How to Advance (Advancement)
Certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), although voluntary, is the pervasive industry credential for experienced automotive body repairers. Many repairers, particularly in urban areas, need a national certification to advance past entry-level work. Repairers may take up to four ASE Master Collision Repair and Refinish Exams. Repairers who pass at least one exam and have 2 years of hands-on work experience earn ASE certification. The completion of a postsecondary program in automotive body repair may be substituted for 1 year of work experience. Those who pass all four exams become ASE Master Collision Repair and Refinish Technicians. Automotive body repairers must retake the examination at least every 5 years to retain their certification. Ongoing training through the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) can lead to additional recognition as a Platinum technician. Finally, many vehicle manufacturers and paint manufacturers also have product certification programs that can advance a repairer's career.
As beginners increase their skills, learn new techniques, earn certifications, and complete work more rapidly, their pay increases. An experienced automotive body repairer with managerial ability may advance to shop supervisor, and some workers open their own body repair shops. Other repairers become automobile damage appraisers for insurance companies.
Automotive body and related repairers held about 185,900 jobs in 2008; about 10 percent specialized in automotive glass installation and repair. Around 62 percent of repairers worked for automotive repair and maintenance shops, while 17 percent worked for automobile dealers. A small number worked for wholesalers of motor vehicles, parts, and supplies. About 12 percent of automotive body repairers were self-employed.
Employment is projected to see little or no change. Job opportunities will be excellent for people with formal training in automotive body repair and refinishing as older workers retire and need to be replaced; those without any training or experience will face competition.
Employment of automotive body repairers is expected to grow by 1 percent over the 2008-18 decade. The number of vehicles on the road is expected to continue increasing over the next decade. This will lead to overall growth in the demand for collision repair services. The increasing role of technology in vehicles also will mean new opportunities for workers with expertise or training in repairing particular makes and models of cars or working with specific materials.
However, several factors will limit the number of new jobs for automotive body repairers. The increasingly advanced technology used in vehicles has led to significant increases in the prices of new and replacement parts. Collision repair shop owners, in an effort to stay profitable, have adopted productivity enhancing techniques. The result of this has also been consolidation within the industry, or a decreasing number of collision repair shops and limited total employment growth. In some cases, the use of new technology like airbags has led to more cars that are involved in accidents to be declared a total loss – where repairing a car costs more than the value of the vehicle. High insurance deductibles have meant that an increasing number of cars suffering minor collision damage are going unrepaired.
Although few jobs are expected to arise due to growth, the need to replace experienced repairers who transfer to other occupations or who retire or stop working for other reasons will provide many job openings over the next 10 years. Opportunities will be excellent for people with formal training in automotive body repair and refinishing. Those without any training or experience in automotive body refinishing or collision repair will face competition for these jobs.
Median hourly wages of automotive body and related repairers, including incentive pay, were $17.81 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.74 and $23.57 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.75, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $30.17 an hour. Median hourly wages of automotive body and related repairers were $18.95 in automobile dealers and $17.40 in automotive repair and maintenance.
Median hourly wages of automotive glass installers and repairers, including incentive pay, were $15.44 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.40 and $18.88 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.71 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $23.39 an hour. Median hourly wages in automotive repair and maintenance shops, the industry employing most automotive glass installers and repairers, were $15.34.
The majority of body repairers employed by independent repair shops and automotive dealers are paid on an incentive basis. Under this system, body repairers are paid a set amount for various tasks, and earnings depend on both the amount of work assigned and how fast it is completed. Employers frequently guarantee workers a minimum weekly salary. Body repairers who work for trucking companies, buslines, and other organizations that maintain their own vehicles usually receive an hourly wage.
Helpers and trainees typically earn between 30 percent and 60 percent of the earnings of skilled workers. They are paid by the hour until they are skilled enough to be paid on an incentive basis.
Employee benefits vary widely from business to business. However, industry sources report that benefits such as paid leave, health insurance, and retirement assistance are increasingly common in the collision repair industry. Automotive dealerships are the most likely to offer such incentives.
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