With so many cars and trucks on the road, accidents are inevitable. But not all accidents leave vehicles totaled and unable to be driven another mile. This is where a collision repair technician steps in and helps put the vehicle back to form. This type of work does not involve any engine repair, as it focuses solely on the automotive body. The process also includes painting and refinishing, both of which are detailed and meticulous steps.

The actual collision repair must adhere to the specifications of the vehicle manufacturer, which demands that technicians be extremely thorough. There is an ongoing need for collision repair technicians, which has created a profession that includes job stability and competitive pay. Carving out a career as a collision repair technician can be accomplished by gaining education through formal training.

Collision Repair Technician Job Duties

Collision repair technicians wind up playing a key role in auto body repair. These are the individuals entrusted with fixing the bodies of vehicles that have sustained damage. There are many intricate details that go into correcting body damage, which makes it imperative for collision repair technicians to be very precise. Here is a closer look at the job duties of a professional collision repair technician:

  • Provide cost estimations of repair
  • Hammer out minor dents
  • Weld metal parts that are out of place
  • Straighten frames that are twisted
  • Disassemble parts to access vehicle frame
  • Use filler to fix damaged parts
  • Filing, sanding and grinding surfaces
  • Sanding and finish coat painting
  • Realign wheels and headlights

Collision repair technicians also use tools that are very specific to the job. This includes the use of plasma cutters and pneumatic tools, which serve the purpose of removing panels and bumpers that have been damaged. A collision repair tech will also make use of hydraulic jacks that are of the heavy-duty variety. This is used for large scale structural repair and also helps with body alignment. Regular hand tools are also used over the course of a typical workday.

To learn all the essentials of collision repair, a formal education is required. There are a number of post-secondary schools that feature collision repair training programs. These programs typically take a full-year to complete and provide students with both classroom and hands-on instruction. Many of these programs are offered by technical colleges and automotive training institutes. Classroom instruction features a heavy concentration on collision repair theory.

There is the need to have a workspace that meets all of the safety demands and has adequate room for actual collision repair work. When finished with the entirety of the coursework in one of these one-year programs, graduates are awarded a certificate of completion.

There is also a two-year option for those looking to invest more time into their collision repair training. A number of community colleges and technical colleges have introduced Associate Degree programs in Collision Repair Technology. These programs are very in-depth and take four semesters to complete when students are enrolled on a full-time basis. Students must also complete general education courses that will count towards their degree.

Whether students choose the one-year or two-year option, they benefit from a wealth of hands-on learning in labs that are specifically designed for collision repair. As part of the curriculum, students will be presented with all kinds of damaged vehicles and taught state of the art techniques on how to provide the necessary repair. Here is a look at some of the concepts that are taught in a collision repair education program.

  • Painting and Refinishing
  • Electrical Components
  • Mechanical Components
  • Non-Structural Repair
  • Non-Structural Analysis
  • Structural Analysis
  • Structural Repair
  • Welding
  • Panel Replacement
  • Damage Analysis
  • Professional Estimating

To be admitted into a collision repair technician education program, applicants should hold a minimum of a high school diploma or GED equivalency. Some programs require applicants to have passed at least one year of high school algebra. A basic skill level in English is suggested by most schools while mostly all programs require students to have their own tool cabinet and tool kit. Some colleges require students to apply to the school and then apply to the collision repair program directly. Since class sizes are relatively smaller, there may be a limit on how many students can enroll at the start of a new semester. Students are expected to maintain satisfactory grades while part of a collision repair program.

Collision Repair Education Requirements

Collision Repair Education Requirements

Collision Repair Certification

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers a variety of certifications in collision repair and refinishing. These certifications are a way of recognizing technicians who have acquired an above average knowledge level of analyzing and repairing collision damage. It also certifies technicians as being proficient at correcting paint finish damage. Here is a look at the certification tests offered by the ASE for collision repair.

  • B2

    Painting & Refinishing

  • B3

    Non-Structural Analysis & Damage Repair

  • B4

    Structural Analysis & Damage Repair

  • B5

    Mechanical & Electrical Components

These certifications include anywhere from 50 to 55 questions. Once a technician acquires all four of those certifications, the distinction of ASE-Certified Master Collision Repair Technician is earned. In order to maintain a certification, a recertification test must be taken and passed every five years. These recertification tests contain about half the questions as the initial certification tests.

An additional certification is available in the for those looking to be certified as a collision damage estimator. This separate test is not necessary in order to earn master technician status. Collision estimators do not perform collision repair, but instead write estimates. Many collision estimators find employment in insurance companies, while some work as independent adjustors. Each of these certifications requires work experience of at least two years.

The benefits of earning a certification quickly surface in the job market as many employers are eager to hire collision repair technicians who have been certified. Some employers will not even consider hiring collision repair technicians without any ASE certifications. This can also lead to higher pay rates as technicians have more leverage negotiating salaries when they hold a certification or multiple certifications.

Collision Repair Technician Salary and Job Outlook

Collision repair technicians fall under the distinction of auto body and glass repairers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Based on data collected by that Bureau, auto body and glass repairers earn a median salary of $40,370 per year. However, that amount is just the middle ground as there are lots of collision repair technicians that earn more over the course of a year. California is home to the highest annual salary for collision repair technicians as the statewide average is $47,150 per year. California also features the highest number of collision repair technicians and that is followed by the states of Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

Salary amounts are often determined by level of experience and the number of certifications a technician has attained. The type of business also has a lot to do with how much collision repair technicians earn on an annual basis. Automotive dealers are one place of employment, while auto body shops and auto paint shops employ a high number of collision repair technicians as well.

Collision repair technicians have a higher than average rate when it comes to job growth. By the year 2024, there expects to be 9% more collision repair technician jobs across the country. Some locations have higher growth rates. However, there are more vehicles being manufactured in the United States each year and that continues to increase the demand for repair specialists. Collision repair is considered to be a specialty area and that has increased the demand for members of this field.

Characteristics and Skills of a Collision Repair Technician

  • Problem solving

    Not every collision repair is going to be a textbook case. Therefore, technicians will need to solve their share of unforeseen problems. The ability to come up with these solutions relies on experience and training.

  • Precision

    There is an exactness to collision repair as it is something that takes a good hand-eye coordination. Matching up repaired vehicle bodies also requires an eye for precision.

  • Technical knowledge

    There needs to be a strong understanding of how frame repair works. This component is difficult to be learned without any formal training.

The characteristics of a collision repair technician include having a meticulous approach to the job. This will help develop the skill of precision. Collision repair technicians are also very perceptive when it comes to examining the more intricate details of a vehicle body. Flexibility is also important as technicians need to adapt and adjust their techniques when it comes to the repair process.