painting in a paint booth.

The decision to become an auto paint technician provides a pathway to an exciting career that is always in demand. There is no shortage of accidents and fender benders on today’s roadways. That calls for the continual need of auto body repair. Part of that process includes painting refinished vehicles and that requires a certain level of precision. Paint technicians are the ones who put the final touches on collision repair and have the ability to make cars look just as they did when they came out of the showroom. A future as an automotive paint technician awaits with the completion of some easy-to-follow steps that can lead to a lifetime of job stability and competitive pay.

Job Duties of an Auto Paint Technician

Most paint technicians find work in auto body shops while others gain employment at automotive dealers directly. There are also collision centers that feature a team of paint technicians. In any of these settings, auto paint technicians work in an indoor environment that has been meticulously prepared. It is also the duty of a paint technician to ensure all the elements of a workplace are right for auto painting.

  • Application of new finish to body parts that have been restored
  • Structural damage vehicle inspections
  • Calculating cost estimates
  • Looking over and double-checking vehicle damage reports
  • Repairing minor body damage
  • Fitting welding parts in appropriate spots
  • Priming and sanding surfaces that have been repaired
  • Restoration of coatings and seam sealers

Paint technicians must adhere to very specific principles and that process begins with the surface preparation of a vehicle. The process continues with paint mixing and then leads into the application of paint. There is also a refinishing stage to attend to and strict safety precautions accompany each phase of the process. Here is a closer look at the many job duties of an automotive paint technician.

Auto Body Paint Technician Education

To become an auto body paint technician, a high school diploma or GED equivalency is required. Once that step has been completed, then it is time to find a post-secondary program that teaches auto body painting. This profession is becoming more competitive, which makes it more important to acquire a formal education. Training programs are offered at technical colleges, automotive institutes, community colleges and other career institutes throughout the country.

Many of these programs go beyond teaching the essentials of painting and refinishing. There are many programs that offer certificates and Associate Degrees in Auto Body Technology. This covers a comprehensive area of work and prepares students to learn a wide array of skills. Painting and refinishing is a key component within these programs. As part of one of these programs, students will learn the following concepts:

  • Paint technician fundamentals
  • Welding and metal work
  • Body refinishing
  • Auto glass replacement
  • Detailing

Colleges that offer an Associate Degree of Applied Science in Auto Body Technology feature coursework that generally takes two years to complete, as long as students attend on a full-time basis. Technical institutes and technical colleges offer certificate programs that usually design a curriculum that takes one year to complete. Both are considered to be well-respected credentials within the auto body repair community.

The value of a paint technician education shows itself as soon as technicians enter the job market. Many employers are looking to hire new technicians who have been properly trained. Holding an associate degree or certificate of completion will broaden the job possibilities and increase a paint technician’s earning potential. Many programs will also assist students in their search for employment with job placement programs designed to fast track them into the profession. There are also some auto paint shops that have relationships with local institutes and hire graduates as soon as they successfully complete their respective programs.

Auto Paint Technician Certification

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has established a certification for paint technicians. This certification falls under the category of Collision Repair & Refinish Certification Tests. The test is labeled as B2 and involves six different parts, which are as follows:

  • Surface Preparation
  • Spray Gun Operation and Related Equipment
  • Paint Mixing, Matching, and Applying
  • Solving Paint Application Problems
  • Finish Defects, Causes, and Cures
  • Safety Precautions

The test is made up of 55 total questions and a certain amount of work experience is required before technicians can sit for this exam. The ASE certification is highly revered in the auto body repair industry. Technicians who have earned this certification are subject to higher pay rates and more prominent job positions.

Certifications are not required by any kind of state mandate, as it is up to employers to set their own standards when hiring new paint technicians. One of the most common criteria for paint technicians is an ASE certification. This is a way for paint technicians to establish themselves as elite members of this profession. Many auto body shops post signs that their technicians are ASE certified. That distinction is also used frequently in auto body shop advertisements. It is a way of showing customers that a business has an ample amount of credibility and experience.

ASE Painting and Refinishing Certifications are not permanent as they need to be renewed every five years. This requires technicians to pass a recertification exam that has approximately half as many questions as the original certification exam. The painting and refinishing certification is required for those looking to earn master status as a collision repair technician. It is one of four certifications that make up this elite distinction.

Auto Paint Technician Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies auto paint technicians under the distinction of automotive body and related repairers. The median salary for this contingent is $41,540 per year. However, there is the opportunity to earn much higher annual pay rates. The top 10% earn an average salary of $70,620 per year. The highest average salaries are claimed by paint technicians in the District of Columbia, with an annual income of $67,290. Next in line is the state of Maryland, where the annual average income is $58,320 and that is followed by Alaska at $53,540.

The difference in salary depends on the specific auto body center. Some higher-end collision centers charge much higher amounts for painting and refinishing. Meanwhile, there are budget auto body centers that offer much lower rates. Those businesses generally pay out lower salaries to their auto paint technicians.

California is home to the highest population of paint technicians and that is followed by Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania. The number of technicians is also growing at a steady rate within the United States. Job growth is expected to increase 9% over the next 10-year period. That is a higher growth rate than the national average for jobs and it also means more opportunities every year for paint technicians. Those who have received a formal education and those with an ASE paint technician certification are the most sought-after members of this field.

Some paint technicians have decided on the option of self-employment. Of the total number of paint technicians, 9% are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most paint technicians work on a full-time basis and because many auto body shops are overbooked, it presents the potential for overtime pay. Paint technicians who take advantage of this additional work can significantly boost their annual income. That is why it is important to examine an auto body shop’s volume of business before accepting a position as a paint technician. Slower auto body shops may also cut hours during slow months.

Career Opportunities and Advancement

Following the steps to becoming a paint technician does not limit individuals to working at one position for the duration of their career. There are other possibilities that come with gaining education and experience as a paint technician. It can move paint technicians around to different workplaces, while giving them a wide range of responsibilities. Here is a look at some of the positions that can be acquired through paint technician education and training.

  • Manager of Auto Paint Shop
  • Paint Prepping Specialist
  • Custom Paint Technician
  • Refinishing Prep Technician
  • Airbrush Technician
  • Detail Technician
  • Commercial Equipment Paint Technician
  • Commercial Equipment Prep Specialist

There are also varying forms of ongoing education. Seminars, workshops and training courses are available for paint technicians interested in enhancing their credentials. There are even distance learning options as paint technicians can engage in ongoing education through distance learning courses. Ongoing education helps paint technicians to become more technically precise, mechanically inclined and creative with their style.

Individual vehicle manufacturers will also hire and train technicians to work specifically on their brand of cars and trucks. This may require additional training, which is typically provided by the manufacturer. And when those vehicles are among the higher-priced ones on the market, it could mean handsome paydays for paint technicians.

Custom paint shops provide excellent earning potential as many clients are willing to pay high prices for auto body painting. This also allows paint technicians to be a little more artistic and creative. However, the fundamentals of auto body painting need to be established before embarking on a loftier job position that has an immensity of benefits. Going through this job progression can be helped immensely with continuing education.