Green Bank Observatory is recruiting painters this summer

Do you like working outdoors and are not afraid of heights?  Then working for the Green Bank Observatory may be just the ticket for you this summer. Mike Sweeney, the Technical Manager for Telescope Operations at the GBO, says they are recruiting structural painters this summer.

“Some of what that job entails is painting on the GBT; you’ll be working at heights from 235 feet up to 400 feet on different pieces of equipment,” he said.

They are looking to hire about 20 painters with a few of those slots already filled.  And if hired, Mike says you’ll get some specialized training.

“One type of training is rope access training and this is mainly for people who are doing their second year as a structural painter,” he said. “It’s where you are trained to rescue someone who may be or may not be incapacitated at a great height, so it involves knot tying, it involves rigging, and it involves rappelling on ropes; very interesting and fun training [and] it’s about a week long.”

You’ll also be trained on the fine points of using heavy equipment like a snorkel lift or cherry picker, a large industrial forklift, and spider aerial lifts.

“These are baskets that you ride in that operates off an electric winch principle, so basically you’re hauled up a cable and we have upwards of 200 to 400 feet of cable and you ride on up and paint underneath the dish,” said Sweeny.

Green Bank Telescope (GBT)

Sweeny says no special skills are needed to apply for the job, just a willingness to put in four 10 hour days of what can be challenging work depending on the weather conditions.  He says they paint the telescope every summer.  Even with a full crew of 20, they can only paint about 11 percent of the huge structure each year.

He says the job will last about 5 months, but there will be a few weeks off during that time to allow for astronomical observations.  Precautions such as temperature checks and screening questions are requirements as in being vaccinated.

“For a structural painting position, well for everyone on site, we have a vaccine mandate at this time,” he said. “So you have to be vaccinated for COVID-19 for access to the observatory grounds.”

Because of the extra precautions this year, the starting pay is a little higher at 19.00 per hour.  Jill Malusky, Public Information Officer for the GBO, says they appreciate the job opportunities that the GBO can offer to local residents.  And she says there’s always the chance that a painting job may lead to a new career.

“Even folks who start off as a structural painter, some of them have been inspired to pursue a longer, more permanent career with the observatory,” said Malusky. “A couple years ago we had a woman painter, Laurel Leyzorek, and she was on the crew and she had such a good time [that] she’s pursuing structural engineering; she was an intern in 2020.  Who knows, maybe she’ll wind up being one of our full time staff, someone heading a division at the observatory.”

Sweeny offers one more enticement for applying to be a structural painter.

“It’s a good introduction to automation here at the observatory,” he said, “and to a new field that’s coming out that’s called Mechatronics.  What that means is you work on everything mechanical or electronics that are involved over a control system that’s remotely operated.  If you want to learn how to move something with a keystroke from a computer, the observatory is an excellent place to start, especially in this part of the country.”

The next hiring date for structural painters at the GBO is May 24th.  You must apply online at  You’ll find a link to job postings at the bottom of the homepage.  The Green Bank Observatory is a sponsor of Allegheny Mountain Radio.


Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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