How many of us know what we are looking at when we pop the hood of a vehicle? Most of us see a mass of wires, belts and parts that make little sense. A mechanic sees something very different: A puzzle of pieces that fit together just as they should. Understanding that puzzle can help them narrow down the options, diagnose the problem, and have you back on the road as soon as possible. But figuring out how to understand what goes on under the hood doesn’t always come naturally – it requires serious education and training. That’s where mechanic school comes in.
How to Become a Mechanic
Talent and an affinity for engines are musts for aspiring mechanics. Those who are serious about creating a strong career must turn to formal education and in-depth training in order to work in the competitive automotive field. These steps provide an overview of what it takes.
Do some homework
The certainty that working on vehicles is a great career path is one thing – knowing exactly where to take that dream is another. Look into the various possibilities, from working in a busy shop to training on vehicles that require a site-visit to diagnose and fix. Once the focus is narrowed, it will be easier to move to the next step.
Complete a formal training program
Completing a post-secondary program in automotive service technology offers strong preparation that employers recognize and appreciate. It is also important to note that some certifications require a background of formal education, so it pays to go to class. Programs might last from six months to a year for a certificate, or two years for an associate degree. Some rare programs offer the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Dive into training
Though formal education will result in a great deal of knowledge and hands-on experience, on-the-job training is usually required after graduation. The length and intensity of that training depends upon many factors, including how specialized the work is.
Certification through the National Institute for Automotive Excellence is the standard for mechanics. It is available in nine different areas, including brakes, engine repair, heating and air conditioning, manual drive train and axles, suspension, steering, electrical systems, engine performance, light vehicle diesel engines and automatic transmission.
Technologies change fast, so it’s very important to keep up with the latest techniques and engine features. Though hands-on training can be helpful with this, so can taking courses that focus strongly on particular features or changes. This learning will continue throughout a mechanic’s career.
What Does a Mechanic Do?
Mechanics inspect, repair and maintain vehicles. However, there is much more to the job than meets the eye.
Mechanics must have a strong knowledge of automotive parts, as well as how those parts work together. They must also have the ability to use diagnostic software and tools to figure out what might be wrong, especially with engines that rely heavily on computers. They have to be able to explain what they are doing in layman’s terms, so that anyone can understand the problem and how it will be fixed.
Depending upon their specializations or chosen areas of expertise, mechanics might work with vehicles of all kinds, from light trucks and cars to large construction vehicles. They might also work with only certain parts of vehicles; for instance, a mechanic might specialize in air conditioning, brakes or transmissions. Though they usually work in repair shops, some might go to a remote site to work on engines.
Mechanic Salaries Job Growth
Mechanic Salaries Across the US
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, automotive service technicians made a median wage of $37,850 in 2015, with the upper 10 percent making $63,330. How does that translate to expected salaries in various states? This salary map allows aspiring mechanics to compare geographical areas to determine the highest-paying areas.
Mechanic Job Growth
The BLS reports expected job growth of five percent for automobile service technicians and mechanics, which is slightly lower than the average for all occupations. However, some states might see higher growth than the national average. This job growth tool can help mechanics decide where the fastest-growing jobs might be.