Protective Coatings Specialist (PCS)2020-03-27T00:31:16+00:00


SSPC’s Protective Coatings Specialist certification recognizes those individuals who demonstrate a broad depth of knowledge in the protective coatings industry. The 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.

Recent versions of the Unified Facilities Guide Specifications list the PCS as one of the QC Specialists designated to perform Special Inspections on the project.


Level: Advanced
Duration: .5 day / 4 hours (written exam only)
Exam Times: 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM (or as scheduled)
Cost: Member $500 | Non-member $700
Credits: N/A
Certification Term: 4 years
Prerequisites: Yes
Please Note: Pricing displayed is for USA and Canada, if you are outside of that region, please contact your
local SSPC-licensed training provider for accurate pricing.
More Information


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.


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

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


Applicants should understand the mechanisms and effects of corrosion for a variety of materials and be knowledgeable of the role coatings play in industrial corrosion control.

The prospective Protective Coatings Specialist 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.

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 click on the items below.


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.

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?
A. To prevent early flash rusting
B. To test for coating cure
C. To determine if concrete is dry enough for coating
D. 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


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

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

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

4. 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?

5. 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)

2. 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?

3. 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.

4. 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?

5. 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


What is the deadline for applications, where are the actual exams?2019-11-13T20:43:30+00:00

In order to guarantee that SSPC will have time to process your application, SSPC must receive the complete application (fees, application, and reference forms) at least two weeks prior to the date of the exam. Applications received closer than two weeks to the date of the exam will still be processed, but SSPC cannot guarantee that the processing will be complete before the date of the exam. Once an application is reviewed, SSPC will notify the candidate of the application status. If the application is accepted, the time, date, and location of the exam for the candidate can be scheduled.

Can I buy a copy of the course manuals?2019-11-13T20:43:59+00:00

There is no course manual available to purchase.

I can’t make it to any of the exams on the published schedule, what are my options? Or, will there be an exam scheduled in my area?2019-11-13T20:46:36+00:00

Candidates can schedule an appointment to take the exam at SSPC headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA or travel to one of the scheduled locations posted. Candidates can also arrange for SSPC to locate a proctor for the exam. Candidates should contact SSPC to make these arrangements.

If I have 15 years experience, do I have to take the courses?2019-11-13T20:47:11+00:00

Candidates who can document (and SSPC can verify) 15 years of substantial experience in protective coatings, will qualify for exemption from the formal training requirement. SSPC highly recommends that candidates take C1, Fundamentals of Protective Coatings for Industrial Structures, and C2 Specifying and Managing Protective Coatings Projects, as preparation for the exam. To assist candidates, C1 is now offered as a distance learning course via the Internet.

How does SSPC’s certification compare to NACE International’s inspector’s certification? Is there “grandfathering” or reciprocity between the two?2019-11-12T15:01:03+00:00

NACE has two programs that occasionally are compared with the PCS program. The first is the NACE Coatings Inspector Program (CIP). This program is not equivalent to the SSPC Protective Coatings Specialist Program. It deals with one particular aspect of coatings work – inspection – in much more detail than SSPC. However, SSPC’s program deals with a broad range of topics with which the experienced coatings consultant, inspector, manager, specifier, project manager, etc. should be familiar.

The other NACE program that is compared to SSPC’s PCS program is the NACE Protective Coatings Specialist Certification. This program is science intensive, since a prerequisite is an engineering degree, or passing the NACE Corrosion Specialist exam. SSPC’s program extends to the coatings practitioner (e.g., project manager, facility manager, technical consultant, etc.). SSPC’s PCS program tests general knowledge that is gained on the job, not scientific acumen.

There is no grandfathering or reciprocity between NACE and SSPC certifications. SSPC does, however, exempt NACE certified inspectors from taking the C1 course, Fundamentals of Protective Coatings for Industrial Structures, to meet part of the formal training requirement. SSPC also accepts NACE Session 1 training in lieu of C1.

What happens if I fail an exam?2019-11-12T15:00:37+00:00

A candidate who fails an exam must wait six months, then is eligible to retake the exam a second time. Candidates who do not pass on the second attempt are required to take and pass SSPC C1 and C2 courses (even if the courses have already been successfully completed) before taking the exam a third time. Candidates must pay the examination fee each time they take the exam.

Are exam results confidential?2019-11-12T15:00:19+00:00

Yes, all examination results will be held in confidence. Candidates will be advised of their pass/fail score but will not be advised of their actual grade. Graded exams are neither returned nor available for review by the applicant. An applicant may ask for an analysis of the weak subject areas identified by the exam. This analysis will be provided by SSPC within 120 days of the written request.

Is the comprehensive certification examination required?2019-11-12T15:00:01+00:00

Yes. A closed book, proctored exam is required.

I have passed SSPC’s C1 and C2 courses, but I do not meet the minimum experience requirement. Why can’t I be certified?2019-11-12T14:59:45+00:00

The Protective Coatings Specialist Certification program does not just recognize coatings knowledge, but rather, the application of that knowledge through practical experience. All applicants must meet all the requirements of the program.

Are there any alternatives to actual work experience?2019-11-12T14:55:55+00:00

No. Protective Coatings Specialists are expected to have coating industry experience.

What is the definition of “substantial experience” in the protective coatings industry?2019-11-12T14:55:26+00:00

A candidate who maintains a position that is at least seventy-five percent protective coatings related work or a candidate who is employed at least seventy-five percent of the calendar year in a protective coatings related job is substantially employed.

What types of information from my application may be verified by SSPC and how?2019-11-12T14:55:03+00:00

SSPC reserves the right to verify any or all information provided on the application, such as: professional references, work and educational experience, training courses completed.

What do I get for the certification?2019-11-12T14:54:44+00:00

First and foremost, the PCS individual gains professional credibility from the leading coatings industry organization, and professional recognition from industry peers. Also, many coatings organizations use PCS certification as either a prerequisite for employment or as a contract requirement.

Upon initial certification, SSPC provides an official press release announcing certification, posts notice in the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings (JPCL), and posts an announcement on social media.

On going benefits to certification include: a certificate and wallet card designating their certification; and copies of the program logo to use for business cards, company letterhead, etc.

Under the DoD Corrosion Prevention and Control Program, funding has been provided for certain courses to train DoD, Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel. For more information on how to take advantage of attending a course for free, click the icon to the left.
SSPC’s training and certifications are recognized by several agencies both internationally and domestically.
Click the icon to the left to find out more.
Want to schedule the course at your facility? To receive a proposal for scheduling at your facility, including price estimate, set-up requirements, and an equipment list; click the icon to the left.
SSPC Training Courses are available through the several SSPC licensed training providers.
Click the icon to the left for more information.

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Dates: 12/12/2020 - 12/12/2020
Event: Protective Coatings Specialist (PCS)
Location: Irondale, AL USA
Register By: 11/21/2020