Become a Body Shop Estimator: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a body shop estimator. Learn about the job description, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in body shop estimation.

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Should I Become a Body Shop Estimator?

Body shop estimators inspect vehicles that need body work, typically as a result of an accident, incident, or owner's desire to change the look of their vehicles. They then calculate the costs for any needed repairs and other improvements. This may include assessing physical damage, running tests, and obtaining information from customers. Many work hours might be spent in noisy auto repair shops while working in this occupation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary for automotive body and related repairers was $40,970 in May 2015.

Career Requirements

Education Required Varies; high school diploma/equivalent or vocational training
Field of Study Collision repair
Experience 1-3 years of automotive industry or estimate writing experience
Licensure and Certification Some areas may require estimators to hold a state license; voluntary industry certifications are also available
Key Skills Strong math, oral and written communication, interpersonal, and critical thinking skills; familiarity with estimation software
Salary $40,970 (2015 median for automotive body and related repairers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Universal Technical Institute, job postings (December 2012)

Steps to Become a Body Shop Estimator

Let's take a look at the steps taken to become a body shop estimator.

Step 1: Get Vocational Training

Employers might look for candidates who have graduated from vocational schools. Many technical colleges offer two-year training programs in collision repair; students should look for schools that have been certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. Training may include electrical rewiring, welding, and damage analysis.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Prospective body shop estimators can start their careers as apprentices or technicians at local repair shops or car dealerships. These positions provide hands-on restoration experience and thorough knowledge of repair costs. Since the role of an estimator is to come up with an approximate dollar amount, he or she must understand the cost of labor, materials, and common procedures. Using negotiation skills, body shop estimators may also help mechanics and clients reach a cost compromise.

Success Tips:

Earn certification. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers certification to people with two years of full-time work experience or a combination of experience and training. Candidates can complete one or more written exams in their area of specialty to earn certification and must be retested every five years.

Research licensure. Some states require auto damage appraisers to be licensed. Candidates might have to meet education or work requirements and pass a written exam. Students should research their states' requirements to determine if additional licensure is recommended or necessary.

Step 3: Seek Career Advancement

After several years working in auto body repair facilities, some estimators become claims examiners or appraisers for insurance companies. These professionals assess damaged vehicles after accidents to determine the payout of a claim.

To become a body shop estimator, you'll need to complete training to gain the skills you need and gain work experience.

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