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Auto Body Technician - Auto Body Refinisher


Auto body technicians in the auto body refinisher branch of the trade (auto body refinishers) conduct damage appraisals, surface preparation, minor damage repairs, masking, colour matching, priming and top coating.

Auto body refinishers are responsible for the restoration of anti-corrosion treatments, substrate identification, surface preparation, product mixing and application, and accurate colour matching.

Passenger safety in a unibody vehicle is dependent upon rust-free components.  Auto body refinishers are involved throughout the collision-repair process, often beginning with the application of anti-corrosion compounds while the vehicle is still mounted on the frame repair equipment.

Auto body refinishers also remove and install bolt-on components such as hoods, deck lids, fenders, trim, doors, glass and interior components.  A key task in the auto body refinisher trade involves applying refinish products in the correct sequence, ensuring chemical compatibility, adhesion and durability.  Substrate preparation can be accomplished mechanically with abrasives or chemically as required by the job conditions.

Complex colour formulations created by automobile manufacturers require that refinishers develop a high skill level in both product chemistry and colour matching.

For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.


Working Conditions

Auto body refinishers usually work a 40-hour, five-day week with occasional overtime required. They work indoors in a noisy, sometimes dusty, environment. Although most shops are well ventilated, the work involves exposure to dust and fumes.

There is always some risk of injury involved in working with sharp metals and power tools.


Skills and Abilities

The work is most rewarding for creative decision-makers who perform expert and very precise work.

To be successful in the trade, refinishers must have:

  • strength, stamina and the use of proper lifting techniques required to handle heavy tools and parts weighing up to 25 kilograms,
  • manual dexterity,
  • creativity, patience and an eye for detail,
  • good colour vision,
  • current knowledge of the annual changes manufacturers make in plastics, electronics, metals, supplemental restraints and paints,
  • good customer service skills, and
  • commitment to safe work habits.


Employment and Advancement

Auto body refinishers are employed by auto body repair shops, automobile and truck dealerships, custom shops and sometimes by companies with vehicle fleets.

Journeyperson wage rates vary, but generally range from $19 to $35 an hour plus benefits, depending on the region. 

Experienced auto body refinishers may advance to supervisory positions, start their own businesses or become automobile damage appraisers for insurance companies.


Working in Alberta

To work as an auto body refinisher in Alberta, a person must be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, or hold a valid recognized credential.

Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements.


Apprenticeship Training

The term of apprenticeship for an auto body refinisher is 2 years (two 12-month periods), including a minimum of 1620 hours of on-the-job training and 6 weeks of technical training in the first year, and 1620 hours of on-the-job training and 6 weeks of technical training in the second year.

  • An applicant who previously completed courses of study or work experience related to the auto body refinisher branch of the trade or holds a related journeyperson certificate and has the employer's recommendation, may qualify for credit that could reduce the term of apprenticeship. Inquiries about credit for previously completed courses of study or work experience can be directed to an apprenticeship representative toll-free at 1-800-248-4823.
  • A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may complete the online Prior Learning Assessment Application.  
  • A high school student can become an apprentice and gain credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).

To learn the skills required of a auto body technician-auto body refinisher in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:

Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates and may select apprentices from among their current employees.

For holders of an existing trade certificate, it can serve as your entrance requirement equivalency when registering in an additional trade.

  • complete the online Apprenticeship Application and Contract
  • pay the non-refundable application fee as part of the application process 
  • complete the required on-the-job training
    - during on-the-job training, apprentice refinishers earn at least 55 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, and 70 percent in the second year.
  • complete all of the program requirements as identified in the course outline
  • enroll in technical training
  • successfully complete all required exams
  • Technical Training Resource List
    • Each period of technical training requires apprentices to purchase specific resources and supplies.
    • Contact the training provider where you will be attending training for a complete list.

An apprentice who successfully completes a program as an auto body refinisher will be issued two Alberta Journeyman Certificates in the auto body technician trade: one as an auto body prepper and one as an auto body refinisher.

Apprentices may attempt the Interprovincial Exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal.

When apprentices attend technical training, they are required to pay the applicable tuition fee and purchase course supplies.

Student loans, grants, scholarships and other financial assistance may be available. For more information see Financial Assistance, visit an Apprenticeship and Industry Training office or call toll-free to 1-800-248-4823.


Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program

An auto body refinisher who holds a valid trade certificate from Alberta or from another Canadian province or territory may apply to write the Interprovincial Exam and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. The Red Seal is recognized throughout most of Canada.

To prepare for the exam see the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available resource materials.


Qualification Certificate Program

For a Qualification Certificate based on a recognized credential or work experience in order to prepare for the exam(s) please refer to the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available resource materials.

Time spent on supervisory or foreman duties, counter work, heading the tool crib, or on training course is NOT counted as 'hands-on' work experience.



Equivalency Program

A person who holds a valid recognized credential does not require an Alberta equivalency document to work in the trade in Alberta.

However, some employers may require Alberta documentation as proof that the holder is allowed to work in the trade or that the holder's credential is recognized.

Click for more information on the Equivalency Program.