Auto Body Mechanic Education Requirements and Career Information
Auto body mechanics are skilled tradesman who repair cosmetic and sometimes structural damage to the bodies of cars and light trucks. Their work requires knowledge of the properties of metal, glass and other materials, and to a lesser extent a vehicle's mechanical systems. Auto body mechanics used to learn their trade on the job, but most repair shops now prefer to hire candidates with formal training. Certification is also available.
Auto Mechanic Education Requirements
Auto body mechanic educational programs are primarily offered at the certificate and associate's degree levels, although bachelor's degrees may also be available. A high school diploma is the sole prerequisite for enrollment in most cases. High school shop and auto body repair classes provide good preparation for would-be auto mechanics.
Hands-on work with tools and repair projects make up the core of postsecondary degree and certificate programs for auto body repair, with classroom study playing a supporting role. Classes may cover structural and non-structural damage, panel removal and repair, welding and cutting techniques, plastics and adhesives, primer and topcoat, damage assessment, body filling, metal finishing, glass repair, anti-collision technology and repair shop equipment.
Although voluntary, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers four certification examinations for auto body mechanics. These have become widely adopted credentials, especially in urban areas of the U.S. Body mechanics earn certification if they pass an exam and possess two years of work experience. The completion of an educational program for auto body repair can count as one year of experience. Mechanics that pass all four exams are certified as ASE Master Collision Repair and Refinish Technicians.
Job Duties and Skills
In the preliminary stages of a job, auto body mechanics examine vehicles, assess damage, and provide a cost estimate. In the repair stage, they straighten frame damage if necessary, pull or fill dents, cut and reshape metal, replace broken glass and apply paint. Auto body mechanics need an eye for form and color, the strength to lift heavy objects and steady hands. They must also exhibit a willingness to withstand temperature extremes and exposure to paint fumes and material dust.
Additional Career Information
A majority of auto body mechanics work for auto body shops, while a smaller number work for dealers. According to Payscale.com, the median wage of body mechanics with 1-4 years of experience was $12.30 per hour as of February 2010. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects only 1% growth in jobs for body mechanics over the years 2008-2018. Although the number of vehicles on the road is expected to rise, growth will be limited due to consolidation in the industry and insurance policy changes that favor demolition instead of restoration of wrecked vehicles (www.bls.gov).
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