Are you good with your hands? Do you enjoy a challenge and don’t mind getting dirty to try and tackle something that isn’t working properly? Do you seem to have a knack for taking things apart and putting them back together in such a way that they work better? If you answered a confident yes to each of these questions, then maybe you should consider pursuing a career as an auto mechanic. As a mechanic, you will be expected to identify mechanical problems, to examine critical parts, to fix any mechanical problems and test that they are working properly, to perform basic maintenance functions, to use testing equipment, and to repair or replace worn parts. In addition, you may also be required to explain automotive problems and the remedy process that has been performed to clients. In this profession you may be required to work on an individual basis, within a team setting, or under the supervision of a more experienced auto mechanic.
In order to be properly trained to work as an auto mechanic it is likely that you will want to complete a six month training program at a technical school or vocational institute, or you could choose to complete a two year training program at a junior college or at a community college. Within your training program you will need to complete formal, instructional training along with on the job training. Ideally, you will be learning key concepts that will allow you to succeed in this profession while also having the chance to apply what you are learning within a real world mechanical setting.
Within an associate’s level degree that focuses on collision repair you should expect to be required to complete liberal arts courses in conjunction with concentrated courses, such as panel repair, panel replacement, and basic body and frame repair. Take a moment and request a free information packet from any of the schools listed on our site that are particularly appealing to you. This information will surely help you make a more informed decision regarding your potential career and educational path. Check out other career training including diesel mechanics and motorcyle repair. As a trained auto mechanic it will be possible for you to work in venues such as collision repair, at car dealerships, or at large scale automotive repair companies. In addition, your training and certification will also make it possible for you to open your own automotive repair business. Find everything you’ll need regarding auto mechanic training courses below.
With the ever increasing cost of college tuition, it is important to consider post-secondary alternatives that won't leave you thousands of dollars in debt. Luckily, many professions do not require a 4 year college degree and allow high school graduates to instead work right out of high school. There are also a number of post-secondary alternatives like online degrees and trade schools. One occupation that fits this description is that of an auto mechanic. People's cars are often crucial in getting them to work, school, and everything in between. When cars aren't operating properly the mechanics are the ones tasked with diagnosing and repairing any issues that arise. With the increase of vehicles on roadways and new electric and hybrid car technology, the need for mechanics has never been greater. Read on to find out more about this rising industry and the path you must take to become a technician yourself.
What Do Mechanics Do?
Before getting into why you should become a mechanic, it is important to understand what is expected of an automotive technician. Many assume that mechanics are only responsible for changing oil, fixing flat tires and other menial tasks. This could not be further from the truth. The actual responsibilities of an automotive technician include (but are not limited to):
Identifying Vehicle Issues: While some car owners will know right away what issues their vehicle is having, many will not have the knowledge required to properly diagnose any vehicle problems. Mechanics are responsible for having extensive knowledge on brake systems, air conditioning, transmission systems, and other common car issues. Mechanics have to be able to check all of these systems and find anything that is out of the ordinary.
Performing Regular Maintenance: Every vehicle requires some procedures frequently to ensure the best performance. These procedures include routine oil changes, filter replacements and tire replacements/rotations. While the general maintenance is similar across all vehicles, the systems do vary and it is necessary to be familiar with many types of vehicles to perform the maintenance correctly.
Automotive Repairs: Mechanics are required to take apart vehicles and fix any used or broken parts. This requires knowledge of how each of these parts work, where they fit and how they can be repaired.
Using Equipment: Mechanics have to use various manual tools like wrenches, power tools, jacks, hoists and other digital and computerized equipment. This equipment will be used to analyze, repair, and replace parts on any number of vehicles. Some of this equipment does require some heavy lifting, so most mechanics tend to be somewhat physically fit.
Dealing With Clients: Automotive technicians are in the service industry, and just like in any other service industry the customer is always right. Mechanics are responsible for listening to clients concerns, explaining issues in layman's terms, and dealing with unsatisfied clientele. Having great people skills is a good start for anyone interested in becoming a mechanic.
Advantages of Becoming an Auto Mechanic
There are thousands of potential career paths out there, so why would one choose to become an auto mechanic? Below are just a couple of reasons:
Earning Potential: According to usnews.com the average salary for an auto mechanic was $40,720 in 2015. More experienced technicians can end up earning as much as $60,000 per year. This is more than most comparable blue collar careers. There is also an annual increase in the average wages of mechanics in recent years, meaning earning potential will only get better over time.
Job Prospects: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the auto mechanic industry is expected to grow up to 5 percent in the next 10 years. There are approximately 39,100 available auto mechanic jobs across the U.S., and that number will only continue to grow. The auto technician industry has a relatively low unemployment rate of 4.9%, so potential mechanics are unlikely to struggle to find work.
Career Advancement: Once mechanics build experience working at an auto dealer or auto shop, they often advance to working on vehicles in more lucrative industries like natural gas distribution or express delivery truck services. These mechanics often earn as much as $60,000 dollars per year and receive even better benefits.
Knowledge of Car Repair: Car repairs can be very expensive, but mechanics do not have to worry about paying for any repairs. Having the knowledge to fix other's vehicles gives mechanics the ability to fix their own vehicles, without the hassle of taking it to the shop.
There are a number of different areas that mechanics specialize in when looking for work. However there are a few skills that are essential for anyone looking to get into the automotive industry. Mechanics have to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to a number of different problems. Mechanics must have a strong base of knowledge on the operation of vehicles and will have to take in large amounts of information at once. Technicians also often are the ones dealing with clients and will need to be able to explain complex issues in ways that clients will understand. There will also obviously be a lot of physical labor involved in being a mechanic. Using heavy power tools, lifting and carrying different parts around the garage, etc. All of these factors should be kept in mind when looking into a career as an automobile technician.
Automotive Technician Careers Review
Essential Skills: Knowledge of automobile systems, problem solving, customer service, physical fitness.
Mean wages for auto mechanics: $40,720, with more experienced mechanics making up to $60,000 dollars.
Job Prospects: 39,100 jobs currently available, 5 percent growth in job openings expected in the next 10 years.
How to Become an Auto Mechanic
There are multiple different areas that potential auto mechanics will end up specializing in, but the general career path of each is the same (with some exceptions). Below is a general career path to follow if you are interested in becoming an auto mechanic.
Step 1: Earn a high school diploma or GED. This is required to get into training programs and other apprenticeships. You are also required to be at least 18 years old and pass a drug test before beginning apprenticeships and other schooling.
Step 2: Seek out post-secondary automotive classes. These classes can be found in community colleges, trade schools, or even some online schools. It would be wise to take some classes on the basis of auto repair first before branching out into your primary area of interest. Some states have a specified number of classroom hours you must have before you practice in an auto shop. Make sure to check your state's regulations to ensure that the program you get into will fulfill those requirements. These automotive programs usually take anywhere from 6 months to two years to complete.
Step 3: Find apprenticeships near you. In an apprenticeship you will work in an auto shop under supervision of an already certified mechanic. You will mostly do some of the easier more trivial tasks at first, while learning how to do more complex tasks by watching your supervisor. Different states have different rules and regulations on how long you have to have worked as an apprentice before you can attempt to become certified. In general you can expect to work at least 2000 hours per year for up to 5 years as an apprentice.
Step 4: In order to practice as a professional auto mechanic, you have to pass an exam given by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). There are eight different exams based on the type of technician you will be, although it is entirely possible to become certified in more than one area. These multiple choice tests contain 40 to 70 questions taken from automotive experts. These questions often test basic knowledge and also use some specific real life situations that the experts have come across during their career. If your area of expertise involves the handling of refrigerants you will also have to take a certification exam given by the Environmental Protection Agency. This is because federal laws limit the release of refrigerants into the atmosphere, which means that mechanics handling refrigerants have to be trained in how to dispose of and clean them properly.
Step 5: Once you have passed your exam and completed your apprenticeship you can look for open mechanic positions near you. Remember that the more certifications you earn, the better your job opportunities and earning potential will be.
There are eight different areas of certification offered by the ASE. It is recommended to pick one area to start in before expanding to different certifications. Below are descriptions of each area and a discussion of the types of people that thrive in those roles.
1. Brake Technician - Brake technicians are responsible for operating and maintaining brake systems in numerous different vehicles. Since brakes are essential for being able to drive safely, requirements for becoming a brake technician are generally more strict than some other areas. Classes for brake technicians will usually involve discussions of different brake systems including differences between 4 wheel drive and front-end systems. Brake mechanics will also learn how to recognize brake issues and how to repair and replace any defective parts. Brake technicians have to be analytical in discerning problems, technical in dealing with different systems, and communicative with clients when describing different brake problems.
2. Electrical Technician - Every modern vehicle has complex electrical systems that are imperative in keeping it up and running. These electrical systems involve countless wires and circuits, which makes electrical issues some of the more difficult for mechanics to solve. Electrical technicians are responsible for examining electrical systems running the headlights, radio, blinker signals and more. Electrical technicians have to fix loose wires, replace broken circuits and ensure that all systems are up to par. Electrical technicians will have to take classes where they will learn about circuitry, computerized systems, and wiring. Electrical technicians should be technologically savvy as they will mostly be analyzing problems digitally. Technicians in this field will also have to be comfortable working with electrical systems safely.
3. Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Technician - Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technicians (also known as HVAC technicians) are responsible for maintaining temperature control systems in multiple different vehicles. These technicians require extra training and certifications because they often deal with refrigerants. Under federal law there are certain procedures that must be done in order to ensure refrigerants do not make their way into the atmosphere. This makes it very important for HVAC technicians to be able to handle refrigerants responsibly. HVAC technicians will learn about ventilation and air conditioning systems and how to repair them. HVAC technicians need to be very precise in their work to prevent spilling refrigerants. HVAC technicians also have to have knowledge about the transfer of heat through ventilation, which may require a more scientific state of mind.
4. Engine Repair Technician - Engine repair technicians are responsible for repairing any issues found in gas-powered, electric, and hybrid engines. Engine technicians often require more expertise than other ASE certifications, so bachelor degrees in mechanical engineering are often greatly favored over regular automotive programs. Engine education often involves learning about different types of engines and their parts, as well as some mathematics and physics classes to be able calculate and understand optimal fuel consumption and acceleration of different engines. Those who succeeded in math courses throughout high school will likely find more success in this field. Those who already hold bachelor degrees in related subjects may also find more success in this specific area.
5. Engine Performance Technician - Although similar to engine repair technicians, engine performance technicians deal more with ensuring maximum engine efficiency and ensuring the best possible engine performance in different vehicles. Engine performance technicians require a deep understand of mathematical equations and physics calculations in order to determine optimal fuel efficiency and possible acceleration. Engine performance classes will therefore often involve mathematics and physics courses related to engine makeup and operation. Engine performance technicians must tackle engine operation logically and be able to use complex mathematical concepts in their work. Like engine repair technicians, engine performance technicians usually have a bachelor degree in mathematics or sciences. It is not uncommon for technicians to get certified in both engine repair and engine performance, as they do use some of the same knowledge bases and involve some of the same vehicle parts.
6. Manual Drive Train/Axle Technician - These technicians deal with manual drive trains and axles of a vehicle. The manual drive train is made up of components that transfer power from the engine to the wheels of a vehicle. The axle is the central shaft between the two wheels. The manual drive train specifically uses a clutch to turn the axles to create wheel rotation. Manual drive train technicians are responsible for maintaining the axles and ensuring that the clutch and gears are all working properly. Manual drive technicians have to have a strong grasp on machination and physics. Classes for manual drive train technicians involve learning about the manual drive train system and how it works, as well as classes on rotation and the physics behind it. This is a great area of certification for those with a fascination of gears, machinery, and rotation. These technicians also have to operate directly under the vehicles, so a willingness to getting their hands dirty is imperative.
7. Automatic Transmission/Transaxle Technician - Transmission technicians deal with automatic transmission systems, or systems that switch gears without needing the driver to do so manually. The transaxle is the combination of the transmission, the differential and the axle near the engine (usually the front of the car). Automatic transmission technicians take classes where they learn about the automatic transmission systems, rotational physics and combustion. Automatic transmission technicians have to be analytical in examining the various parts of the system to find any problems that can arise. There are a lot of parts at play in an automatic transmission system, which means intricate knowledge of automobile systems is a must.
8. Suspension/Steering Technician- Suspension and steering technicians, like their name implies, deal with the suspension and steering systems in vehicles. Steering is the collection of the steering apparatus and its linkages which allows drivers to control the direction of their vehicle. The suspension is the springs, linkages, and shock absorbers that connect the tires to a vehicle. Suspension/steering technicians have to deal with any problems that come up with the steering and ensure that tires can achieve the necessary angles to turn far enough in the right direction. Classes in this involve learning about the countless parts and components that make up the suspension and steering systems. Suspension/Steering technicians deal a lot with calculating different angles, so an affinity for geometry goes a long way in this area. You will also be responsible for disassembling and reassembling different parts of a vehicle.
Master Technicians - Those who obtain all eight ASE certifications will earn the title of master technician. These mechanics tend to earn much more than those with only a few certifications, and it is almost impossible to not find work when this title is earned. Master technicians often have salaries close to the $60,000 dollar range and have the best opportunities for growth in earnings. These technicians also tend to take on the most talented apprentices, especially since they are often in such high demand with potential mechanics.
For those looking to forego the typical route of gaining a bachelor's degree, becoming an auto mechanic can be a very stable and rewarding career. With the ever increasing amount of cars on the road, car maintenance is guaranteed to be in high demand for years to come. The education required for mechanics is relatively cheaper than most other forms of post-secondary education, and you can complete your classroom hours very quickly with enough effort. Although apprenticeships can last up to 5 years, you will still be paid a livable wage throughout. Not many positions can offer a livable wage right out of high school. Here are a few final tips for those of you interested in pursuing a career as an automotive technician:
1. Find an automotive program that is right for you. It is very important that you find automotive classes that will teach you what you need to know for the certification exams while fulfilling classroom hour requirements in your state. You should also consider apprenticeship placement services that different programs offer.
2. Take your apprenticeships very seriously. Automotive technicians communicate with each other, and those that perform poorly in apprenticeships may struggle to find a job (even if they move to a different area than their apprenticeship). Make sure you take advantage of your mentors and ask as many questions as you can. Do the best work you can and always pay attention to what your mentors are doing (and how they are doing it). If you do a great enough job you may even find yourself an easy employment opportunity working for your mentor's auto shop.
3. Research the different areas of certification and focus on one to start. It can be very overwhelming to learn about even one area of certification, and trying to learn about more than one will reduce the amount of knowledge you can realistically retain. Find an area that suits your strengths and interests you.
4. Study for your ASE exams. They are very important to the advancement of your career, and you need to be as prepared for them as possible. Your mentors in your apprenticeship will likely be happy to help you study. Take advantage of any resources at your disposal. If you want to know more about other possible careers and degrees, be sure to check the rest of our website to find tons of information on different schools, degrees, and employment opportunities.