How to Become an Auto Body Technician: More than Fixing Dents and Dings

An auto body technician, also known as a collision repair technician, repairs the vehicular damage resulting from collisions, including dent removal, repainting, part replacement, and the straightening of bent bodies. Some technicians also choose to specialize specifically in installing and repairing glass. Auto body technicians can work on vehicles of all sizes from cars and small trucks to tractor trailers and buses.

Becoming an auto body technician was once basically a matter of apprenticeship, but changes in automotive manufacturing have altered the educational demands for workers seeking to enter the auto repair field. While on-the-job experience remains absolutely vital, advancing past entry-level work now often requires national certification. Because trainees typically earn between 30 and 60% of a skilled technician who can expect a median wage of just under $19 an hour (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), it pays to get an edge through formal education. Since many technician jobs pay per task, the skills and proficiency available through formal training are important to earning a competitive wage.

Auto Body Technician Education Degree Requirements

Whether you are moving towards certification as an apprentice in a body shop, looking at entering a technical school or trying to add relevant skills through your career college curriculum, these are some abilities a competitive auto body technician will find indispensible:

  • good reading ability, especially with technical manuals
  • basic math skills, including geometry, and good spacial sense
  • solid computer skills

In order to enroll in a collision repair program, you must have earned your high school diploma or GED. Some programs result in a certificate after six months of training, while others are more in-depth associate’s degree programs, which require two years of study to complete. Coursework for collision repair programs might include classes in paint and refinishing, structural repair, plastics, shop management, and metal welding, among others.

Additionally, certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has become an industry standard for those working in auto repair. The ASE offers several certifications, which demand some combination of technical training and practical experience in addition to passing exams. ASE Certifications are good for 5 years, which is meant to insure that technicians return to study developments in automobile design periodically and keep current on changes to the vehicles they will be working on. Beyond credentials though, you should be prepared to put in three or four years of training on-the-job to become skilled in all aspects of auto body repair.

Becoming an Auto Body Technician: Career Outlook

While the number of auto body technicians is not expected to rise significantly in the coming decade, job prospects are excellent for potential employees who can combine work experience with technical training and certification as older repair personnel retire or seek to turn over their small businesses to new ownership, and as changes in metallurgy, safety standards, and manufacturing techniques demand specialized knowledge.

Auto body technicians have a wide variety of options for job environments and opportunities for independence. Whether working for a car dealer, climbing the hierarchy of a chain repair store, opening your own shop, taking over from a mechanic who has grown a local business into an institution or doing custom body work, an auto body technician can look forward to branching into retail, finding the stability of a senior position in a large company, building a reputation for creativity or simply earning a good wage for a job well done. For more information on how to become an auto body technician, explore the collision and repair schools we have featured throughout our site.