Collision Repair Technology: Associate, Bachelor & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a collision repair technology degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Study Collision Repair Technology: Degrees at a Glance

Collision repair technicians fix vehicle bodies when they have been damaged. While you can enter this profession with no formal training, employers usually favor technicians who've completed a postsecondary program. In fact, employers often send their technicians back to school to advance their educations. Training in collision repair technology is usually offered in the form of certificate programs, though undergraduate degrees are also available. Additionally, certification is standard in the automotive industry, particularly through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of collision repair technicians and other auto body repairers was projected to grow 18% from 2010-2020. While advancements in technology will replace the need for some of these workers, the rising number of vehicles on the road will continue to boost demand. The BLS also reported that technicians with formal training in collision repair and industry certification will have exceptional job prospects.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who Is this Degree for? Individuals interested in entering the automotive repair industry Experienced automotive workers seeking career advancement
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) Collision repair technician ($42,000)* Career paths for the bachelor's degree are similar to those of the associate's, though there may be increased opportunities for advancement
Time to Completion Two years full-time Two years in addition to the associate's degree
Common Graduation Requirements Internship or field experience - At least 60 credits beyond associate's degrees
- Capstone project or internship
Prerequisites None Associate of Applied Science in Collision Repair
Online Availability None found at this time None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's Degree in Collision Repair Technology

Collision repair associate's degrees are usually found at community and technical colleges in the form of Associate of Applied Science programs. These hands-on programs teach you how to diagnose body damage, prescribe a plan for correcting that damage and then restore the vehicle to meet industry standards. Some schools allow you to work on cars that have actually been involved in collisions. The curricula usually prepare you for certifications through the ASE or other certifying bodies. You may benefit from choosing a program that is accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, which develops education standards for automotive technology programs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Gives you a competitive edge over the majority of workers who have certificates or no training at all
  • Prepares you for industry certification, which can lead to stronger job prospects
  • Often qualifies for transfer to a 4-year degree program

Cons

  • Highly specialized training leads to limited number of career opportunities
  • Profession requires career-long continuing education to stay abreast of advancements in technology
  • Automotive repair technicians suffer from higher-than-average rates of illness and injury

Courses and Requirements

In a collision repair program, you'll learn damage/repair fundamentals and techniques like welding and refurbishing. You can also expect to learn how to use industry equipment, such as MIG welders and alignment machines. Practical training is strongly emphasized in this line of study, so even though you'll be gaining hands-on experience throughout your coursework, you will likely also participate in an internship or field experience. Main topics of study include:

  • Structural analysis
  • Non-structural analysis
  • Painting
  • Refinishing
  • Mechanical/electrical repair
  • Repair cost estimating

Online Degree Options

Since training in collision repair technology is based around hands-on instruction, online-only programs in this major are very uncommon. Those that are available may not be offered through accredited institutions. Note that many community college and technical schools allow you complete some of your general education requirements online.

Stand Out with this Degree

While automotive technology is the main focus of this line of work, computer technology also plays an important role. In the shop, you'll use software that estimates collision damage, matches paint colors for mixing and helps you manage inventory. You may gain in-depth instruction in this software during your collision repair program, but having sufficient computer proficiency beforehand may allow you to gain a better grasp of this complex technology during the learning process. As such, you may benefit from taking introductory and intermediate computer-operation courses early on in your education.

Additionally, certification, while not mandatory, is essential for advancement in this career. The ASE offers four separate certifications specifically for collision repair technicians: painting and refinishing, mechanical and electrical components, non-structural analysis/damage repair and structural analysis/damage repair. Becoming certified in one of these topics requires passage of a certification exam. You'll also have to renew certification every five years by passing the exam again.

Bachelor's Degree in Collision Repair Technology

Since an associate's degree is generally the highest level of education needed for a career in collision repair, there are no traditional 4-year bachelor's degree programs in collision repair technology; however, some programs allow you transfer your credits from your associate's degree program in auto collision to obtain a bachelor's in this major. These programs usually award Bachelor of Applied Science degrees and are available at 4-year colleges and universities in collaboration with local community and technical schools.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Only requires two years of additional study to upgrade to a bachelor's degree
  • Often allows you to choose electives in an area of interest
  • May include business coursework, which can prepare you for a management career

Cons

  • Can require an associate's degree from a specific school
  • Must have an Associate of Applied Science degree (general science and general studies degrees may be rejected)
  • Bachelor's degree is not required for a technician career

Courses and Requirements

You'll need a 2-year degree in automotive collision repair to qualify for this program, typically with 60 credits completed. Once admitted, you'll begin as a junior and go on to earn the minimum 60 additional credits that are generally required for a bachelor's degree. Much of your coursework will focus on general education, including math, sciences and humanities. Some programs also allow you to select an area of emphasis, like communications or business, that you can gear your electives toward. Additionally, you may be required to complete a capstone project or internship.

Online Degree Options

As with associate's degree programs in this field, you'll have a hard time finding an accredited bachelor's program in collision repair; however, you may find that your college offers some lower-level courses online. You may benefit from talking with an advisor before incorporating online courses into your curriculum.

Stand Out with this Degree

For a supervisory position, especially, you'll need to be familiar with computer software specific to managerial functions. During any given work day, you may use spreadsheets, accounting software, scheduling software, inventory-management applications or information databases. In fact, some degree programs incorporate computer technology instruction into their curricula. If your program doesn't, you may want to pursue electives that can provide you with this training.

Degree Alternatives

If you have a degree in or related to collision repair that is not an Associate of Applied Science, then you likely won't qualify for a Bachelor of Applied Science program. In this case, you may benefit from pursuing a traditional bachelor's degree in a related subject. A 4-year automotive technology program, for example, may allow you to transfer some of your associate's degree credits and earn your bachelor's in as little as two additional years. Since such a program provides a broader scope of automotive training, it may qualify you for a wider range of careers in the industry.

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