Most employers prefer to hire repair technicians who have completed a formal training program in automotive body repair or refinishing. Still, many new repair technicians begin work without formal training. Industry certification is increasingly important.
High school, trade and technical school, and community college programs in collision repair combine hands-on practice and classroom instruction. Topics usually include electronics, physics, and mathematics, which provide a strong educational foundation for a career as a repair technician. Although not required, postsecondary education often provides the best preparation.
Trade and technical school programs typically award certificates after 6 months to 1 year of study. Some community colleges offer 2-year programs in collision repair. Many of these schools also offer certificates for individual courses, so students can take classes part time or as needed.
New workers typically begin their on-the-job training by helping an experienced repair technician with basic tasks. As they gain experience, they move on to more complex work. Some workers may become trained in as little as a 1 year, but generally, workers may need 3-4 years of hands-on training to become fully qualified repair technicians.
Basic automotive glass installation and repair can be learned in as little as 6 months, but becoming fully qualified can take up to 1 year.
Formally educated workers often require significantly less on-the-job training and typically advance to independent work more quickly than those who do not have the same level of training.
To keep up with rapidly changing automotive technology, repair technicians need to continue their education and training throughout their careers. Repair technicians are expected to develop their skills by reading technical manuals and by attending classes and seminars. Many employers regularly send workers to advanced training programs.
Although not required, certification is recommended because it shows competence and usually brings higher pay. In some instances, however, it is required for advancement beyond entry-level work.
Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence is a standard credential for repair technicians. Many repair technicians get further certification through the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair.
In addition, many vehicle and paint manufacturers have product certification programs that train repair technicians in specific technologies and repair methods.
Critical-thinking skills. Repair technicians must be able to evaluate vehicle damage and determine necessary repair strategies for each vehicle they work on. In some cases, they must decide if a vehicle is “totaled,” or too damaged to justify the cost of repair.
Customer-service skills. Repair technicians must discuss auto body and glass problems, along with options to fix them, with customers. Because self-employed workers depend on repeat clients for business, they must be courteous, good listeners, and ready to answer customers’ questions.
Detail oriented. Repair technicians must pay close attention to detail. Restoring a damaged auto body to its original state requires workers to have a keen eye for even the smallest imperfection.
Dexterity. Many repair technicians’ tasks, such as removing door panels, hammering out dents, and using handtools to install parts, require a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination.
Technical skills. Repair technicians must know which diagnostic, hydraulic, pneumatic, and other power equipment and tools are appropriate for certain procedures and repairs. They must be skilled with techniques and methods necessary to repair modern automobiles.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition