How To Become An Auto Mechanic
Career Video: Auto Mechanic
Do you like to troubleshoot problems with various types of automobiles? Do you possess mechanical skills and take an interest in automobile repairs and maintenance? Do you pride yourself in having extensive knowledge about different vehicles, taking them apart and rebuilding them, and helping your friends and family with repairs? If you like to work with automobiles and have natural talents that help you solve mechanical problems, then a career as an auto mechanic may be the best path for you.
Why Become An Auto Mechanic
Auto mechanics, also known as service technicians, work on a variety of automobiles, providing inspection, maintenance, and repair services. Much of their work comprises of identifying issues with and maintaining the many components of automobiles, which include engines, transmissions, carburetors, drive belts, and other parts. Their expertise makes them equipped to ensure customers can drive safely, within the law, and with efficiency.
Besides mechanical maintenance and repairs, auto mechanics must also be knowledgeable and capable of working on various electrical systems, which include brakes, steering, and transmission. As technology continues to improve in automobiles, the core aspects of an auto mechanic’s job will change.
Because customers rely on auto mechanics for safety and efficiency, they must have a number of competencies and skills to offer:
- Communication skills
- Customer service skills
- Technologically savvy
- Technical aptitude
- Problem-solving skills
- Diagnostic abilities
- Able to work alone and with a team
- Manual dexterity
Auto Mechanic Work Environment
The majority of auto mechanics work for privately owned auto-repair shops, with about 14 percent being self-employed. Auto mechanics can work in locations outside of repair shops, such as dealerships, auto parts stores, gas stations, and the government.
Auto mechanics usually work full-time in garages and other locations that allow them to work proficiently. There, they have access to many automotive and diagnostic tools, including computers, as well as fluids for maintenance. They often work in compromising and uncomfortable positions, and their work environment is greasy and dirty. Auto mechanics are susceptible to injuries, such as small cuts, bruises, and sprains. Most of their work requires that they work on holidays, weekends, and into the evenings.
Auto Mechanic Salary
In May of 2012, the median annual salary of an auto mechanic was $36,610. Salaries range anywhere from $20,810 to $60,070, depending on employment. Those working for the government will likely make the most money, while those working for gas stations are likely to make the least.
Auto Mechanic Career Outlook
This occupation is projected to grow about 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is about average. Especially in the United States, people rely upon vehicles. With more automobiles on the road, more entry-level technicians will find employment for routine maintenance and repair work.
Because of the importance of this occupation, auto mechanics must remain up-to-date and obtain qualified training. Those with post-secondary education will have an edge over those who do not have formal training.
Auto Mechanic Degree
Although a high school diploma is the minimum requirement for some mechanical work, it is necessary to obtain post-secondary education in order to qualify for most mechanical jobs.
Step 1: Obtain formal training. There are many paths to completing formal auto mechanic training. Many vocation and certificate programs exist at community colleges and schools specific to automotive training. Programs can take anywhere from 6 months to a few years, depending on breadth of training. Most mechanics become fully qualified within 2 to 5 years.
Many auto mechanics work to earn an associate degree, which will include courses about mathematics, automotive repair, computers, communication, customer service, and electronic systems. Those who receive training in specialized systems, such as hybrid technologies or other alternative systems may have an easier time finding employment and receiving higher compensation.
Step 2: Gain work experience. Entry level technicians will typically take 1 to 2 years to gain all the on-the-job training they need for any repair. During this experience, they may work as assistants, lubrication workers, or trainee technicians. After a few years, they can gain the knowledge to be considered experienced and further work can allow them to become master mechanics.
Step 3: Obtain certification. Certification is not a requirement to become an auto mechanic; however, some positions will require certification through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to handle certain fluids, such as refrigerants. It is possible that an employer also require employees to have a standard certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. This certification, along with eight other specialty certificates, may bring candidates more employment opportunities and higher pay. Specialty certification includes the following:
- Automatic transmission/transaxle
- Electrical/electronic systems
- Engine performance
- Engine repair
- Heating and air-conditioning
- Manual drive train and axles
- Suspension and steering