay reinstatement fee in addition to the renewal fee

Reinstatement after the original 4-year term has expired

  • Reapply as a new applicant, pay all associated fees, and re-take and pass the certification exam.

Requests for reinstatements for individuals de-certified due to other reasons defined in this policy, must be in writing and will be reviewed by the certification panel.

  • A final determination will be made on a case by case basis.

Sample PCS Examination Questions

The comprehensive certification examination and calculation questions consists of multiple choice, matching, essay, and material estimating questions. Questions are chosen primarily from the material covered in the C-1 and C-2 courses and from the suggested readings. Some of the questions can be answered from knowledge acquired by working in the coatings industry. Many of the questions require knowledge of several different subject areas.

Multiple Choice - give best answer

1. Which of the materials listed below is commonly used to make impressed current anodes for cathodic protection?

  • a. High-purity zinc
  • b. High-silicon cast iron
  • c. Electrolytic-grade magnesium
  • d. Titanium alloy


2. Which of the generic coating types listed below is recommended for service in sea water immersion?

  • a. Epoxy polyamide
  • b. Epoxy ester
  • c. Silicone alkyd
  • d. Acrylic emulsion


3. What is the upper limit for shadows, streaks, or stains allowed on steel abrasive blast cleaned to a near-white condition?

  • a. 0%
  • b. 5%
  • c. 33%
  • d. 50%


4. Which if the following spray painting methods listed below has the highest transfer efficiency?

  • a. Conventional air spray
  • b. Airless spray
  • c. High-volume low-pressure spray
  • d. Electrostatic spray


5. For what purpose is a plastic sheet test used?

  • To prevent early flash rusting
  • To test for coating cure
  • To determine if concrete is dry enough for coating
  • To detect efflorescence


6. Which of the following is NOT a type of payment for coating contracts?

  • a. Stage payment
  • b. Balloon payment
  • c. Incentive payment
  • d. Penalty payment


7. Who is normally responsible for preparation of a specification for a coating job?

  • a. An independent inspector
  • b. The general contractor
  • c. The owner
  • d. The coating contractor


8. Which of the following SSPC documents addresses maintenance painting?

  • a. PA 1
  • b. PA 3
  • c. PA 4
  • d. PA 5


9. Which of the following is a type of coating failure related to aging?

  • a. Blushing
  • b. Undercutting
  • c. Cratering
  • d. Wrinkling


10. How often are proposed regulations published in the Federal Register?

  • a. Daily
  • b. Weekly
  • c. Monthly
  • d. Annually


Match the structure with a likely coating or treatment:

  1. Steel piping (atmospheric service)
  2. Bridge in a severe environment
  3. Lining for a chemical storage tank
  4. Ships, to prevent fouling
  5. New marine pilings


    * A. Three coats epoxy-polyamide; two coats coal tar epoxy 

    * B. FRP, vinyl ester; or epoxy resin, depending on specific product

    * C. Petrolatum paste; microcrystalline wax, tape

    * D. Organic zinc-rich primer; epoxy-polyamide midcoat; aliphatic polyurethane topcoat

    * E. Copper oxide polymer


Essay Questions:

  1. Discuss the differences in surface profiles produced by round steel shot and steel grit.


  1. Briefly describe the capabilities of at least two (2) laboratory instruments in conducting a coating failure analysis.


  1. State in writing at least six (6) technical problems resulting from specification deficiencies that could adversely effect a coatings project.


  1. Facility management has decided to repair damaged coatings on a power plant structure before damage to the substrate occurs. What are at least six (6) basic factors involved in deciding between spot repair and full overcoating?


  1. Discuss the advantages and limitations of abrasive blast cleaning, high-pressure water jetting, and power tool cleaning in the removal of existing coatings containing hazardous metals such as lead or cadmium. For each of these three cleaning systems, discuss at least two (2) advantages and at least two (2) disadvantages.



  1. A painter needs to apply a coating with 50% solids by volume at 4 mils dry-film-thickness. In order to do this, what should the wet-film-thickness measure be on his British wet-film-thickness gage? (answer in microns)


  1. A manufacturer's data sheet indicates that when its coating is thinned by 10%, application at 5 mils WFT will result in 3.5 DFT. What is the % solids by volume of the coating?


  1. A laboratory analysis of a new coating indicated that it had 75% total solids by weight and 35% pigment by weight. From these data, calculate the % of binder in the vehicle portion of the coating.


  1. A painter is to coat the 20,000 square feet interior of a steel tank with a coating containing 80 % solids by volume at 4 mils dry film thickness. Assuming a 10% loss of coating during the work, how much coating would be required to complete the work?


  1. A coating was found by laboratory analysis to contain 25% solvent by volume. What is its theoretical spreading rate at 4 mils DFT when thinned by 10%?




Multiple Choice: 1) B, 2) A, 3) B, 4) D, 5) C, 6) B, 7) C, 8) C and/or D, 9) B, 10) A


Matching: 1) C, 2) D, 3) B, 4) E, 5) A


Essay: There are multiple ways to answer the essay questions.Calculations: 1) 200 microns, 2) 77%, 3) 61.5%, 4) 69 gallons, 5) 273 per gallon

About the SSPC PCS Certification

Certification attests to the professional credibility of the coatings practitioner and raises the standards of the protective coatings profession.

Obtaining a PCS Certification demonstrates mastery in:

  • Assessment of coatings systems
  • Development of coatings specifications
  • Surface preparation and coatings applications
  • Economics of coatings
  • Contract planning and management
  • Coating failure analysis
  • Inspection


To maintain your status as an SSPC Protective Coatings Specialist, submit a new photo, along with your completed recertification forms.

Your Certification will be updated with a new 4-year term, and a Certification Letter, Certificate, and a new wallet card will be mailed to you as soon as your recertification information received and processed.

Please visit the SSPC PCS Protective Coatings Specialist Recertification page for complete details.