Students interested in pursuing autobody repair careers typically complete formal training programs in automotive collision repair and refinishing. While requirements vary by school, many programs call for students to complete 1,400 hours of coursework. Some programs in Florida culminate in an undergraduate certificate, while others may confer an associate degree. Some autobody repair technicians also receive on-the-job training through internships or apprenticeships, though students applying to work as apprentices may need to be 18 years old.
Daytona State College
Located in Daytona Beach, Daytona State College offers a two-year automotive collision repair and refinishing program that trains students for careers in autobody repair. Through lecture-based and experiential learning, students are prepared for ASE and I-CAR certification exams. Students typically spend the first semester of the program taking courses in auto refinishing, which includes skills-based training in spray gun use and application of corrosion resistant materials. Other courses cover detailing and refinishing safety practices.
In the second semester, students learn collision repair. Courses review cost estimating, repair planning and repair practices for various auto components. Following the first year, students take courses intended to develop advanced repair skills, such as frame repair, glass installation and electrical systems analysis. By the conclusion of the program, students have accumulated 1,400 contact hours and more than 45 vocational hours.
Florida State College at Jacksonville
Florida Coast Career Tech, a division of Florida State College at Jacksonville, offers courses in autobody repair technology. Florida Coast Career Tech has nine campuses and education centers in and around Jacksonville, offering courses during the day, in the evenings and on weekends. Offered through the Automotive and Diesel Technologies Department, the automotive collision repair and refinishing program prepares students for work in autobody and paint shops, auto garages or auto dealerships.
There are 12 core courses in the program, all of which include a combination of workforce credits and direct contact hours. Additionally, each student completes an internship to gain real-world experience in autobody repair. The courses in the program cover many facets of autobody repair, including welding, painting and frame straightening. Students are also trained in the analytical aspects of autobody repair; these range from damage report writing to safety regulations. Upon completion of this 1,400-contact hour program, students are prepared to take ASE certification exams.
Hillsborough Community College
Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Tampa offers a 1,400-hour automotive collision repair and refinishing program that covers structural and nonstructural damage, electrical and mechanical repair, automotive painting, estimating and welding. Students attend day classes Monday through Friday. Courses in this program can be transferred to the industrial management associate's degree program.
Manatee Technical Institute
Bradenton-based Manatee Technical Institute has an auto collision repair and refinishing program that prepares students for entry-level employment as automotive repair and refinishing technicians. Offering both day and evening sessions, this 1,400-hour program consists of five courses. Students learn about sheet metal repair, basic refinishing, unibody squaring and aligning, cost estimating, trim-hardware maintenance and paint, filler and undercoat usage.
Miami Lakes Educational Center
The auto collision repair and refinishing program at Miami Lakes Educational Center in Miami Lakes prepares students for employment in automotive repair shops, while providing training that meets the needs of the auto collision industry. This National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF)-certified program provides a mix of classroom theory and practical experience. Topics of study include shop management, body shell alignment equipment, welding/brazing techniques, refinishing techniques and basic auto mechanics. Students entering this program must be at least 16 years old, be out of high school and have adequate assessment scores in reading, language and math. Students can complete this 1,400-hour program in around 16 months.
Orlando-based Mid-Florida Tech, an I-CAR-approved Level II training site, offers an automotive collision repair and refinishing program that meets NATEF standards and prepares students for ASE and I-CAR certifications. The program consists of six sequential courses. Students learn to prepare a vehicle for repair and refinishing, select and apply correct paints and finishes, maintain/operate spray equipment and use business management and occupational safety skills.
Pinellas Technical Education Center
Pinellas Technical Education Center offers an automotive collision repair and refinishing program at its Saint Petersburg location. The 1,400-hour program consists of two parts: automotive collision repair and refinishing I (750 hours) and automotive collision repair and refinishing II (650 hours). Courses cover automotive body repair, automotive refinishing and auto collision estimation. The program can be completed in 18 months.
South Florida State College
Located in Avon Park, South Florida State College offers a two-year automotive collision repair and refinishing program that prepares students for careers as auto collision painters or auto repair technicians. Requiring 1,650 contact hours, this program includes classroom and lab courses, as well as a 240-hour cooperative education experience. The lab courses provide extensive training in auto collision repair and refinishing. Other course topics include panel repair and replacement, basic sheet metal repairs and painting techniques.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers prefer hiring individuals who have completed training programs and have a professional certification. Certification can be obtained from agencies such as the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) or the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR).
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type and Setting||Autobody Repair Technology Programs Offered||Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)|
|Daytona State College||Four-year, primarily associate's; public; small city||Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing Vocational Certificate||$3,282 in-state; $12,352 out-of-state*|
|Florida State College at Jacksonville||Four-year, primarily associate's; public; large city||Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing Workforce Certificate||$2,830 in-state; $9,944 out-of-state*|
|Hillsborough Community College||Two-year; public; large city||Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing Academy||$2,506 in-state; $9,111 out-of-state*|
|Manatee Technical Institute||Two-year; public; large suburb||Auto Collision Repair and Refinishing Program||$5,551 estimated program cost**|
|Miami Lakes Educational Center||Two-year; public; large suburb||Auto Collision Repair and Refinishing Program||$4,121 estimate d program cost**|
|Mid-Florida Tech||Two-year; public; large suburb||Auto Collision Repair and Refinishing Program||$3,920 estimated program cost for FL residents**|
|Pinellas Technical Education Center||Two-year; public; midsize city|| Auto Collision Repair and Refinishing Program,
Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing Apprenticeship
|$7,387 estimated program cost**|
|South Florida State College||Four-year, primarily associate's; public; distant town||Automotive Collision Repair and Refinishing Occupational Certificate||$3,165 in-state; $11,859 out-of-state*|
Sources: *National Center for Education Statistics, **Schools' websites.