Auto Body Mechanic: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for an auto body mechanic. Get the facts about training, certification options and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Automobile Repair degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Auto Body Mechanic?

Auto body mechanics are responsible for repairing damage after an automotive accident. This may involve realigning the frame of a car, replacing damaged bumpers, and correcting damaged paneling. Auto body mechanics must be good at repairing metal and plastics because every collision is different and presents damage at different degrees. They must have an eye for correction to safety restraints inside a damaged vehicle as well because repaired cars must meet strict safety requirements before being released back to owners or car dealers. Usually such mechanics work in specialist auto body repair shops and function either as small repairers or major repairers.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering the field of auto body repair.

Education Required Certificate or associate's degree most common; bachelor's available
Training Required On-the-job training is typical
Key Responsibilities Repairing body panels and fenders; replacing broken windshields; estimating repair costs; conform to strict safety standards; welding, riveting, or bonding
Certification Credentials available from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), among others
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% (all automotive body and glass repairers)*
Median Salary (2014) $40,970*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Duties Do Auto Body Mechanics Perform?

As an auto body mechanic, most of your work time will be spent fixing the exteriors of cars and trucks. This might include straightening, filling or replacing body panels, fenders and bumpers; replacing broken windows and windshields; and mixing, matching and applying paint. Large shops may have you specialize in one of these areas, while smaller shops are more likely to have you engage you in all of them. In some instances, you might attach an entirely new body to an old frame. Other potential duties include assisting with mechanical repairs when body work isn't needed, conducting damage assessments, estimating the cost of body repairs, managing paperwork and maintaining records.

Where Could I Work?

Your prospective employers include auto repair shops, car dealerships, transportation firms, parts wholesalers and government agencies. Self-employment is also an option. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of auto body repairers was projected to increase by 9% over the 2014-2024 decade. An increasing number of vehicles on the road and new vehicle technologies were expected to contribute to demand for auto body services. However, increased prices in parts, high insurance deductibles and industry consolidation will impede growth.

Job availability should arise from retirements and mechanics transitioning to other careers. Completing formal training and gaining experience can help you stand out from your competition.

What Training Programs are Available?

Although a lot of training takes place on the job, employers increasingly prefer applicants with formal education in auto body repair. Certificate and associate's degree programs in auto body technology and related areas are widely available from vocational schools and community colleges. Certificates may be completed in six months to two years, while associate's degrees are usually completed in two years.

Certificate programs often focus on a concentrated area of auto body technology, such as structural repair, painting, shop management or street rod fabrication. Other certificate programs are more generally focused on auto body technology, as are most associate's degree programs. While enrolled in an auto body technology program, you'll learn how to weld, use metal-shaping tools, rebuild and refinish damaged body panels, patch fiberglass and apply filling compounds to dents. You'll also learn about the physical properties of body materials such as metal and fiberglass, color matching, auto shop procedures and the process of conducting damage estimates. These training programs typically combine classroom instruction with hands-on experiences.

If you complete a formal training program, you may need to spend less time in on-the-job training, which can typically take 3-4 years according to the BLS. As an auto body mechanic, you'll need to participate in continuing education to keep up with changes in automotive technologies and materials. You may need to read technical manuals, take classes, attend seminars or participate in training courses offered by vendors and suppliers. In addition, you may need to earn voluntary certification, available from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), paint manufacturers and vehicles manufacturers, to improve your opportunities for career advancement. Certifications may need to be renewed periodically.

What Are Some Related Career Alternatives?

If you like working with your hands to repair metal and glass, you might also be interested in working as a glazier or an industrial machinery mechanic. As a glazier, you would install window glass in a variety of locations, such as skylights, commercial storefronts, and home windows. This career usually requires completion of an apprenticeship. As a machinery mechanic, you would go to commercial locations to fix industrial machines like packaging equipment or conveyor belts. You would use mechanic skills learned in a shop to repair this large machinery. The essential entry requirement for this career is a high school diploma.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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