How to Become an Auto Body Mechanic in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become an auto body mechanic. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Automobile Repair degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Auto Body Mechanic?

As an auto body mechanic, you would be responsible for repairing exterior damage to motor vehicles that have been involved in some type of collision. This is very much a hands-on job that normally takes place in an auto body repair shop or car dealership, which can be noisy or cramped. The job is physically strenuous, as you are responsible for tasks such as straightening bent frames, pulling dents, installing new panels and applying fresh paint. Working on any particular vehicle could be a minor job or a major overall, and assessing the extent and nature of the damage is often included in an auto body mechanic's job duties.

Depending on seniority, you might also supervise subordinates. Other duties might include reviewing damage reports, estimating repair costs and maintaining repair records. These and other administrative responsibilities are especially likely if you are self-employed. The following table provides more information to help determine if a career as an auto body mechanic is right for you.

Education Required Trade and technical school programs in collision repair
Training Required 2 years of on-the-job training typical before certification
Key Skills Critical thinking, dexterity, mechanical and time management skills
Certification Not required, but certification is often preferred by employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% for all automotive body and glass repairers*
Median Salary (2015) $39,880 for all automotive body and glass repairers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you might be able to obtain a job with only a high school diploma or GED, especially if your high school offers vocational training in auto body repair (www.bls.gov). These programs teach you how to cut, shape and weld metal, install body panels, prepare a surface and apply paint. If your high school doesn't offer training, you will still need a diploma or GED to enroll in an auto body repair certificate or associate's degree program. Coursework in computers, math, chemistry and physics might be helpful in this field.

Step 2: Complete a Certificate or Associate's Degree Program

Auto body repair certificate and associate's degree programs teach you damage assessment, materials properties and the use of assorted repair tools and equipment. Course topics may also include dent removal, structural repair, welding and refinishing. You can typically earn a certificate in one year. A 2-year associate's degree program will require additional general education coursework.

Step 3: Obtain a Job

The BLS reports that most auto body mechanics work for repair shops and car dealers. You may also be able to find work with vehicle wholesalers, parts suppliers and local government agencies.

A nine percent growth in employment opportunities was projected from 2014-2024. The median annual salary for automotive body and glass repairers as of May 2015 was $39,880, according to the BLS.

Step 4: Get Certified

Certification is voluntary, but having it can help you advance. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers certification to candidates who pass an exam and have either two years of work experience or one year of work experience and two years of formal training. Certification exams in the area of collision repair and refinish include four categories - structural analysis and damage repair, non-structural analysis and damage repair, painting and refinishing, and mechanical and electrical components. If you pass all four certification exams, you're considered a Master Collision Repair Technician. Each certification is valid for five years, after which you must retake the exam.

The Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) offers platinum status to technicians in roles such as estimator, structural technician and refinish technician. You must complete three levels of I-CAR training to earn this credential and six credit hours of continuing education to maintain it. Platinum status may be earned in more than one role.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Your career options expand as you earn credentials and gain experience. Becoming the repair shop manager and then supervisor is one path for advancement. You could also open your own shop if a promotion option isn't available. Finally, if you don't want to run a business, you could transition into working for an insurance company as a damage appraiser.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you would like a career repairing or maintaining machinery, there are several other options requiring no more than a high school diploma or certificate. One could be working as a heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technician. These professionals repair and maintain equipment used in any number of industries, such as farming or construction. Becoming a glazier is another option. This profession typically involves installing or repairing glass windows in buildings of any size.

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