About Becoming an Auto Body Collision Repair Tech
Private vehicles are a central part of transportation in America. From small private cars to large campers and off road vehicles, nearly every adult American either owns a car or is part of a family that does.
Unfortunately, many Americans also have the misfortune to be involved in vehicular accidents. One of the most damaging parts of any accident can be damage to the vehicle’s body and frame.
Not only can it result in unattractive damage to the exterior of the vehicle, but severe damage can also make the vehicle unsafe to drive. For this reason, auto body collection repair technicians are finding their services in increasing demand across America.
Auto Body Damage
Auto body damage can be of two varieties, cosmetic and structural. Cosmetic damage are those dents and other damage that does not impair the vehicle’s safety or functioning. While they can be ignored, doing so will reduce the resale value of the vehicle and present an untidy and unattractive appearance.
Structural damage is body damage that makes the vehicle unsafe to drive. This can range from damage to the frame to the loss of safety components such as the vehicle’s crash resistant fenders.
In many cases, local regulations may make it illegal to drive vehicles that are in this condition and the owner’s insurance may be revoked.
Auto Body Collision Repair Technicians
Auto body repair technicians not only work on the vehicles body, but also often work on windshields that may have been damaged by the collision.
In general, these technicians carry out the following duties:
- Examine the vehicle for damage and estimate the cost of repair.
- Check to determine if the vehicle has suffered structural damage to vital components.
- Remove any damaged components.
- Realign any damaged frame components in order to ensure the vehicle can be driven.
- Patch or otherwise repair minor body damage such as dents.
- Install replacement auto body parts.
- Examine and repair windows and mirrors.
- Treat the newly installed body parts by sanding and painting them in order to eliminate any visual evidence of the damage.
In some cases, auto body technicians may be required to inspect vehicles on the behalf of insurance companies in order to determine how much damage was done.
This can be especially important in order to determine how much an owner’s insurance policy will pay out in the case of an accident.
Job Options for Auto Body Techs
Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there are over 154,000 auto body repair technicians working in America as of 2012.
By 2022, that number is expected to increase by at least 13 percent, leading to a minimum of 174,000 technician job openings.
When combined with job attrition due to retirements, illness and other factors, it is clear that there will be a large number of job openings for qualified technicians.
In addition, the BLS estimates that the annual median salary for auto body repair techs is approximately $38,000, with the top 10 percent earning over $65,000.
Because many auto body technicians work on an hourly wage, the numbers can vary widely for individual technicians, depending on the amount and type of overtime they obtain and other salary options.
Furthermore, many of these employees enjoy generous benefits packages, including paid vacation time as well as individual and family health plans.
Becoming an Auto Body Technician
In the past, auto body technicians were often trained by their employer after being hired. However, the modern automotive repair field has seen a growing emphasis on formal training that puts unskilled applicants at a distinct disadvantage in seeking employment. For that reason, most individuals seeking to enter this field should enter a formal training and certification program.
While still in high school, individuals seeking to become auto body repair technicians should focus on courses that will prepare them for their future training and career.
At the very least, it is important to be able to speak and write fluently in English, have a firm grasp of mathematics and have an understanding of basic automotive technology. Fortunately, many schools have a range of classes that can be of use to the interested student.
After high school, there are a variety of vocational schools and community colleges that offer programs for students desiring to become repair technicians. These programs provide both academic and hands on training for their students, making them extremely effective.
Trade schools usually take anywhere from six months to a year for a student to complete his or her training, and award a certificate upon the completion of the student’s program. These programs are usually tightly focused on the student’s career with little in the way of other training. This can be ideal for someone who is focused on becoming an auto body repair mechanic as soon as possible.
Community colleges usually require about two years for a full-time student to complete a program. In this case, the student may be required to take other courses in order to graduate with an associate’s degree. However, for those students who are interested in entering a four-year college at some point, this can be an excellent choice, as they can use many of the courses they took at the community college for credit at a four-year college.
Finally, it is possible to take courses individually, rather than enter a full program and obtain a certificate for the completion of that course. This is often done by already employed mechanics who are seeking to ensure that their training remains current. In some cases, the mechanic’s employer might partially or entirely defray the costs of taking the course.
Auto Mechanic Training
There are also certification programs offered by industry organizations such as the National Organization for Automotive Service Excellence.
These groups usually focus on ensuring that certification candidates can provide a high degree of excellence for their customers. Possessing a current certification can help improve the employee’s professional options.
Finally, a number of automotive manufacturers also have certification programs, which help demonstrate that the repair technician is skilled in working with their automotive brands.
In most cases, technicians working at dealership repair centers are required to be certified to work on the relevant car types.
Becoming an auto body collision repair technician can be an excellent choice for those individuals who are interested in working with vehicles while also enjoying excellent pay and benefits packages.
With a wide range of educational options available, in addition to the growing demand for qualified mechanics, this field will continue to be an attractive one for some time to come.