Auto Body Mechanic Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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An auto body mechanic's average annual salary is about $40,000, but is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about job prospects to find out if becoming an auto body mechanic is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being an Auto Body Mechanic

Auto body mechanics, often called collision repair technicians, perform repairs on damaged vehicle body parts. You may need to have skills in welding or metal fabrication, which are often required to create replacement body pieces. If you love working with your hands and making damaged vehicles look like new, then you may find this to be a rewarding job. Below is a list of pros and cons that can help you decide if a career in auto body mechanics is ideal for you.

Pros of Being an Auto Body Mechanic
Training may be offered in high school*
Minimum high school diploma required*
Most postsecondary programs take only six months to complete*
Eligible for national certification with 1-2 years experience*

Cons of Being an Auto Body Mechanic
Average employment growth (expected 9% growth from 2012-2022)*
Work environment is often noisy*
Work requires lifting heavy parts*
Potential for minor injuries due to nature of the job*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Info

Job Duties and Description

Auto body mechanics typically work on the exterior of vehicles rather than the interior technological components like auto service technicians do. In this position, you would primarily perform collision repair on cars and small trucks. However, you may also repair heavy-duty vehicles like large diesel engine buses and trucks. The extent of your duties can range from minor collision repair, such as fixing dents and scratches, to major structural repair, such as replacing a door or fender.

In order to perform repairs like straightening bent car bodies, removing damaged body parts and welding replacement pieces, you need to become proficient in using tools like pneumatic hammers and metal cutting guns, plasma cutters, pick hammers and hot-air welding guns. Additionally, you might be required to prepare cost estimates and review damage reports to make accurate calculations for repair services.

Career Specializations

You can also specialize in certain types of repairs, such as repairing or replacing glass panels. In this role, you would perform duties like applying primer and urethane to glass pinchwelds, removing moisture from damaged pieces and replacing parts like windshield wipers, moldings and clips. Another area you can specialize in is automotive painting. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), painters working in large shops tend to only perform tasks related to painting, while those working in smaller shops perform painting and repairing.

Employment Outlook and Salary

The BLS reported that employment for automotive body and glass repairers was projected to increase by 13% from 2012-2022, which is average job growth for all occupations. Some of the factors contributing to this rate of employment growth include the high cost of replacement parts due to more advanced vehicle technologies, collision repair shops consolidating jobs to cut expenses, and failure to attempt repairs on cars deemed a total loss for reasons such as air bag damage. Despite these circumstances, the BLS also noted that factors such as a projected increase in vehicles on the road, a demand for skilled workers, and a need to replace workers who retire from the field can create new job opportunities. Additionally, by completing formal training, you might have increased opportunities for employment, according to the BLS.

As of 2014, automotive body and related repairers earned an average annual salary of about $40,000, according to the BLS. During this time, about 96,000 of these professionals worked in the automotive repair and maintenance industry, which had the highest levels of employment. Auto body mechanics in natural gas distribution were the highest paid, with an average annual salary of about $66,000.

What are the Requirements?

Although some auto body mechanics complete formal training in high school, the increasing sophistication of automotive technology warrants most applicants to pursue further training. Many trade schools offer collision repair programs that can be completed in six months, while some community colleges offer 2-year programs. In addition to completing your initial training, you must complete continuing education courses to remain informed on the latest vehicle technologies. To achieve the level of a skilled auto body mechanic, you generally need to participate in on-the-job training for 3-4 years, according to the BLS. Additionally, you may need to obtain national certification for positions beyond the entry level, especially for jobs in urban areas.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most employers in this field require that candidates seeking employment as an auto body professional have prior experience. Some employers prefer to hire those with industry certifications. Typically, most auto body mechanic jobs are available at car dealerships. Following are some job postings for auto collision repair mechanics that can give you an idea of what requirements real employers were looking for during February 2012:

  • A car dealership in Pittsburgh, PA, seeks a candidate with at least two years of experience and knowledge of all types of repair techniques for damaged parts and vehicles.
  • An automotive company in Houston, TX, is looking for an experienced candidate who can perform minor and major collision repairs. This company is offering a salary of $15.00 per hour.
  • An auto dealership in Arkansas wants to hire a collision repair specialist with strong mechanical skills who preferably has recognition from the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) or other industry certifications.
  • A transportation company in Washington, D.C. seeks a paint body mechanic to work on heavy-duty vehicles. This employer requires that candidates have at least two years of experience, knowledge of various welding techniques, certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and passing scores on all employer-related certification exams.

How to Stand Out

Get Certified

Obtaining a nationally recognized industry certification is the best way to stand out as an auto body mechanic. Certifications from the ASE are the industry standard for this field. Although getting certified by the ASE is voluntary, doing so can prepare you for career advancement. Typically, you need at least two years experience to qualify for ASE certifications exams. However, you can substitute one year of experience with completion of an automotive post-secondary program.

Relevant certification exams you can sit for include the Collision Repair and Refinish Certification test series, which includes certification in painting and refinishing, non-structural analysis and damage repair, structural analysis and damage repair, and mechanical and electrical components. You can earn certification in one of these areas or become a Certified Master Collision Repair Technician by passing all of the exams in this test series.

Complete Continuing Education Training

In addition to certification, continuing education can help you stand out. You can participate in continuing education through training offered at an auto shop. For example, auto shops that obtain the Certified Repair I-CAR Gold Class Professionals recognition can provide you with annual training in the latest auto collision repair practices and technologies.

Other Career Paths

Automotive Service Technician or Mechanic

Automotive service technicians and mechanics, though closely related to auto body mechanics, perform different job duties. In this position, your primary duties are to repair and maintain vehicles so they remain in proper working condition. Some common tasks that you would perform include oil changes, tire rotations, engine and transmission repairs. Completion of postsecondary training is also beneficial for this profession. The median annual salary you can expect to earn in this position was $36,000 in 2011.

Heavy Vehicle or Mobile Equipment Service Technician or Mechanic

If working on heavy-duty vehicles and equipment like cranes and bulldozers seems more exciting to you than auto body mechanics, you can become a heavy vehicle or mobile equipment service technician or mechanic. You can choose from three different specializations in this field: farm equipment mechanic, rail car repairer or mobile heavy equipment mechanic. The employment growth for these workers is projected to be slightly lower than that of auto body mechanics, with a 16% increase through 2020.

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