Automotive service comes in all different forms. The ability to help the general public decide on what kind of auto parts they need for repair is an extremely valuable service in the automotive community. Parts professionals provide this service by proving themselves as authoritative members of the auto repair industry. Customers frequently enter auto parts stores and are helped by a parts professional. This does not mean a parts professional has to go out and fix a customer’s car, although there is tremendous satisfaction in being able to solve so many vehicle-related issues on a daily basis. Parts professionals have become a staple in the automotive world and their expertise has led to competitive pay and job stability.

Parts Professional Job Duties

A parts professional is expected to be courteous and helpful at all times. It is different than other types of customer service jobs. In other retail outlets, sales associates can receive on-the-job training to familiarize them with the products being sold. A parts professional brings in a certain level of industry knowledge, which provides them with an advantage over other types of sales associates. A parts professional has already acquired a good amount of information about the products that are sold in an auto parts store.

This type of specialization is valuable, particularly since there are so many products and components within an auto parts store. Having a foundation of automotive knowledge allows parts professionals to understand automotive concepts, which helps immensely when trying to solve customer queries. A parts professional’s body of knowledge extends to the following areas:

  • Looks up parts and part applications
  • Operates POS (Points of Sale) System
  • In-store customer advising
  • Incorporates appropriate sales practices
  • Uses store catalogue system
  • Resolves customer problems and answers questions

A parts professional relies on customer service skills and automotive knowledge to perform the bulk of his/her job duties. Parts professionals are also called upon to demonstrate their product knowledge, which is a result of fielding different customer questions. During their everyday job duties, parts professionals are expected to uphold a professional attitude and friendly demeanor at all times. Here is a more detailed look at the everyday job duties of a parts professional.

  • Performance standards
  • Product warranties
  • Sales Promotions
  • Drivability
  • Manufacturer offerings

Parts Professional Job Requirements

A parts professional should hold a high school diploma or GED equivalency, as this is a common prerequisite among mostly all automotive retailers and stores. There is also a need to be able to understand bar codes, part numbers and specific number sequences. A parts professional may need to adapt to a fast-paced work setting that features a high volume of business and customers. Most of the workday is spent standing and parts professionals move around quite a bit to find the necessary parts and items for customers. The physical element may also require lifting boxes and being able to reach up or down for items on display.

In addition to having effective communication skills, a parts professional also displays a high organizational skill level. Since the auto parts business is retail based, a parts professional oversees customer transactions. This part of the job typically requires sales support and may also call for the need to report shortages and overages, while also inspecting and verifying damaged items. A parts professional should also meet the following criteria:

  • Some auto parts experience
  • Knowledge of Microsoft systems
  • Established knowledge of auto parts
  • Strong communication skills
  • Valid Driver’s license

An ASE parts professional certification is not required to work in this capacity, although many employers hold this distinction in high regard. Employers also place a great deal of stock into work experience. Those who have already established themselves in this field may often be given better job opportunities. Experience can also be parlayed into negotiating a higher pay rate.

Parts Professional Education

Those interested in attaining a formal education as a parts specialist can find a number of programs throughout the United States. These programs prepare students to work as a parts professional in an auto parts store. Students can also use this education to find a job as a parts salesperson for an auto parts manufacturer. While there are sales skills involved with those jobs, it also requires technical knowledge of auto parts, which can be attained in one of these training programs.

Some of these programs are titled a bit differently and could fall under the distinction of auto service program. These programs are offered through various technical institutes, vocational schools, community colleges and automotive training institutes. A certificate of completion is awarded at graduation as students face a curriculum that is loaded with automotive knowledge. The time frame for completion of these programs are usually two full-time semesters. That means in as little as nine months, a novice student can quickly progress to becoming a parts specialist.

There are also seminars, workshops and online courses that provide additional information on auto parts of all kinds. Advances in manufacturing and technology continue to change the entire composition of vehicles, which extends to their parts and accessories. Therefore, staying current is an important part of a parts professional’s job, as education continues even while on the job.

Getting an education as an auto mechanic will enable individuals to thrive as parts professionals. The difference between an auto mechanic education and a parts professional education is the hands-on training that is involved. Parts specialists deal with automotive knowledge, while auto mechanics combine that knowledge with actual repair work. Both programs feature classroom instruction, although parts professionals do not spend time training in repair shops. That does not make parts professionals any less valuable, as they provide a much-needed service in the automotive industry.

Parts Professional Certifications

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has designed a trio of certification tests for parts professionals. These are called Parts Specialist Certification Tests. Passing these tests shows that a parts professional has acquired a knowledge level that is above average. The three separate parts professional certification tests are as follows:

  • P1 – Medium-Heavy Truck Parts Specialist
  • P2 – Automobile Parts Specialist
  • P4 – General Motors Parts Consultant

The certification tests range from 65 to 75 questions. The test is broken down into sections, which include one on general operations and one on customer relations. The primary component of the test focuses on vehicle systems knowledge and that features questions on the following topics:

  • Engine Mechanical Parts
  • Brakes
  • Suspension and Steering
  • Cooling Systems
  • Fuel Systems
  • Manual Transmission
  • Automatic Transmission
  • Drive Train Components
  • Heating, Ventilation and AC
  • Electrical Systems
  • Battery Charging

The test also features questions on vehicle identification, information systems and the management of inventory. A work experience requirement of two years needs to be met before being granted permission to take one of these certification tests. That requirement goes down to one year of work experience when coupled with the completion of a formal parts specialist education. Recertification is also required every five years and that requires passing an exam that is only about half as long as the original certification test.

An ASE parts specialist certification carries a lot of influence and could lead to a wealth of new job opportunities. It is also an easier way for parts professionals to market themselves. Customers and employers feel more secure with a staff that has acquired ASE certifications. Because ASE has set the standard in automotive repair, its name continues to carry a lot of weight.

Parts Professional Salary and Job Outlook

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes parts professionals as parts salespersons and that applies to individuals who work in automotive stores selling auto parts. The BLS has also determined that the average salary of a parts salesperson is $29,780 per year. Meanwhile, the top 10% of parts salespersons earn an average salary of $52,430 annually. The pay scale is sliding and a lot of that amount depends on experience, certifications, and the number of years employed with that particular store or company. There is also the location factor to take into consideration.

The highest paying state for a parts salesperson is Alaska, where the average salary is $39,720 annually. There is not a lot of separation between the next highest paying states as North Dakota comes in second, right in front of Nebraska, Wyoming and Massachusetts. There are a lot of parts professional jobs spread out across the United States. The highest concentration of parts professionals in metropolitan areas starts off with Los Angeles and is followed by Houston, Dallas, Chicago and New York.

The job outlook for the future continues to hold firm as there is a projected 7% growth rate among parts professionals over the next decade. As long as there are automotive parts stores, there is always going to be a need for parts professionals. Auto repair is often practiced by car owners. Even when conducting minor forms of repair, auto parts are going to have to come from somewhere. Most times, it is a parts professional who recommends the part needed to conduct auto repair at home. A parts professional has the capability of making many types of DIY auto repair a whole lot easier.