In the past, many people liked to fix their own cars. It was a fun hobby and a great way for parents to bond with their children, and it also saved a lot of money on car repairs! But cars today are much different from what they were 20 or 30 years ago. Today’s cars more closely resemble computers than did cars of the past. As a result, most people can no longer fix their own cars in their garages; instead, they go to the pros.
Those pros are known as automotive service technicians and mechanics. These are the people who test car parts and systems, run diagnostics to identify problems, and perform care, maintenance, and repairs. Most employees in this field work for shops that specialize in automotive repair and maintenance or in the service departments of car dealerships. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 125,000 new jobs will open up for automotive service technicians and mechanics through 2020. That represents growth of about 17 percent. Automotive service technicians and mechanics make about $35,000 a year, with employees at car dealerships earning salaries closer to $40K.
Much of the training auto mechanics receive is on the job. This is the type of job where nothing can beat hands-on experience, and even formal education programs usually include plenty of on-the-job training. To become an auto mechanic doesn’t require an official degree, but most employers would rather hire workers who have at least some specialized education. The available programs range from vocational and training programs, which take between six months and one year to complete, to associate’s degree programs, which usually take two years.
Formal training is also helpful for preparing to take the certification exam from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Some employers require their mechanics to be certified, and in almost all cases it leads to a higher hourly wage. It takes at least two years of experience or combined education and experience to be eligible for the certification exam, so even if you are just starting out in the automotive service and repair field, it is not too early to think about the future.
Automotive technology is advancing all of the time—just think about all of the electric and hybrid cars that are on the road today. And auto makers are constantly looking for new fuel sources, which will change how our cars are powered. To be versatile in the cars they can work on and the systems they can repair, automotive service technicians and mechanics need to be up to date on all of the newest technologies. This is an exciting field right now, and the best way for you to get started is by earning a diploma or degree from an automotive school.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Automotive service technicians and mechanics. Occupational Outlook Handbook.