Aspiring automotive technicians might qualify for positions by completing a high school or vocational program in automotive technology; however, many schools offer certificate programs as well as associate's and bachelor's degrees that can not only prepare students for entry-level employment, but also voluntary certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
Students in certificate and associate's degree programs might be novices or currently employed workers who want to increase their knowledge. Program participants sometimes need their own work tools. More intensive education is offered at the bachelor's level, which may prepare students for careers in management and often includes an internship requirement. A high school diploma is required for admission to all of the above programs.
Certificate in Automotive Technology
Individuals who wish to enter the workforce without an academic degree may decide to obtain a certificate in automotive technology. Students can benefit from hands-on experience in these programs. They can also learn specific skills to prepare themselves for entry-level positions as various types of repair workers and diagnosticians. Credits earned while attaining a certificate can often be applied toward an associate's degree program. Certificate applicants don't need prior experience working with vehicles to be considered for admission, but a high school diploma or the equivalent may help.
Students can get a basic overview of the automotive repair field and prepare for the ASE exam. Some introductory courses they may encounter include:
- Suspension and steering
- Automotive electric system fundamentals
- Service procedures
- Fuel injection
- Reading schematics
Associate's Degree in Automotive Technology
Students who enjoy working with cars may choose to earn an associate's degree in automotive technology. Individuals may be newcomers to the industry or current employees who want additional training. An aptitude in math, physics and computers can prove helpful to grasp the technical components.
High school students can qualify to participate in Automotive Youth Education Service (AYES) programs, which are partnership programs between high school auto repair programs and car dealers and manufacturers. While not mandatory for admission, AYES programs can provide a beneficial head start to interested students. Courses could include overviews of:
- Brake systems
- Fuel and electrical systems
- Diagnostic testing and assessments
Bachelor of Science in Automotive Technology
Students might obtain more comprehensive knowledge of the automotive technology industry and higher job prestige by earning a bachelor's degree in the subject. The training acquired can prepare them not only for careers in the repair field, but in such areas as customer relations and management. Some programs offer two-plus-two curricula, in which the first two years qualify students to earn an associate's degree before their junior year. Associate's degree holders may be able to transfer their credits, and they can qualify as juniors in two-plus-two programs.
In addition to diagnostic repair courses, students usually complete general education requirements that cover such topics as English, humanities and science. Internships may be mandatory. Possible course topics include:
- Supervision principles
- Technical communication
- Safety management
- Electronic systems
Graduates can find employment in various types of auto repair shops. Job titles may include:
- Brake technician
- Assistant automotive diagnostician
- Lubrication worker
Graduates with a B.S. can find employment with car dealerships or major automobile manufacturers. Some potential career titles are:
- Senior mechanic
- Transmission specialist
- Service center manager
Continuing Education Information
Since technology and repair equipment change on a regular basis, new courses and curricula are readily available at colleges and technical schools. Graduates with an associate's degree can also enroll in classes targeting specific makes and models of vehicles.
While certification isn't mandatory, it can increase job prospects for automotive technicians, especially in larger cities. The ASE offers certification to technicians with two years of full-time, hands-on experience and satisfactory ASE exam scores (www.ase.com). Two years of training in high schools, technical schools and colleges can substitute for one year of experience to attain certification.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for automotive service technicians and mechanics was expected to decrease by 1% between 2018 and 2028. Opportunities were anticipated to be best for those with postsecondary education and might be even stronger for certified technicians. In addition, the BLS stated that the median annual wage for automotive service technicians and mechanics as of May 2018 was $40,710.
Automotive technology training is available at the certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree levels. After graduation, many technicians earn ASE certification, which identifies a technician's areas of expertise and skill levels.