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Job Spotlight - Small Engine Mechanic

Looking for more information on working as a Small Engine Mechanic? Do you want to know what kind of education do you need and how long it is will take? Find out all you need to know on how to turn your hobby in to a new job in small engine repair.
 

Quick Facts: Small Engine Mechanics
2015 Median Pay (Annual) $34,650
2015 Median Pay (Hourly) $16.66
Entry Level Education At Least a high school diploma or GED
Recommended Education Post-secondary education (certificate or degree)
2014-2024 Projected Outlook 4% growth (slower than average)
2014 Number of Jobs 71,700
2014-2024 Estimated Employment Gains 3,200

Resource: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Small Engine Mechanic FAQs

The information presented on this page should answer many of the questions you have concerning working as a small engine technician. Choosing a profession can be one of the most difficult choices you will ever make. We have carefully researched every question to present you a reliable resource. If you have any other questions or comments, please feel free to email us.

What is a Small Engine Mechanic?

A Small Engine Mechanic is a skilled professional who repairs, inspects and provides maintenance for smaller engine equipment such as lawnmowers, dirt bikes, generators, chainsaws and outdoor powered equipment. A growing number of aspiring Small Engine Mechanics are enrolling in post-secondary schools held at vocational schools or community colleges to keep up with the changing technology in the industry. A post-secondary education can come in handy when searching for a job too.

Most Small Engine Mechanics work in shops such as dealerships or repair shops that are noisy and well-ventilated. They can work outside in all conditions especially if there are onsite repair calls or emergencies. A majority of these mechanics work full time (40 hours a week) during regular business hours. There hours, however, may fluctuate a bit during some of the seasons such as winter. For most companies, the mechanics are busiest during spring and summer which gives them a chance to earn some overtime pay.

Those who are employed in small engine repair may learn to work with gasoline and diesel engines of all types of equipment and recreational vehicles. Some may take training courses from manufacturers like Honda, Rotax or Briggs and Stratton to work in a dealership or at a warranty maintenance center. Other specialties for Small Engine Mechanics include motorcycles and motorboats, among other things.

This is really a job for those who are mechanically inclined and have the aptitude to solve mechanical problems. It is a fun profession that can offer a chance to have a stable and profitable job. It is also for those who may one day want to own their own business.

How to Get Started as a Small Engine Technician

Quick Info: Working as a Small Engine Mechanic
Top tips on how to get started
• Take shop classes in high school
• Take classes in computers, electronics and math
• Graduate from high school or earn your GED
• Enroll in a technical or vocational school for training
• Learn how to properly use tools
• Get a job working at a repair shop
• Keep up with the latest trends and advancements
• Practice, practice, practice to gain experience
• Start working on earning professional certifications

Have you always been messing around with motors and engines? Are some of your earliest memories of taking apart the family lawnmower to see how it works? This hobby of working on two-cycle and four-cycle engines can turn into a worthwhile and profitable job. There is a path you can take that will make this very possible.

The following steps are what we consider to be the best way to go when it comes to starting out as a Small Engine Mechanic.

High School

If you already know that you want to work on engines while still in high school, you will want to take some shop classes. Most schools offer courses in small engine repair, automotive repair and wood and metal shop. If your school has auto shop classes that are sponsored by the Automotive Youth Education Systems (AYES), take part in these classes. Even though the AYES programs are based on cars and trucks, the training and experience will be helpful for small engines too.

Besides shop classes there are some other classes you may want to add to your schedule. Even though some of these classes may not sound like they are important, they can be vital to your success in this field. These classes include:

  • English
  • Communication
  • Math
  • Electronics
  • Computers

Earning your high school diploma or least getting a General Education Development (GED) is almost is as important as taking shop classes. Most jobs today are a lot tougher to get if you don’t at least have a high school diploma. Even though school might be painful for some people, getting that diploma will make life a bit easier than not having it at all.

Vocational School

After completing high school you really help boost your job goals by enrolling in a small engine repair program. These programs can typically be found at vocational schools, community colleges, career centers and technical schools almost anywhere in the country. Most of these programs will help bridge the gap from what you have learned already to more marketable skills in a real world job.

Although post-secondary education is not required to work as a Small Engine Mechanic, it may be required by employers of some of the places you want to find employment. Let’s face it, as with most jobs today the competition for a position can be a bit stiff. You will want to find and gain any advantage you can get over other job seekers. A certificate from a vocational school can be the edge that helps put you over the top. These programs can be completed in less than a year, in most cases.

For those looking to own their own business or want to get ahead by ways of promotions in to supervisory roles, you will want to get an associate’s degree. Those pursuing an associate’s degree will most likely be advised to take classes in management, business finances, communications and other worthwhile courses that can be a big boost to your career. Not only that, but typically higher education means the possibility of higher wages and better jobs.

Experience

You can start gaining experience as early as high school by applying as an assistant in a repair shop. Working closely with people who have been working as a Small Engine Mechanic can be a significant learning tool. The combination of education and on-the-job learning is the perfect one-two punch for those looking to start a profession.

Most likely you will start your job as a shop assistant doing some of the smaller jobs and keeping the shop clean. With some practice and patience you may end up proving to your employer that you can handle more work and really get involved in the business. Watch and listen carefully to learn the trade from a master.

Skills Learned

While type of instruction may vary according to the instructor or school, aspiring small engine technicians will learn the basics to build upon through practice and experience. Some of the basics include such tasks as:

  • Replacement of spark plugs
  • Disassemble and assemble of small engines
  • Performing computerized diagnosis
  • Repair cost estimates
  • Problem solving
Certifications

There are some ways to help you stand out more as a Small Engine Mechanic besides what we have already mentioned. Once you have a job in a shop or service, you may want to get some professional certifications to create more opportunities. Earning a certification from the Equipment & Engine Training Council (EETC) is a great first start. The EETC is recognized as the credential for those working in the Small Engine Mechanic industry.

Other certifications that are worth the effort is through some manufacturers. Certain manufacturers hold classes and seminars on their approved methods of maintaining and repairing their products. This can be beneficial if you work for a dealer or you want to specialize in certain brands of products. Or if you want to get some additional revenue by working at a certified-warranty repair center.

Continuing Education

In order to stay on top of technological changes within the industry you may be required by your employer to attend some classes every year or so. Typically these classes are fairly short lasting no longer than a couple of weeks. Some Small Engine Mechanics are asked to attending programs in management and customer service depending on their roles.

Where Can I Find Small Engine Repair Classes?

Quick Info: Where to Get Instruction
Where to learn the job of a small engine mechanic
• Automotive Youth Education Systems (AYES) sponsored high school shop classes
• Enroll in a vocational or trade school
• Get on-the-job learning
• Enlist in the military for mechanics instruction

There are hundreds of programs that offer small engine repair around the country. There is a good chance at least one is near you. One the easier ways to find one of these programs is by simply looking on the internet. Another way is by asking those already working as a Small Engine Mechanic where they got their education or if they have any suggestions. You should know, however, that you may get different answers or suggestions that might not be what you wanted. Let’s look at the different instruction methods and how you can go about finding one that best fits you.

Vocational Schools

Performing a search on the internet is probably the fastest and easiest way. A quick search will not only show you the available programs but also give you localized results so you will know which ones are nearby. As an added bonus, you easily make a list of schools that can be narrowed down with some additional research.

One of the first things you should look for with any vocational school or community college is that the school is an accredited institution. A school that is accredited has met the standards necessary to provide quality education according to a professional association that oversees education. One such organization that provides accreditation is the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Check the school’s website or ask the admissions office if the school has been accredited.

Another area that you should look in to is the reputation of the school’s small engine repair program. As with most jobs, the importance of where you went to school plays a part in the perception of a potential employer. If you go to a school that is well known in a positive manner you may have a better chance at landing that job than attending a school no one has ever heard of.

Some other areas you will want to look in to are just as important too. These areas could include:

  • Cost of tuition
  • Location
  • Class times
  • Internship opportunities
  • Career placement services
  • Financial aide
On-The-Job Learning

If you do not want to go the vocational school route, you could always try to get an entry-level position at a repair shop. Most employers offer some form of on-the-job experience. In reality this instruction is to help give employees some experience working in the company and help them get up to speed on their duties.

Outside of knowing an employer there really isn’t an easy way to go about finding these positions. You will most likely have to make a number of phone calls or visits to local shops and companies to locate one of these positions. Even then, you will probably have to prove yourself by performing some task like disassembling and assembling an engine.

You should be made aware that these types of positions are harder to come by as more employers are starting to ask for some educational background. You might also find that the entry-level position that you are starting at is more like an assistant. This could mean sweeping the floor, doing inventory and other non-repair like tasks.

U.S. Military

Even though the military doesn’t really have small engine repair programs, they do offer mechanic work for watercraft, motorcycles and other vehicles. This type of experience and instruction will give you familiarity of engines, how they work and how to properly use the tools.

By joining the military you will get some great experience, a paycheck and a chance to see the world. You will also performing an honorable act by serving to protect this great country. To find out more about mechanics training in the armed forces you can contact your local recruiter or check out their websites listed below.

U.S. Army

U.S. Navy

U.S. Marine Corps

U.S. Air Force

Coast Guard

National Guard

Are There Online Small Engine Repair Schools?

If you are currently are unable to attend a campus-based school but want to get instruction in small engine repair, then you might want to consider attending some online courses. Students attending one of the accredited online colleges can get a comparable education to that taught a traditional school.  This is a great help for those looking to start a new job but still attending to other responsibilities such as being a stay-at-home parent or working a full-time job.

Online small engine repair programs can serve as a way for people new to the work of a mechanic. The topics you will cover in online training are mainly what you would learn in the classroom portion of a traditional repair program. Courses on mechanical diagnostics, small engine parts, their processes and a step by step look at how to rebuild an engine are typical in an online environment.

We do recommend online small engine repair programs for those who either do not know if they want to work in this field or for those who are currently working in a shop or dealership. We feel that a certification or an associate’s degree from an online institution can take you further in your job than without it. Plus, you might find some employers who will partially or fully pay for this type of education along with working within their company.

How Long Does Small Engine Mechanic Courses Take?

Those who plan on attending trade school or a community college for Small Engine Mechanic education should expect to spend between six months to a couple of years in school. The actual amount of time depends on what type of certification or degree you have as a goal. How dedicated you are to learning and the standards of the school also play a part in the length of time you will be in a classroom.

A quick certificate program in small engine repair can completed in six months to a year. Those looking to earn an associate’s degree to better their chances at higher pay and promotions can expect to be in school for roughly two years. Some people have been known to finish online courses a bit faster than traditional schools too, if you want to keep that in mind.

After you have been working for a company you may find out that your employer wants you take some re-education courses or some manufacturer specific classes. Typically these courses are held at local trade schools, high schools or community colleges and can be finished in just a few weeks. Other courses in areas of management or supervision may take a bit longer.

What is a Small Engine Mechanic Job Description?

A short answer to this question is that Small Engine Mechanics provide maintenance, inspections and repairs to small engine vehicles and equipment. While this simple definition is correct it still does not cover all of the duties and responsibilities involved with this career. A list of their other duties most likely includes:

  • Assembles and disassembles engines or motors
  • Listens to the sound of engines to try to detect malfunctions
  • Fixes or replaces broken parts
  • Does adjustments to valves, carburetors, points, spark plug gaps and distributor
  • Uses meters, gauges and hand tools to test and repair magnetos in engines
  • Inspects, repairs or replaces defective engine parts
  • Provides normal maintenance and preventative repairs
  • Discusses issues, maintenance plans, cost estimates and work performed with customers
  • Keep records of work performed, test results and maintenance

What is the Future Outlook for Small Engine Repair Jobs?

There are some positive gains projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) when it comes to Small Engine Mechanics. The report issued in early 2015 shows an expected growth of 4% in new jobs until the year 2024. While this number is slower than the average of all occupations, it is still upward movement that can be adjusted higher in the next round of projections.

A combination of complex technology and the cost of modern diagnostic equipment used to work on small engines has caused a bit of the decline. A number of self-employed Small Engine Mechanics have left the industry or joined more established companies due to the higher costs of doing business. This should dissuade you from chasing your goal of a new career, however.

Since there is a slightly slower increase in the number of available jobs in this market, it is best if you do attend and complete some post-secondary education. Having this extra education may make it easier to find a new job. Without some post-secondary education may face a tougher battle finding employment.

Small Engine Mechanic Projected Growth

On a side note: Those who have trained or have some background on working with motorcycles and boats may see more opportunities. This is partially due to the growing popularity of these vehicles. Plus, since most of the small engine repair shops cater to summer time motorized equipment, you may want to look in to working on snowmobiles, snow blowers and other winter related equipment too. This can bring some money in the winter months.

What is the Median Small Engine Mechanic Salary?

You might be surprised to find out Small Engine Mechanics are one of the top paying jobs for those without a 4-year college degree. The report by the U.S.  Government released earlier this year shows that the annual median wage for Small Engine Mechanics is $34,650 or $16.66 an hour. This doesn’t include some of the benefits that most mechanics in larger shops receive such as health insurance, vacation, sick leave and 401K.

small engine mechanic salary

This median salary number is not a guarantee of what you will earn. There are a number of factors that can influence your actual pay. Some of the main factors include:

  • Company
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Location
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