A future as an auto mechanic requires a detailed knowledge of vehicle engines and all its components. This type of career starts with learning all the ins and outs of automotive repair. There are different educational options for those who are looking to pursue a career as an auto mechanic. Training programs are offered at various post-secondary schools and there are different lengths to each of those programs. Both options offer comprehensive instruction, which includes hands-on learning.
Students who enroll in these programs undergo classroom instruction and then apply that knowledge in an actual automotive repair setting. Education is available through colleges offering two-year programs that award an Associate’s Degree or though career training programs that distribute certificates to graduates. Once either of those are earned, graduates can begin fast tracking their way into the exciting and rewarding career of automotive repair.
Associate’s Degree Program
There are a number of colleges that offer Associate Degrees for aspiring auto mechanics. Many of these degrees are in Automotive Technology, although schools have variations on the exact title. For example, some schools offer an Associate’s Degree in Automotive Service Technology while other programs feature an Associate’s Degree in Automotive Service or Automotive Maintenance Technology. Regardless of the name, all are very similar in design.
These Associate’s Degree programs last two years when students attend on a full-time basis. There is also a need to meet all the standard core class requirements. This means that students will have to take additional courses, as their coursework is not limited strictly to classes involving automotive technology. Meeting Math and English requirements are two common standards of all Associate Degree programs. All colleges differ in the exact core requirements that are needed to earn an Associate’s Degree.
These Associate Degree programs are offered through various community colleges and junior colleges. Some four-year colleges also feature Associate Degree programs in Automotive Technology. To gain admission, students may be required to take a placement test and submit standardized test scores. Some Associate Degree programs also require students to complete prerequisite courses before being admitted into that specific program.
In most instances, students will also need to apply to the exact program and then a program director or program committee will accept or deny admission. Each individual program has its own specific requirements, which could include a personal essay or the completion of prerequisite courses.
Career Training Program
Career training programs for auto mechanics are available through numerous technical institutes, vocational schools, career learning centers and community colleges. These programs focus on the specifics of automotive technology and do not require core classes the same way an Associate’s Degree program is operated. Students who enroll in a career training program will be able to focus solely on their individual subject area. This does away with the need to take classes that are not directly related to the automotive field.
The length of a career training program is shorter in duration. The fact that there are no core classes reduces the time frame. Some career training programs conclude in just 9 months while others can last up to two years. The length is often determined by how much detail is involved. It is important to make sure that a career training program covers the essentials of auto repair.
Completing all the necessary requirements allows students to earn a certificate of completion. These certificates have various titles, depending upon the institution. Some are called auto mechanic certificates while others are defined as automotive technology or automotive service certificates.
Career training programs are designed to teach students all the information that is required when working as an auto mechanic or automotive technician. Most programs offer assistance with job placement as graduates can jump right into a career once they earn their certificate. The tuition required when attending a Career Training Program is typically cheaper than the cost of enrolling in an Associate’s Degree program. There are some career training programs that are hybrids, which means that part of it is done online. The hands-on aspect of auto repair prevents the program from being completed entirely online. At some point, students will have to be present for practical instruction and learning.
Auto Mechanic Education Admission Requirements
Most Associate Degree and Career Training programs recommend that applicants hold a minimum of a high school diploma or GED equivalency. Some programs require students to be at least 18 years of age. Applying to a specific program may require taking a placement test, although each institution sets its own criteria for the admissions process. Contacting the school directly, or visiting its website, typically reveals all the exact admission requirements.
Auto Mechanic Education Coursework
Because of the nature of the job, students are expected to take their classroom instruction and apply it to actual automotive work. Education programs provide students with the opportunity to work on real vehicles. Some of the areas of study include the following:
Those study areas often preceded any hands-on work that is conducted. Students have the opportunity to put their knowledge to use. Here is a look at some of the procedures taught through this part of the program:
Students in all programs are also taught safety procedures and how to practice a professional code of conduct. Another area of concentration focuses on using effective communication, quantitative reasoning and critical thinking as all those skills contribute to efficient auto repair.
Integrating Advanced Education
With continual advances in technology, vehicle systems are becoming more innovative and complex every year. This is covered through the integration of new concepts to auto repair education programs. This includes the most notable advances in the automotive repair industry in the past twenty years have come in the form of vehicle diagnostic technology. This has shown itself in the adoption of the CARB (California Air Resources Board) and the OBD II diagnostic port used for the manufacturer specific scan tool. This is used to diagnose all emissions related issues, engine management problems and body electrical faults.
Continual changes in technology have forced the automotive repair industry to keep up with changes in the tools used in vehicle repair. Scan tools and digital multimeters are the latest diagnostic tools that are used on an everyday basis by automotive technicians. Prior to the development of these tools, most diagnostic tools involved test lights and knowledge of systems. Vehicles built before the 1990’s had either one or two computers controlling the vehicle. These are called engine control modules (ECM) or powertrain control modules (PCM).
However, everything changed due to stricter regulations and smaller microprocessors. These innovations allowed vehicles to have more than 200 of these modules controlling everything from headlights and mirrors to catalytic converter efficiency. That has also changed the scope of education as technicians need to be well-versed in how computers control various components of the vehicle.
Over the years, technology and innovation have allowed engine diagnosis to become more accurate. The emergence of hybrid systems introduced more complicated diagnostic techniques. That required technicians to gain more detailed knowledge that focused on all the changing aspects of how cars were made and how new engine systems worked together.
Preparing Students for ASE Certification
One of the most common credentials that repair shops look for when hiring an auto mechanic is ASE Certifications. Auto mechanic education programs prepare students to pass the various examinations offered by the ASE. There is also the option of earning an ASE student certification, which are offered by some programs in its final stages. This student certification is different than an ASE certification, which requires some level of work experience.
Students can use this certification as the first of its kind which can build towards earning an actual ASE certification. Students receive their own certificate upon passing the ASE examination and it is validated by the academic institution. A student certification is good for two years after the date in which the exam was taken. These tests are offered in both the fall and spring semesters. They are administered at a specific school and are computer based.
Find an Accredited Auto Mechanic Training Program
There is an abundance of automotive service training programs located throughout the United States. In 1983, the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) introduced an accreditation program as a way of validating certain programs. That led the NATEF to begin accrediting programs that featured automotive repair programs within secondary and post-secondary institutions.
The NATEF examines programs and issues accreditation based on whether or not the institution meets its set of standards. Ares of accreditation include auto, truck, and collision. To find an accredited program near you, click here. While it is not necessary for students to attend an approved program, there are advantages. There are a large number of Associate Degree or Career Training programs that have set the foundation for very successful career paths in automotive repair.