If you enjoy hanging out under the hood of your car, consider a career as an automotive mechanic.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts a 17 percent employment growth for automotive service technicians and mechanics from 2010 to 2020. According to the BLS, some employers report they have difficulty finding workers with the appropriate skills and education. Graduates from postsecondary training programs, particularly those with training in advanced automotive technology, should have the best job prospects.
As automotive engines have become more sophisticated, the repair industry has also become more complex. Automotive mechanics need to be trained to use computerized diagnostic equipment and to replace or repair sophisticated electronic and computer components.
In 2011, the median annual salary for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $36,180. Those in the 90th percentile have a median annual salary of $59,600. The annual mean wage for automotive mechanics and technicians working at automobile dealers was $42,910. As with any other career field, wages vary widely depending on experience and skills.
Many entry-level auto mechanic jobs require vocational or some other type of postsecondary training. Community colleges and technical schools throughout the nation offer auto mechanic programs. A lot of schools provide one-year certificate programs, however some schools offer associate’s degrees that typically take about 18 months to complete. Other schools offer short-term certificate programs that focus on specific skills. Most employers require industry certification before or after an individual is hired.
Many automotive schools offer the following specialties:
- Advanced automotive diagnostics
- Automotive-diesel combination
- Applied service management
- Light-duty diesel
- High performance power train
- Street rod and custom fabrication
- Motorsports chassis fabrication
- Trim and upholstery technology
Many automotive manufacturers and dealers sponsor two-year associate’s degree programs. Students in these programs alternate between attending classes full-time and working full-time in service shops under the supervision of experienced mechanics.
Look for auto mechanic programs that are certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) and the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) organization. Look for programs with ASE certified instructors. Find out if the school you’re interested in has a high percentage of graduates obtaining certification from the Automotive Service Excellence organization.
Hands-on training is vital, so choose a school with an on-site garage or a school with good relationships with local dealerships. Some auto mechanic programs let students participate in manufacturer-specific training programs sponsored by local dealerships.
Certification provided by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence is the standard credential for service technicians. Certification is provided in a number of specialties, such as:
- Automatic transmission/transaxle
- Engine repair
- Electrical/electronic systems
- Engine performance
- Heating and air conditioning
- Suspension and steering
- Manual drivetrains and axles
Those with ASE certification in all of these areas are considered Master Automobile Technicians.
The auto repair industry provides a range of job possibilities and opportunities to specialize, especially for those who complete training and receive certification. If you enjoy working on cars and working with technology, a career as an automotive mechanic may be right for you.
About the guest post author:
Brian Jenkins writes about the diesel mechanic career field, as well as other automotive fields, for the Riley Guide.