Discover how to become certified as an auto body technician. Learn more about auto body technician starting salary, job duties and necessary skills.
There are many reasons to become an auto paint technician. Becoming an auto paint technician is a great job if you do not enjoy working in a traditional office setting. As a paint technician, there is a minimal amount of paperwork to do. Most of your job is spent working in a garage or specialized paint booth. There is a fair amount of job security as an auto body technician. Like other mechanical fields, you are in high demand because there is never a shortage of cars in need of your service. Some drivers paint their cars to change up the appearance, while others get new paint after an accident. Even drivers getting ready to sell their vehicles often need auto body painting, to make the vehicle look more appealing and attract more buyers.
Another benefit of becoming an auto paint technician is how quickly certification takes place. The process varies depending on where you want to work, but you never require any kind of college degree. More information about becoming an auto paint technician is detailed below.
Responsibilities of an Auto Paint Technician
The majority of paint technicians work in an auto body shop. It is also possible to get a job with an automotive dealership. Certain collision centers also employ a small team of paint technicians. No matter where you are employed, your responsibilities are the same.
The main job of an auto paint technician is applying fresh paint to a vehicle, but there are many other responsibilities as well. As an auto paint technician, you must be able to assess structural damage, including how much a paint job will cost for a damaged vehicle. Auto paint technicians must be able to understand and approve vehicle damage reports, as well as help with minor repairs to restore a vehicle. Welding, priming and sanding are all necessary skills for an auto paint technician. Finally, you must have knowledge of vehicle restoration.
In addition to these general responsibilities, you must be able to apply them to multiple vehicles. In many cases, the process of painting or repairing a vehicle greatly changes depending on the make and model. Some vehicles require specialized paints, which you are responsible for mixing. There are also strict safety procedures you must follow as an auto paint technician.
Auto Paint Technician Education Requirements
There are few requirements to become an auto paint technician. You must have at least a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. Technically, you do not need certification, but few employers are willing to hire an uncertified painter. Once you graduate high school, you may enroll in a post-secondary program to get your auto body painting certification. Training programs are taught throughout the year at various locations. Technical and community colleges are some of the best locations to find paint technician courses. Automotive institutes and even select dealerships may also provide auto body painting courses as well. On average, these certification programs last between six months to one year.
While it is not required, you can also get an associate degree in auto body technology. A degree program is much more extensive, taking at least two years to complete without an accelerated program. These programs provide much more skills, include auto detailing, glass replacement and body refinishing. There is also a greater emphasis placed on welding and metal work. These extra skills are not only useful in other careers, but it is an excellent resume booster and helps you find employment after graduation. Whether you get an associate degree or attend a certification class, the program must be approved by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
Top Auto Body Painting Universities
If you are interested in pursuing a degree for auto body painting, there are several top universities in the United States. The University of Northwestern Ohio runs a program taught by master class ASE certified technicians. The college also has one of the highest placement rates for graduates finding employment.
Montana State University is another top college. The university has a fast-track option for all automotive technology courses, allowing you to complete your degree in roughly a year. The university also works with local automotive businesses in the area, to help students find a job after becoming certified.
Another college to consider is Ferris State University. This university has a variety of specialization classes for unique type of vehicles, such as older model sportscars. There are also options to take classes for commercial vehicles.
Completing your ASE Certification
Once you finish your education, the next step is to complete a certification test. The ASE certification test is divided into six categories. The six categories are:
Using painting equipment, including spray guns
Mixing and applying custom paints
Proper safety procedures
Repairing finish defects
Fixing common paint application issues
The test is 55 questions. Every five years, you must renew your certification, which involves taking another exam. The recertification exam is nearly half the length of the original certification exam.
Salary and Career Advancement
As of writing, the average salary for an auto body technician is $42,000, or $20 an hour. Your salary is largely dependent on what state you work in. Typically, collision centers offer the highest starting wages, while auto body centers offer the lowest.
There are many career advancement options for auto body technicians. Many painters specialize in other areas, expanding their duties in a garage. This often includes other repair work, such as being an airbrush or detail technician. Others work as general commercial equipment specialists. One of the ways to advance your career is attending seminars, workshops and other training courses in the automotive industry.