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Auto Mechanic

Job Spotlight - Auto Mechanic

Have you been searching high-and-low for information on what it takes to start working as an auto mechanic? Already know the basics and you love working on cars, but aren’t sure what else is required? Don’t know if you have to go to school or if you can you make living as an automotive technician without formal schooling?

In this guide, we’ll provide you with all of the answers as well as lots of other good information to help you reach your goals!
 

Quick Facts: Automotive Mechanics and Service Technicians
2015 Median Pay (Annual) $37,850
2015 Median Pay (Hourly) $18.20
Entry Level Education At Least a high school diploma or GED
Recommended Education Post-secondary education (certificate or degree)
2012-2022 Projected Outlook 5% growth (as fast as average)
2014 Number of Jobs 739,900
2014-2024 Estimated Employment Gains 39,100

Resource: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Auto Mechanic FAQs

On this page you will find a list of the most-frequently-asked questions about the auto mechanic profession. We will give you the straight facts about this job in a way that will help you find and possibly start your new job doing something you love. If you any other questions that we have not answered, please contact us and will help you out the best we can.

The list below shows frequently-asked questions (FAQs) that many people have about working as an auto mechanic. To read the answer to any question, simply click on it.

What is an Auto Mechanic?

Simply put, an automobile mechanic is a service professional in charge of repairing and providing maintenance for cars, SUVs and light trucks. You will find that some mechanics like to work on almost any part or any type of car. There are other auto mechanics that are certified to specialize their skills in to a specific area/system or even a particular type of car such as BMW or Honda.

Most car mechanics can be found working for car dealerships, service stations, repair shops, car rental agencies and transportation companies. Some qualified auto mechanics even find work with motor vehicle manufacturers or race teams found in NASCAR or Indy Racing League. There are dozens of options available for specialty or type of work an auto mechanic wants to find themselves.

How Do I Become a Car Mechanic?

Quick Info: How to Get Started as an Auto Mechanic
Education
• Take shop and computer classes in high school
• Enroll in auto mechanic program at a vocational or trade school
-OR-
• Get hired as an apprentice at a car dealership or auto shop
-OR-
• Learn while you serve in the U.S. Military
What you will learn
• Engine assembly and repair
• Shop procedures
• Electronic and electrical systems
• Basics of automotive service and repair
• Brake and fuel systems
• Tires, suspension and steering systems
• Emissions control
• Safety and environmental protections

Even though it isn’t a requirement in order to get a job as an auto mechanic, you will find most employers are looking to hire candidates with more than just a high school education. Those aspiring to work as an auto mechanic should seriously consider taking some certification programs offered at most trade or vocational schools as well as community colleges around the country. These classes will help you gain the skills necessary to become a service technician in today’s market.

Getting Started

Most aspiring car mechanics start the path towards their future vocation at an early age by watching family or friends work on their own vehicles. Learning while they watch others work on the car or even sometimes being allowed to give a hand when needed. They get learn some of the basics before taking classes offered in high school.

In high school is where most future auto mechanics get their hands dirty and start gaining the skills necessary. You can start by taking a variety of shop classes to learn how to properly use tools along with classes in automotive repair and electronics. It is also highly suggested that those looking to work in the automotive repair field should also take computer classes as well as math and English courses which all will become important in understanding the job at hand.

Education

It wasn’t that long ago that anyone who loved working on cars could have a shot at finding a job as an auto mechanic. For the most part, those days are over as most modern cars rely heavily on technology such as electronics and computers. Today’s automobile mechanics have to be tech savvy as much as they are mechanically inclined.

Due to the advancements in technology for automobiles it is very important to complete a formal program at a technical school or a community college. Students will be able to get some experience using modern tools, advanced diagnostic equipment and machinery that will be part of your daily job. Typical programs are a combination of learning in a classroom and working in a garage.

The length of the course is dependent on the degree or certificate you are looking to pursue. A certificate programs most likely take at least six months while going to a community college for your associate’s degree will be at least two years. Typically students rotate between the classroom and working full-time in a car dealer’s service department during their program.

Pros

  • Most employers are looking for some post-secondary education
  • Can gain experience on the latest equipment
  • May give you an advantage when finding a job

Cons

  • Cost of tuition
  • Six months or more of no pay
  • Must attend classroom instruction and take exams
Apprentice Program

It is possible to become an apprentice without going to school, but you may have to prove yourself to the shop owner first. Those who go this route have to be on top of their game. Most likely your apprenticeship will take place at a smaller shop rather than a large car dealership.

The tough part about finding an apprenticeship is that most employers want some sort of education in the background. More times than not, those who do find an apprenticeship without some post-secondary education start out as a mechanic assistant. This means that you will be helping the mechanic starting out cleaning the shop, keeping the tools in place and watching an experienced mechanic work.

Apprenticeships can be amazing or not depending on who is teaching you. The major problem is that most shops that hire apprentices do not have the most modern equipment. This technological know-how is growing more important in the competitive employment world and if you do not have the experience, you may have a really tough time finding a job with other shops or dealerships.

Pros

  • Get paid to learn
  • Learn from experienced professionals
  • Education in all aspects of working in a shop

Cons

  • May not learn on most modern equipment
  • Can be fired or let go
  • Tough competition to get apprenticeship
U.S. Armed Forces

Another avenue to become an Automotive Mechanic may be found in the military. Every branch of the service has a need for auto and heavy equipment mechanics to keep their vehicles in tip-top shape. The education for this job in the military is much like you would see in a trade school or a community college.

One of the best parts of receiving experience while in the military is that you will be taught the latest techniques and on modern equipment. This can come in handy after you have finished your enlistment and entered the workforce. Another really great part of this type of experience is that you will be paid to learn. You will have a full-time job with room and board provided for you while learning your marketable trade.

Pros

  • Full-time job while learning
  • Visit exotic locations
  • Learn modern techniques

Cons

Our Recommendation

After talking with industry leaders and shop owners from around the country, we feel that education at a vocational school is the best way to go. More and more employers are looking for those with some sort of post-secondary education over someone with just a natural skill. This is mainly due to the technological advancements in the automotive industry. As cars become more advanced with heavier emphasis on computerization, it is becoming essential that anyone looking to work in this industry should have some computer and tech background.

It is still possible to land an auto mechanic job without going to vocational school, however it might be a bit tougher as time goes by. Plus, the chances for advancement are lower than someone with at least an associate’s degree. The choice is up to you but we have to recommend that if you want a long-lasting and successful career, you should seriously consider going to a trade school for your schooling.

Where Can I Find Auto Mechanic Schools?

Formal post-secondary programs found at a variety of technical or vocational schools or community colleges can greatly improve the job opportunities and earning potential of future auto service techs. You will want to find one of the auto mechanic schools that is in your area and can provide the courses needed. These programs focus on teaching auto mechanics how to work on and repair complex electronic and computer systems that are found in modern cars.

The internet is a great place to start your search for auto mechanic programs. You can compare the types of programs found around the area you plan on living and find one in your price range. Be sure to find a program that has been certified by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) which can assure you a better experience.

In order to get in to most auto mechanic programs you will need a high school diploma or a GED. There may be specific requirements required by the program, school or community college that you will need to meet such as an entrance or placement exam. You should contact the admissions office directly to find out if they have any prerequisites.

Joining the Armed Forces

Those considering joining the armed forces will need to contact a recruiter or visit your choice of branch of service’s website. This decision is not to be taken lightly or just to get the education you need to find a job. This is a commitment of four years. In order to get in to the military you will need to be at least 18 years old (17 with parent consent), a high school degree or GED and be physically fit.

For more information on the armed forces and their programs, you should go to their website and read more about it.

U.S. Army

U.S. Air Force

U.S. Navy

U.S. Marines

Coast Guard

National Guard

How Long Does Auto Mechanic School Take?

Some programs offered at community colleges and technical/vocational schools can be completed in between six months and two years, depending on your goals and amount of education you want to complete. However you should know that you will never quit learning since cars continue to become more complex each year and you will need to keep up with the trends.

You may have also decide to specialize in a specific part of the car or a certain manufacturer, which more than likely will require more education. Not to mention there are various certifications that you will be able to earn that can help you not only offer you more opportunities but could also bring a bigger paycheck.

What is the Automobile Mechanic Job Description?

The basic auto mechanic job description is a person who inspects, diagnosis and repairs motor vehicles, however there is more to the job than these simple words. Below is a brief list of jobs that car mechanics may face on any given day.

  • Perform scheduled maintenance services such as tune-ups, oil changes and lube jobs
  • Take apart and repair or replace assemblies such as steering systems, power systems and linkages
  • Rewiring of ignition, instrument panels and lights
  • Repair or replace automatic and manual transmissions
  • Replace and adjust headlights
  • Meet with customers to find out problems with vehicle and how to fix or repair
  • Fix, replace and adjust brakes
  • Inspect parts for wear and tear using calipers, gauges and micrometers
  • Fix radiator leaks
  • Repair or replace tires and perform adjustments
  • Perform diagnostic checks on the engine and other systems
  • Replace or repair worn parts to help prevent further damage
  • Test drive vehicles before and after repairs are made

How Much is an Auto Mechanic's Salary?

In lot of ways, auto mechanics are like physicians for motor vehicles namely cars, SUVs and light trucks. Much like a doctor to humans, an auto mechanic will inspect, diagnosis, repair and offer preventative tips for the health and welfare of their vehicular patients. Unfortunately for auto mechanics, their salary isn’t in the same range as a doctor but still pretty good.

According to the latest report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual national median salary for automotive service techs and mechanics was $37,850. Your actual salary might be slightly different depending where you live, what type of place you work and how much experience, education and certifications you hold.

Auto Mechanic Salary

What is the Job Outlook for Automobile Service Techs?

The projected growth of new jobs for auto mechanics is expected to rise as much as 5% through the year 2024, which is average for all occupations. This percentage may rise due to increased use of cars that will be need maintenance and repair. It should also be mentioned that the lifespan of cars has slightly increased over the past few years which can also lead to an increased demand for auto mechanics.

Auto Mechanic Expected Job Growth

The job prospects for auto mechanics that have completed a postsecondary program such as from a vocational or technical school or a community college are looking great. Especially those who have experience in advanced automotive technology such as computer systems or hybrids should expect to have the best opportunity to land a job.

Candidates without a formal education may experience stiff competition for entry-level positions.

Is Auto Technician Certification Important?

You may have heard from some people that certification for auto mechanics is not that important to getting a job. While this may have been true in the past, the competition for entry-level auto service technicians can be a bit hard if you do not have the proper qualifications. In fact, you will find a growing number employers that are demanding certification in order to get the job.

The Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)

One of the most popular and most recognized certifications comes from the Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). The main idea behind this certification is to help the public know which auto mechanic is competent and which ones that have not made the grade.

ASE certification tests are taken on a computer and offered by Prometric Test Centers throughout the country. There are literally dozens of different exam modules you can take such as engine repair, damage analysis & estimating or electrical/electronic systems, just to name a few. Upon successful completion of your certification you will be given an ASE shoulder patch, I.D. card and wall certificate that should be framed and placed within view of potential customers.

Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR)

The Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, better known as I-CAR is an international organization with the main goal of improving the efficiency, safety and quality of automobile collision repair. The goal of I-CAR is to find better ways to deliver and repair automobiles that have gone through a collision or some sort of structural damage while improving communication with the mechanic, insurance and other involved parties for the best results of the consumer.

CFC/EPA Certification

Since November 14, 1994, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that anyone including auto mechanics that have contact with or want to repair anything with refrigerants, such as car air conditioners, must be licensed for safe and proper handling. This certification is given out by the EPA through testing.

Car Company Certification

Those who work for a car dealership or have an affinity for a certain car company can earn a specialty certification from that car company. These auto mechanics are considered experts for the specific car company such as Toyota or Mercedes Benz. While this might limit one’s job opportunities as far as being hired anywhere, it may boost the salary since the car mechanic is an expert in the field.

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