An exciting career as an auto mechanic could be in your future. This is a career that offers job stability and competitive pay while there are always new openings at a variety of work settings. Becoming an auto mechanic introduces you to an ever-changing job with new challenges each day. This position also provides plenty of room for advancement. Those interested in climbing through the ranks have the option of earning numerous certifications which lead to higher pay and better job prospects. Here is a look at the steps it takes to become an auto mechanic.
To attain certain certifications, there is a need to have a certain level of work experience. Auto mechanics can build on their certifications and that can lead to new employment opportunities, higher salaries and more job security. There is the option of concentrating on cars and trucks while there is also the option of focusing on large or specialized vehicles. Auto mechanics find work in auto shops, car dealerships, service stations and auto parts stores. There really is a wealth of possibilities as auto mechanics continue to play a valuable role in the American workforce. Getting started on the path to an auto mechanic career can begin right away with enrollment in a training program.
Auto Mechanic Career
An auto mechanic is entrusted with inspecting and examining vehicles that are brought into an auto repair or service shop. In some instances, clients make specific requests. Other times, the mechanic will need to diagnose the problem. Once the problem area is identified, the appropriate fixes will be recommended and work will ensue. Many times, auto mechanics replace and repair car parts, which requires a working knowledge of automotive technology.
Auto mechanics also perform regular maintenance to ensure vehicles maintain sufficient performance. There are different maintenance procedures performed on each vehicle, which once again requires a sound knowledge of foreign and domestic vehicles. Auto mechanics also need to know how to use all the tools and equipment that are required to diagnose and fix problems. Conventional tools like drills, jacks socket sets are used, but there is a lot of new technology as well. Computerized systems now diagnose problems and that has prompted auto mechanics to learn a whole new skill set.
The job also requires auto mechanics to interact with clients and that requires communication skills. As much as auto mechanics rely on technical knowledge, there is also some customer service involved with the job.
Here are a few of the job duties performed by an auto mechanic:
These are just some of the job assignments taken on by auto mechanics. There are a lot of other issues that could affect vehicles, which is why it takes a trained eye to identify problem areas. Auto mechanics are also capable of providing the right type of repair by using computer diagnostic systems, conventional tools and their overall knowledge of automotive technology.
Auto Mechanic Career Info By State
Auto Mechanic Salaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of an auto mechanic is $41,400 annually. There is also a higher earning potential in some states. For example, auto mechanics in Washington D.C. earn an average salary of $64,560 per year. The next four states that feature the highest average auto mechanic salaries are Alaska, Maryland, New Jersey and California. There is high earning potential in each state as the individual auto repair shop and auto mechanic certification level play a key role in determining salaries.
Average Annual Salary
Auto mechanics who work in franchise auto repair shops can expect to earn salaries that are more evenly determined. However, private auto repair shops set their own salaries and a lot of that can depend on volume of business. Higher-end auto repair shops typically feature higher salaries. Experience and certification level also factor into how much an auto mechanic can expect to make over the course of a year. Some states feature higher salaries for auto repair shop owners, which allows them to offer higher pay rates to their team of mechanics. New York is the highest earning state for auto repair shop owners in the eastern part of the country while Illinois leads the Midwest, Mississippi leads the south and California tops the west.
A consistent job demand continues throughout the country for auto mechanics. The industry continues to grow every year, adding new jobs at a 1% increase nationally. That increase is higher in some states and because of the high number of auto mechanics, that translates into a lot of new jobs every year.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of auto mechanics work for automotive dealers while the second most popular place of employment is auto repair shops. Next in line is auto parts stores and tire stores. Local governments also employ a portion of auto mechanics and those numbers are similar to the amount of auto mechanics who work in gas.
Meet Minimum Education Requirements
The first step to becoming an auto mechanic is earning a high school diploma or GED equivalency. A general math background is essential for this line of work and any kind of training in electronics will also be of service. Some high schools offer introductory courses on how to become an auto mechanic, which include core classes that are focused on automotive technology. The advanced technology in today’s automobiles also requires a knowledge of computer systems. An auto mechanic education program will focus on this area while any background training in computers will also be useful. Automotive technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, which means it is important for auto mechanics to be updated on all the latest industry innovations.
Auto mechanic education programs combine classroom instruction with a practical approach, which allows for hands-on learning. Students will actually work on vehicles during their education and learn different repair methods and techniques. There are also programs that feature apprenticeships, where students learn by working in an actual repair shop where they are guided by experienced automotive technicians.
When it comes to the hiring process, most employers will seek out auto mechanics who hold an ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification, which is issued by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. There are multiple certifications available and each one will enhance an auto mechanic’s individual standing in the industry. The educational path starts at a post-secondary school and continues with the certification process, which can continue throughout an auto mechanic’s career.
Find an Auto Mechanic Training Program
To work as an auto mechanic, there is a need for certification and industry training. There are numerous training programs offered throughout the country at colleges, vocational schools and technical institutions. It is important for auto mechanics to receive quality training from a program that adheres to the highest standards of quality.
While there are a lot of auto mechanic training programs throughout the country, not every one of them is the same. That led the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) to develop a set criteria for what is expected of an automotive technician training program. This criteria includes standards for the knowledge and skill level of trained auto technicians. The NATEF approves training programs throughout the country and that includes all different kinds of schools. To learn more about an NATEF program, a list can be located here.
The ASE is the premier name when it comes to certifications in the auto repair industry. The ASE is also committed to furthering education and that led to the development of the Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES). This program is offered to high school students who have an interest in pursuing a career as an auto mechanic. This vocational program will fast track students into the profession. To learn more about AYES, a full description can be found here.
Students can also attend a junior college or community college, where they can earn an Associate’s Degree in Automotive Technology. These programs can be completed in two years when students are enrolled on a full-time basis. There is classroom instruction as well as hands-on teaching in these programs. Automotive theories are introduced and students are able to put them to use by working on actual vehicles. Colleges offer various accreditations and approvals depending on the extent of training offered through their coursework.
Earn Auto Mechanic ASE Certifications
Most auto repair centers place a high demand on ASE certified technicians. This certification is not mandatory, although it is highly recommended. To earn this distinction, candidates must acquire a certain amount of work experience as an auto mechanic. However, candidates are eligible to take an ASE certification test before gaining the required work experience. Once the work experience requirements are met, an ASE certification will be issued. And once that certification is earned, a wealth of new job prospects should begin to present themselves.
There are multiple certifications according to specialty area. Here are some examples of the different ASE certifications, along with their work experience requirement.
1, 2, or 3 years
Collision Damage Estimator
Certification in handling refrigerant/MVAC units
Part of the job duties of an auto mechanic is to handle refrigerant for the purposes of replacing or repairing vehicle air conditioners. In order to perform this type of service, an auto mechanic must be properly certified. Vehicle air conditioners are called MVAC systems and require a detailed process in terms of repair and installation. Because of that hazard involved, there are certain safety standards that need to be followed. The EPA provides a mandatory certification program and more information can be found here. The ASE also offers a certificate that EPA approval. More information about that ASE program can be found here.
(ASE) Automotive Service Excellence Certifications
Certification levels increase with the amount of skill, knowledge and experience that is ascertained by an auto mechanic. There are over 40 different ASE tests that certify auto mechanics in a variety of areas. Here is more about the testing process:
- These tests include multiple choice sections that combine technical and practical knowledge of the automotive technician profession.
- There is also a work experience requirement with each test.
- Once a passing score has been earned and all the work experience has been met, a Blue Seal of Excellence will be issued.
- Those who earn a certification will need to pass a recertification test every 5 years.
- Registration fees apply for these tests and that includes recertification tests.
- Click here to find an ASE testing center in your state.
Become an ASE Master Technician
There are certifications issued by the ASE for those who have acquired the knowledge and skill level to be considered master auto mechanics. To become a master technician for automobiles, auto mechanics must test eight separate tests which include the following:
A1 Engine repair
A2 Automatic Transmission/Transaxle
A3 Manual drive train and axles
A4 Suspension and steering
A6 Electrical/electronic systems
A7 Heating and air conditioning
A8 Engine performance
There are additional master mechanic certifications for trucks, transit buses, medium heavy trucks and more. These certifications carry a great deal of influence when working on more than just cars. For example, certain companies that perform maintenance on large diesel vehicles will require specific certifications that fall under the E1-E3 designation of ASE’s master status.
Earning a manufacturer-specific certification helps tremendously with gaining employment at a dealership. This type of training certifies auto mechanics to work on a specific brand of vehicle. For example, a Ford dealership will look to hire a mechanic who is certified to work on Ford vehicles. This type of training is available through the Universal Technical Institute. In order to gain admission to this training program, applicants must have completed a post-secondary auto mechanic program. This is a specialized program which helped immensely in the search for employment. Those looking to learn more about the UTI manufacturer program can find more information here.
Before auto mechanics can acquire a manufacturer specific certification, it is important to gain experience working on all types of vehicles. This will serve as a foundation for learning about the specifics of working on a particular brand of vehicle. Many of the manufacturer certifications will cover the following areas:
Earn a Manufacturer Specific Certification
There are different options to becoming manufacturer certified as auto mechanics are not limited to going through a universal program or system. That provides an added form of convenience as auto mechanics generally do not have to travel very far to find a program that provides manufacturer specific certifications. There are many different options available throughout all 50 states.
Many car owners are very particular about who they trust to work on their vehicles. Whether they own a GM, Volvo or Volkswagen, it is usually important that they visit auto repair shops who employ mechanics that have been trained to work on those specific brands. Vehicle owners have a certain level of confidence in auto mechanics who hold a manufacturer specific certification. Meanwhile, some repair shops will only hire mechanics who are certified to work on a particular brand of vehicles.
Manufacturer specific certifications are also available at different levels. There are options to gain a higher level of certification as most car manufacturers offer master technician status. These master-level certifications require a specific amount of experience working with a manufacturer specific certification. That experience usually extends to a number of years. It is an excellent long-term goal and master status is one of the highest distinctions an auto mechanic can earn.