Certificate programs, which take about a year to complete, and 2-year associate degree programs offer training in automotive service technology. These programs give students an overview of the field and allow them to gain practical experience in school labs and, often, through internships. Associate degree programs usually call for some general education courses in addition to automotive repair studies. Graduates of both types of programs may qualify to obtain professional certification, which is required by many employers.
At the certificate level, students may be required to provide their own safety equipment, tools and uniform. Applicants for associate's degree programs are required to have a high school diploma or GED.
Certificate in Automotive Service Technology
Certificate training prepares graduates to enter a career in the automotive industry, including mechanics and repair, parts distribution, or sales. Some schools offer job placement assistance or include affiliations with automobile manufacturers that offer practical experience through internships. Certificate program courses explore the essentials in auto repair and teach basic automotive computer technologies. While learning various aspects of repairing vehicles and their parts, students also learn about air, emissions and fuel systems that make a vehicle complete. Other studies may include:
- Air conditioning and heating
- Alignment, steering and suspension
- Automatic and manual transmissions
- Brake performance
- Electrical and electronic mechanisms
- Vehicle and motor maintenance
Associate Degree in Auto Parts and Vehicle Repair
Several schools offer vehicle and parts repair programs at the associate degree level. These programs prepare students for certification through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), demonstrating they possess industry-standard skills and knowledge. Many schools collaborate their associate degree curricula with vehicle manufacturer's mechanics training programs, such as Ford's Automotive Student Service Educational Training or Toyota's Training Education Network.
Course topics explore essentials in automobile servicing and vehicle operational systems. Students gain the skills and knowledge to balance tires, identify motor complications, service engines, repair parts and transmissions, and maintain fuel-injected systems. Labs and intern opportunities offer hands-on practice with sophisticated computerized equipment. Studies might also include:
- Automobile electrical systems
- Brake replacement procedures
- Motor repair and maintenance
- Steering and suspension systems
- Temperature control systems
Popular Career Options
Associate degree programs prepare students for positions in the automotive industry. Some types of employers might include auto dealerships, repair shops, service stations, and auto parts supply stores. Graduates qualify to become employed as the following:
- Automotive service technician/mechanic
- Fleet mechanic
- Transmission technician
- Dealership repair specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a 5% job growth was projected for automotive service technicians and mechanics between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also noted that employment opportunities should be good for postsecondary automotive training graduates and those who have earned professional certification. The average annual salary in 2015 for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $40,720, per BLS data.
According to the BLS, dealerships and automotive service companies in larger cities prefer to hire mechanics and repair specialists with professional certification. To become certified, students typically need to graduate from a training program accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). Graduates with a minimum of two years' experience are eligible to take the National Automotive Service Excellence Examination required to earn the ASE credential.
Certificate and associate's degree programs in automotive service technology prepare aspiring mechanics and auto technicians for employment in service stations, car dealerships, auto parts stores and repair shops. In addition, mechanics with professional certifications are more attractive to employers, particularly in larger cities.