When traffic accidents occur, automotive body repairers are called upon to clean up the mess. These professionals attend collision repair schools to learn how to assess and fix vehicles that have dings, dents and broken glass. Their jobs require them to do all the following:
- Evaluate vehicle damage and draft cost estimates for repairs.
- Remove and replace broken body parts and glass.
- Match replacement parts to existing vehicle parts.
- Smooth dents and other minor damage.
- Correct any structural damage to a car frame and chassis.
Collision Repair Specializations
Collision repair training programs may allow students to specialize their skills in a particular area of work. The following are few examples of the specialized roles that may be filled by collision repair technicians.
- Body Repairers are skilled in repairing all kinds of damage to vehicles. They may use heavy-duty tools remove damaged parts and make structural repairs or rely on hand tools to correct minor damage.
- Refinishers specialize in painting vehicles. They are expected to be able to match the color and finish of new parts to that of the existing parts.
- Glass Installers work exclusively on windows. They may replace windshields, fill chips and stabilize cracks.
How to Become a Collision Repair Technician
It only takes three steps to start your new career. Here's how to become a collision repair technician.
- Earn a high school diploma or GED.
- Attend an auto body collision repair school. Getting the right education can be crucial to finding a job in this field. Fortunately, many collision repair training programs can be completed in one year or less.
- Become certified. Many employers are looking for workers who have earned a collision repair certification. This can indicate a person's level of expertise.
As you prepare to become a collision repair technician, your training could include all of the following:
- Cost estimation
- Supervised, hands-on instruction
Collision repair certificates and degrees
There are several levels of education available to train collision repair technicians. These can range from short-term programs to two-year degrees.
- Certificate: Collision repair certificates can often be earned in one or two semesters. While some offer an introduction to the field, others are designed to provide specialized instruction. Workers who already have some experience in general auto body work may earn a certificate to learn about a specific aspect of collision repair, such as damage analysis, structural repair or refinishing.
- Diploma: Diploma programs may take a year or more to complete. They offer a more comprehensive level of education than what is typically provided in a certificate program. Students learn about collision repair, refinishing, welding and estimating. What's more, an auto body collision repair school may include instruction for working with specific manufacturer products in their diploma programs.
- Associate Degree: The highest level of education usually pursued by auto body workers is an associate degree. These programs often have similar content to diploma programs but may provide additional opportunities to specialize training and gain hands-on experience.
Apprenticeships for Collision Repair Technicians
Some collision repair shops, such as the national chain Service King, offer apprenticeship programs to train new technicians. These one-year programs provide paid, on-the-job training in auto body work.
While a good option to explore, be aware that relatively few apprenticeship positions may be available. This option may also require students work at the shop for a specific period of time after their training is complete.
Collision Repair Schools
You'll find collision repair training programs most often at community colleges and technical schools. You can even attend auto body repair school online. These online programs are typically blended. That means you'll complete some work online but still go to campus to practice skills in a shop. Since collision repair is a hands-on profession, it's not possible to complete a comprehensive auto body program entirely online.
Collision Repair Technician Certification
One way to demonstrate your expertise in auto body work is to earn a collision repair certification. These credentials are offered by associations to workers who demonstrate a certain level of skill. There are two main certifying organizations for collision repair technicians:
- I-CAR: Short for the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, I-CAR offers a professional development program as well as certification for welding and training for specific vehicle model repairs. Some auto body schools have partnered with I-CAR so their students can easily become certified.
- ASE The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE, also offers collision repair certification. The organization offers four certification tests for technicians and one for estimators. Those who pass one test and have two years of hands-on experience are designated ASE Collision Repair or Refinishing Technicians while people who pass all four technician tests are ASE Master Collision Repair/Refinishing Technicians.
Career Advancement for Collision Repair Techs
Collision repair technicians may start out as helpers before moving on to independent work. With additional experience or certifications, they may be promoted to supervisory roles or managerial positions.
Financial Aid for Collision Repair Technician Programs
Skills and Qualities for Collision Repair Technicians
If you want to be an automotive body worker, you'll need to hone the following abilities:
- Repairing: It may sound obvious, but a critical skill for collision repair workers is the ability to look at a damaged vehicle and determine exactly what must be done to make it look like new again.
- Complex Problem Solving: In order to do repairs properly, collision repair technicians must be excellent problem solvers. They must determine how best to make repairs and whether their work could affect other components of a vehicle.
- Oral Comprehension: Customers, co-workers and supervisors may all explain aspects of a vehicle's damage to a technician. Workers have to listen carefully to understand what repairs need to be done.
- Manual Dexterity: Collision repair is a hands-on job, and technicians need to be able to grasp, manipulate and turn objects with their hands.
- Visualization: Technicians must be able to visualize how a vehicle will look when parts are removed or replaced. This allows them to work efficiently and minimize the possibility of mistakes.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Collision Repair Technicians
Collision repair technicians have a skilled job, and their pay may reflect their expertise. Technicians with more certifications and greater levels of education could find themselves earning significantly more than those just starting out in the field. To get an idea of what to expect for collision repair technician salary, the chart below offers the latest nationwide averages. Also, job opportunities for auto body workers might be expected to grow in the coming years as the government estimates below indicate.
Projected Job Growth
|Automotive Body and Related Repairers||142,060||$46,460||4.1%|
|Automotive Glass Installers and Repairers||19,640||$36,370||4.1%|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||648,050||$43,730||-0.8%|
Professional Resources for Collision Repair Technicians
There are several organizations dedicated to automotive and collision repair. These groups can be resources for students and professionals who want to stay updated on the latest industry trends.
- Society of Collision Repair Specialists - Founded in 1982, the SCRS advocates for the collision repair industry and represents more than 6,000 collision repair businesses and nearly 60,000 professionals working in the field.
- Automotive Service Association - ASA is a trade organization for owners and managers of automotive businesses, including collision repair shops. It has been working on behalf of the industry since 1951.
- National Auto Body Council - The NABC promotes professionalism in the collision repair industry and also supports a number of initiatives such as its Recycled Rides program that repairs vehicles to be donated to families in need of reliable transportation.