Be an Auto Body Estimator: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 04, 2020

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.

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Should I Become an Auto Body Estimator?

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; formal training and college degree for some positions
Degree Field Auto body repair
Licensure and/or Certification Adjuster's/appraiser's license and valid driver's license often required; auto repair certification often preferred; varies by state
Key Skills Analytical, verbal and written communication, interpersonal, customer service, and mathematics skills; familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, and appraisal software; auto body and mechanical knowledge; digital camera operation
Salary (2018) $65,670 yearly (median for claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine

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. They also work with insurance companies and deal with customers who have personal budgetary concerns. Typical job duties of an auto body estimator 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.

Auto body estimators often enter this career with only a high school diploma, though employers may prefer applicants who have some formal training in auto body repair or extensive experience in the field. Considering the low level of education required, salary potential is relatively high, especially with experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, auto body estimators, also referred to as auto body appraisers, earned an average of $65,670 per year as of May 2018. Now let's take a look at the steps needed to become an auto body estimator.

Step 1: Earn a Degree or Certificate

Since auto body estimators must inspect damaged vehicles and assess repair costs, employers often prefer formal training in a field related to 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. Courses in these programs utilize hands-on learning techniques and help students understand auto body repair structural concerns, techniques, and costs, vital knowledge for the career. Students are also trained in recognizing and diagnosing automotive problems and they learn about automobile design, metalworking, glass installation, painting, and frame alignment used in auto construction.

During college, it may be wise to learn basic computer skills as well. After all, an auto body estimator works with computers and software on the job, such as for communications and record keeping. Necessary computer skills include word-processing, spreadsheets, and appraisal software.

Typically, these programs follow industry-standard training and align with mechanic certification requirements. For instance, mechanics can often earn certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. So, auto body repair programs tend to prepare students for credentials through these organizations.

Step 2: Gain Basic Experience

Employers generally prefer auto body estimators with experience in the field. That's because auto body estimators must know their work from the ground up. You might begin by taking an entry-level job in an auto body repair shop. Early experience gained from seasoned professionals may give the aspiring estimator a solid foundation of knowledge.

Here's a tip for success: 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 used 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.

It's important to 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 program.

To become an auto body estimator, you generally need some formal education, such as a certificate in auto body repair, as well experience in the field and professional licensure.

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