Be an Auto Body Estimator: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an auto body estimator. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in auto body estimating.

Should I Become an Auto Body Estimator?

The auto body estimator works with mechanics and clients to determine the extent of auto body damage and the best way it might be repaired, while working with the customer's insurance policy or personal budgetary concerns. Typical job duties include documenting work orders and invoices, ordering parts, completing insurance forms and judging whether to replace or repair damage with consideration of a vehicle's actual value. Many work hours might be spent in noisy auto repair shops.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or GED, although some employers prefer formal training and a college degree
Degree Field Auto body repair
Licensure and/or Certification Adjuster's or appraiser's license and valid driver's license often require; auto repair certification often preferred; requirements vary by state
Key Skills Analytical ability, verbal and written communication, interpersonal and customer service, mathematics ability, familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, appraisal software, auto body and mechanical knowledge, digital camera operation
Salary (2014) $63,420 yearly (median for all insurance appraisers, auto damage)

Sources: Online job postings (November 2012), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine

Step 1: Earn a Degree or Certificate

Since auto body estimators must inspect damaged vehicles and assess repair costs, employers often prefer formal training or knowledge of auto body repair. Aspiring auto body estimators may earn an associate's degree or technical certificate in auto body repair technology at a community college or vocational school. In order to become an auto body estimator or collision repair estimator, it is vital to understand auto body repair structural concerns, techniques and costs.

The hands-on learning techniques used by many schools and colleges prepare students with working knowledge of auto body repair using current methods and practices. Students are also trained in recognizing and diagnosing automotive problems. Understanding the design of the automobile, metalworking, glass installation, painting, and frame alignment used in auto construction is essential for a career as an auto body estimator. Schools and colleges often follow industry standard training and certification programs, such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), I-CAR, and the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).

Success Tip:

  • Learn basic computer skills. An auto body estimator should have experience with computers and software for job requirements, such as communications and record keeping. Necessary computer skills include word-processing programs, spreadsheets, email, and the ability to use appraisal software.

Step 2: Gain Basic Experience

Begin by taking an entry-level job in an auto body repair shop. Auto body estimators know their work from the ground up. Early experience gained from seasoned professionals may give the aspiring estimator a solid foundation of knowledge.

Success Tip:

  • Maintain a clean driving record. A driver's license and a clean driving record are usually required as a condition of employment since many auto body estimators test-drive client vehicles for assessment. They may also be issued company vehicles to use for travel to client or vendor sites.

Step 3: Become Professionally Licensed

Licensing requirements for auto body estimators vary by state. Some states require pre-licensing experience or education, while other states require the individual to pass a licensing exam. A fee is often required when the license is first issued, as well as upon renewal. States requiring a license to work as an auto body estimator may also require yearly educational credits towards license renewal.

Success Tip:

  • Maintain familiarity with changing laws and policies. After acquiring a license, if one is required, auto body estimators must remain up-to-date on new and changing state and federal laws and how courts handle insurance claims. Many companies hold seminars ensuring their employees' familiarity with new policies and laws. Estimators may also obtain continuing education through the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation's Continuing Automotive Service Education (CASE) program.

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