Car Maintenance Technician: Career Profile

Car maintenance technicians require little formal education. Learn about the training programs including high school vocational opportunities, job duties and optional certification to see if this is the right career for you.

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Car maintenance technicians inspect, repair and maintain cars. They typically work in repair shops. A high school diploma is required, and most car maintenance technicians complete postsecondary training.

Essential Information

Car maintenance technicians, also called automotive service technicians or mechanics, diagnose and repair automobiles. Most complete some type of automotive technology course to acquire sufficient knowledge of car components and diagnostic equipment. Some high schools may offer vocational classes and training to fulfill this education requirement. Most technicians obtain additional certifications depending on their areas of expertise.

Career Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
Required Education H.S. diploma; most complete a car technology training program
Other Requirements Many possess Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 5%* for automotive service technicians and mechanics
Median Salary (2015) $37,850* for automotive service technicians and mechanics

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Car maintenance technicians repair and maintain automotive vehicles. Some technicians work on the entire car, while others specialize in a single area such as brakes or transmissions. Car maintenance technicians may work at gas stations, auto dealerships or car repair shops. Sophisticated automotive technology and diagnostic computers are used to help them with their work.

Duties

Automobiles need routine service to stay in good working condition. They require oil changes, tire rotations, tune-ups, part replacements and fluid change-outs. Car maintenance technicians typically follow an itemized checklist while working on an automobile to ensure they check all vital components. They also repair problems not associated with regular maintenance. Automobile maintenance technicians work with computerized problem-solving tools in addition to power and hand tools.

The maintenance they perform is based on the customer's needs, and they perform the jobs listed on work orders. If they uncover other problems during the course of their work, automotive maintenance technicians consult with customers to inform them of the needed repairs. They also work with cars that run on different power sources like electricity, gasoline or alternative fuels.

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Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), car maintenance technicians typically need to complete a training program to educate them on the highly technical aspects of automotive maintenance (www.bls.gov). Preparation can begin in high school with elective classes in automotive technology or mechanics.

Additionally, some high schools offer the Automotive Youth Education Service (AYES) program, which is collaboration between high schools, automotive companies and franchised automotive dealers; the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence certifies it. Students take courses in automotive technology or collision repair and participate in internships. After completing this program, students may enter entry-level positions, but may still require additional training to advance.

High school graduates can attend a community college or vocational school that offers a car maintenance technology program. They can complete a program in six months or earn an associate's degree that is usually completed in two years. Students in automotive training programs learn how to work with diagnostic equipment, brake systems, engines, transmissions, electrical systems and other automotive components. They undertake training to recognize each part and how it functions, diagnose a problem, dissemble components, determine the cause of malfunctions and deal with clients. Programs typically teach skills for a broad range of domestic and foreign vehicles, and some allow students to specialize in a certain vehicle manufacturer.

Certification

Many automotive professionals acquire the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification to validate their automotive knowledge and experience. ASE offers over 40 certification tests for damage analysis and estimating, alternate fuels, engine performance and parts knowledge. Applicants can take as many as they want, but they must have at least two years of hands-on work experience in the automotive service industry before obtaining certification. Those who have completed an acceptable formal training program may receive credit toward the work experience requirement.

Salary and Employment

Car maintenance technicians earned a median annual salary of $37,850 as of May 2015, reported the BLS. In addition to a minimum salary, some automotive shops offer employees extra commissions based on labor costs paid by the customer. The highest 10% of mechanics earned $63,330 or more in 2015, while the lowest 10% earned $21,020 or less.

Employment opportunities for car maintenance technicians were projected to increase 5% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. Mechanics who've received some type of postsecondary training should face the best job outlook.

With average job growth expected through 2024, applicants who have taken shop classes or completed an internship will be able to compete more effectively for jobs. Postsecondary training in car technology is optional, but will also help applicants demonstrate relevant knowledge when applying for openings in this field, as will ASE certification.

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