Auto Body Technician Career Info

Auto body technicians are the people who work on car bodies, aka body repairs, sometimes inaccurately known as panel beaters. This is one of the most common areas of auto repair, and can be a lot more complex than the common image of the job suggests.

The Work Environment

Auto body technicians work in the "body shop" an area for repairs. Working with auto bodies isn't as simple as market imagery makes it look. Auto bodies contain the vehicle's upper frame, a structure which houses the car's driving, control and other systems as well as the driver and passengers.

The very large variety of different types of auto bodies complicates the work considerably. Repairing or replacing a large range of designs requires auto body technicians to be fully aware of the issues related to frames and systems. Many auto body businesses specialize in particular types of vehicle, but it's common for a general body shop to have a range of car makes and vintages under management.

The auto body technician's work involves:

Replacement of damaged components: This is an assembly process, putting together a partially replaced body using both original and replacement materials.

Straightening of damaged or dented areas: Structures of some frames and materials may allow straightening unless actual shears or fractures have occurred. This is a complex process requiring hydraulic alignment equipment to achieve proper structural alignment and integrity. Repair processes may require cutting and use of pneumatic hammers and can involve extensive, detailed work. A single vehicle may require multiple procedures.

Cosmetic repairs: These repairs usually relate to minor damage to frame areas like filling and metal finishing processes and panel beating.

Wages:

$13 to $30 an hour, dependent on experience and qualifications

Hours:

Variable depending on workload, can include a lot of overtime.

The Career Environment

Auto body repairs are a very big business in the US. Three quarters of a million Americans are employed in this field, and employment is expected to grow by 12% in the coming decade. This means that auto body technicians have a lot of job and career mobility.

Career progression is also flexible, and can include a lot of potential for development of business options. The range of career tracks for auto body technicians is:

  • Promotional: Auto body technicians can progress up the organizational ladder to supervisory, training and management positions. This is a common career track, providing stable employment and career options at each stage.
  • Commercial: Some auto body repair businesses are franchises. This is an excellent career option for experienced technicians, who know the business and their local markets. Auto body repair businesses can be very high value operations, worth millions in some markets.
  • Many auto body repair businesses align themselves commercially with particular makes of vehicle, either private cars or commercial vehicles. This form of business includes "brand power" commercial potentials, particularly with up-market private vehicles.  Commercial vehicles like buses, trucks, and vans also incorporate a valuable natural market in their ranges.
  • Own business: Another often lucrative business in local markets, auto body repairs often provide a good service to their areas and get a lot of business based on reputation as well as convenience of local servicing.