When you are in school, there are a few different types of opportunities you will have to learn. You will take general education classes that are helpful for anyone, regardless of major; you will take classes in the field of automotive work and repair; and you will have hands-on opportunities to exercise your skills.
General Education Requirements
If you enroll in an associate’s degree program, you will have to take some classes that are labelled as “general education.” This means that they don’t necessarily have anything to do with automotive technology, but they are classes that nearly everyone will have to take, regardless of major. They might include courses such as English, math, economics, communication, or science. You might also have some classes that are considered of a general nature, but with a “twist” that make them more applicable to students with your interests, such as IT for transportation. The focus in this class might be slightly different than a general IT or introduction to computing class. You might think that these classes are unimportant to your future career, but you’d be surprised. Having sold skills in fundamental areas like English and math will help you be more successful as an automotive technician. For example, strong math skills will help you add up costs and calculate totals when preparing a customer’s bill. And strong English and communication skills will help you present better to the customer and come off more professionally, which can help foster loyalty and trust. However, you will generally only take these classes if you are enrolled in an associate’s degree program or higher. Shorter certificate programs typically skip these courses and stick only with specific automotive topics.
“Occupational courses” is a term that refers to any courses you take that will help prepare you for your future occupation as an automotive repairer, body repairer, or engine specialist. They might include classes such as the fundamentals of automotive service, steering, brake, and suspension systems, engine repair, engine performance, and potentially chassis systems. You will take these classes over one to four semesters, depending on the length of your program (or potentially longer, if you opt for a bachelor’s degree program, which takes four years to complete). These classes will prepare you for a future working in an auto shop, with car parts, or at an automobile dealership. The longer you are in school and the more classes you take, the more comprehensively you will be prepared to be successful in your future endeavors.
No matter what, you will get some amount of hands-on experience through your studies in automotive school. This is because many institutions are equipped with garages and use tools and actual engines and vehicle systems to train their students. That being said, some colleges offer more opportunities than others. If you choose to earn a degree working with a particular type of vehicle, such as GM, Honda, or Toyota, you may be given special training at applicable car dealerships so you can gain the expertise you need. And even if you aren’t being specially trained to work with a particular subset of automobile, you may have a chance to work in a body shop or car dealership while in school so that you are better prepared to transfer to the working world after graduation.