Becoming an auto glass technician in the USA has perhaps never been easier than in 2023. Not only is there a massive labor shortage of around 4.2 million open jobs but, more importantly, becoming an auto glass technician can be a great long-term solution to the ever-growing gig economy which many feel is simply a race to the bottom.
How can you become an auto glass technician? Is it hard and do you need any fancy advanced degrees? What about licenses and certifications? This blog post will outline the basic steps involved in becoming an auto glass technician, how much they make, what the job prospects are for the foreseeable future, and how to succeed as an auto glass technician.
What is an auto glass technician?
An auto glass technician (also sometimes called automotive glass installer or automotive glass repairer) is an occupation whereby the technician installs, repairs, replaces, or otherwise fits windshields or body glass on vehicles. This increasingly includes ADAS calibration for modern windshields and some auto glass shops may only provide windshield replacement and body glass replacement whereas others may provide windshield rock chip repairs as well.
Auto glass technicians fall under the category of aftermarket automobile services and often work in conjunction with collision repair technicians and auto body mechanics, but sometimes operate independently for auto glass shops that exclusively provide auto glass services.
Duties and responsibilities of an auto glass technician
What exactly does an auto glass technician do? For starters, the main services that most auto glass technicians provide include windshield repair (rock chip repairs), windshield replacement and body glass replacement (door glass, vent glass, quarter glass, panoramic roof glass, back glass).
More specifically, the main duties of a typical auto glass technician include:
- Inspection of windshield condition (cracks, rock chips) to assess the feasibility of repairs (instead of replacement);
- Removal of any debris from damaged areas or complete removal of shattered glass;
- Stabilization of windshield cracks or rock chips with injectable resin solution;
- Application of urethane sealant to any replacement auto glass;
- Selection of appropriate glass for vehicle make and model;
- Fitting replacement auto glass as per vehicle make and model;
- Inspection of newly-fitted glass to ensure no faults or defects are present;
- Communication with customers regarding matters such as quotes and estimates, turnaround time, safe drive-away times, etc.;
- Ordering glass inventory from suppliers.
Depending on whether the auto glass technician is employed or operates his own company, some of these duties and responsibilities may differ. The vast majority of auto glass technicians (anywhere from around 94% to 98%) are men and the average age is around 38-40 years old.
How much money do auto glass technicians make in the United States?
The median salary of an auto glass technician in the United States can vary quite a bit depending on the source and the sample size of various career platforms. To give an example of the different median salary estimates for auto glass technicians, refer to the below table:
|April 6, 2023
|September 15, 2022
|May 1, 2023
|Bureau of Labor Statistics
Note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics data is relatively old, considering factors such as inflation which has likely contributed to the increased wages since then. Moreover, these salary estimates – with the notable exception of Glassdoor – do not include additional income such as overtime hours, incentives and bonuses. Glassdoor estimated that auto glass technicians make a median of $12,694 per year (for a total estimated median salary of $56,091 per year).
Moreover, the median salary can vary significantly from state to state and even from county to county. The highest-paying cities for auto glass technicians in the United States are Seattle, WA, Portland, ME, Barnstable Town, MA, Livonia, MI, and Sacramento, CA.The highest-paying states are Washington, Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, and Hawaii.
The lowest-paying cities are Tampa, FL, Birmingham, AL, Morrisville, NC, Harrisonburg, VA, and Kansas City, MO. The lowest-paying states are Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Tennessee. All of these locations and their rates of pay for auto glass technicians are subject to change depending on the source used and over time, so your mileage may certainly vary.
Lastly, experience plays an important role in how much an auto glass technician can expect in income. Entry-level auto glass technicians can make anywhere from around $28,000 per year to around $33,000, whereas experienced and highly qualified auto glass technicians can make well over $60,000 per year.
Career prospects and outlook for auto glass technicians
Is it worth going through the effort to become an auto glass technician in the United States? Our biased answer is a resounding “YES,” but choosing this occupation as a career path should be well thought out in advance.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2021 that job growth for automotive glass installers and repairers would be below the national average (around 5%) from 2021-2031, at around 3% (adding around 800 new jobs). This might not seem like much, but they consider that modern vehicles now come with many new safety features that have the potential to dramatically reduce collisions. That’s a good thing for everyone, but it ultimately reduces demand for windshield repair and windshield replacement services.
Overall, becoming an auto glass technician is a good choice for anyone that wants to earn a reasonable amount and to do a good, honest job. As a skilled trade, auto glass technicians are also likely safe from automation and AI, since the manual dexterity required to repair and replace windshields still requires a human touch (for now, at least). Lastly, one of the key perks of being a skilled trade occupation is that auto glass technicians can develop experience and skills to become independent business owners, which can be a great way to earn a living.
Education and skill requirements for auto glass technicians
One of the biggest advantages to becoming an auto glass technician is that there are no hard and fast educational requirements. If you’ve got a pulse, you can get a job. Well, truth be told, you should probably have some fundamental skills and competencies if you want to do well in this career, and having some training and qualifications can really help you get ahead of the competition and succeed.
Educational requirements for auto glass technicians
Nearly half of all auto glass technicians in the United States have a high school diploma or GED, so even secondary education is not completely required although having this should give you an advantage. You will at some point need basic reading, communication, and numeracy skills as an employee, and the skills required for an auto glass shop owner are even higher in order to do well.
Around one in five auto glass technicians has an associate’s degree, normally in fields such as business studies or automotive technology. Around one in every ten auto glass technicians has a bachelor’s degree. These sorts of degrees are not necessary at all, but some of the skills learned can be very useful, especially business skills such as accounting and marketing if you run your own business.
Continuing education & training
Many aspiring auto glass technicians enroll in community college or vocational training schools for programs lasting up to 2 years. These programs vary in terms of duration and quality, but almost all of them will offer apprenticeship opportunities as well as certification after completion of certain courses. If you have the time and money to spend, this can be one of the best ways to get your foot in the door.
When looking for courses, whether continuing education standalone courses, accredited courses, or full programs at a community college, you should find out if the course is affiliated with a nationwide organization such as the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC) and/or offers Certified Auto Glass Technician (AGT) training. Training schools such as Auto Glass University are affiliated with AGSC and offer a robust range of courses on all things auto glass.
In terms of on-the-job training, most auto glass technicians spend around 6 months up to one year in training (most are proficient by the 6-month mark). After completion of training, auto glass technicians tend to gain more and more competency with every job completed, but they should endeavor to improve their skills and knowledge through continuing education and training modules from reputable training centers.
Skill requirements for auto glass technicians
While fancy degrees aren’t at all necessary to become an auto glass technician, skills certainly are. Some of the skills that an auto glass technician should have include:
- Analytical problem solving: with hundreds of millions of cars, trucks, SUVs, vans and other vehicles registered in the United States, auto glass technicians must be able to identify and resolve various problems involving different pieces of glass for different vehicles for different customers;
- Attention to detail: applying windshield crack repair resin, urethane, and snugly fitting windshields and body glass requires careful attention to details and the ability to remain calm under pressure such as time constraints;
- Time management: customers expect a fast turnaround, but you may encounter situations with a big backlog and not enough staff to meet deadlines. You must be able to manage your time effectively without sacrificing quality or compromising the safety of your customer’s vehicle;
- Physical strength: while tools and equipment are used to transport auto glass, you’ll need to be able to consistently lift heavy windshields and body glass;
- Manual dexterity: in addition to strength, you must also be capable of loading and unloading glass, sometimes awkward in size and shape, sometimes through narrow or confined spaces without damaging it;
- Customer service: a polite and friendly disposition go a long way, but good customer service skills will also help you better understand the needs of the customer as well as enable you to clearly and effectively communicate your services and to resolve any disputes;
- Mobility: some auto glass shops may only need employees physically located in the garage, but many require technicians to go out to the location of the customer since they may not be able to safely drive (e.g. a shattered windshield). If your auto glass shop provides mobile services, you should have a CDL and the ability to work remotely.
There may be many other skills that are desirable to have if you operate as an independent auto glass shop owner. Some examples include filing taxes, accounting, marketing, staffing and scheduling, etc. Specific technical skills are also in growing demand, such as familiarization with ADAS windshield systems and windshield calibration.
Working as an auto glass technician employee vs starting your own business
A big decision that you’ll have to make on your journey to become an auto glass technician is whether you want to work as an employee at a local garage or for a national franchise, or if you prefer going your own way and starting your very own business.
As with many skilled trades, the way it tends to go is that auto glass technicians will almost invariably always start off as apprentices working for bigger companies and then at some point down the line they’ll call it quits and set up their own auto glass shop.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with picking one or the other, but the point is, it’s usually not a matter of one or the other but instead things progress this way because it’s logical. Apprentices that work for bigger auto glass shops learn the ins and outs over time, how to work with different vehicles, how to manage their time, and perhaps they work their way up the ladder to where they take care of cost estimates or staff scheduling. By this point, many have already gotten their core skills down pat and are well-adjusted to starting their own company.
Starting an independent auto glass shop means that you get to call the shots. You can set your prices however you like, pick your working hours, service area, and much more. It also comes with a great deal of additional responsibilities that you may not have had to worry about if you were employed, however. One big example is business marketing, and marketing is essential for bringing in new leads and getting more happy and satisfied customers.
How to market your auto glass shop to bring in new customers
For auto glass technicians that have decided to go independent and start a small business, there are many expenses that need to be taken care of in order to not only survive as a business but also to succeed. You’ve gotta spend money to make money, as the saying goes.
While the cost of starting an auto glass shop can be as low as around $10,000 or so – and that’s pretty bare-bones – one essential expense is marketing. If you’ve worked for the big national franchises, you probably didn’t have to worry about that. Everybody knows the brand and finding them online isn’t hard at all. As an independent auto glass shop, you may be wondering how the heck you can compete with the big guns.
Marketing, and especially digital marketing, is essential as you’ll need a way for people to find your auto glass shop among a sea of competition. We recommend that every auto glass technician have a dedicated and professional-looking website or landing page, social media profiles, and a Google My Business listing at the very least. Flyers and pamphlets, while old school, can still bring in plenty of business if you take the time to pass them out or leave them at a laundromat, for example.
One way to get a leg up and to grow your online presence is to get listed on myWindshield. We operate nationwide across the United States and partner with genuine, hardworking auto glass technicians that want a reliable way to generate quality leads.