A certificate or degree in automotive mechanics prepares graduates to perform car maintenance and repairs. Training includes how to use computerized diagnostic tools and how to identify common mechanical issues.
Automotive mechanics, often called automobile service technicians, repair, inspect and maintain cars and light trucks. The standard professional credential for automotive mechanics is certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Most employers require their mechanics to hold professional automotive mechanic certifications, and prefer those who have completed an automotive repair program from a vocational school.
|Required Education||None required; may substitute formal training for some required experience|
|Required Experience||1-2 years of related work experience|
|Specialization Options||ASE certifies specialization in automatic transmission/transaxle, brakes, electrical/electronic systems, engine performance, engine repair, heating and air-conditioning, manual drive train and axles, and suspension and steering|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||5% for all automotive service technicians and mechanics|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$37,850 for all automotive service technicians and mechanics|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Career, Degree, and Certification Information for Auto Mechanics
Automotive mechanics, or service technicians, are responsible for keeping cars and trucks running better and longer. Mechanics must understand electronic controls, instruments and computerized diagnostic equipment but still be able to use hand tools. A degree or certification program in automotive mechanics teaches students about the systems and parts of a car, various service manuals and problems common to tires, belts, brake pads, transmissions, motors or wheel bearings.
Most employers require that mechanics hold certifications in one or more fields from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), which offers more than 40 certification exams. Auto mechanics can work as generalists or specialize in a particular area of automotive repair or maintenance, such as transmission service. They can also put their skills to use as auto service consultants.
Automotive technicians perform routine maintenance, such as oil changes and tune-ups. They also diagnose mechanical problems and complete repairs to vehicles that run on gasoline, ethanol or electricity. Automotive technicians must have current knowledge of many types of vehicles and how to repair them. In a small shop, the mechanic also deals directly with customers, explaining problems and costs.
Transmission technicians work on hydraulic pumps, gear trains and transmission systems, as a whole. Computerization means that some of the diagnostic tests are automated, but the interaction of the complex technologies involved in transmission systems still requires human expertise and skills. This job demands some considerable theoretical knowledge as well as practical skills. Transmission specialization generally requires an additional year or two of training beyond that of other automotive areas. The ASE certification test on transmissions requires that the technician be able to diagnose and repair various transmission problems as well as take a transmission apart and reassemble it.
Automotive Service Consultant
An automotive service consultant is a trained mechanic who serves as the liaison between the customer and the mechanic in a large repair shop. The service consultant talks about the vehicle's problem with the customer, then writes a repair order that is passed on to a mechanic. Before taking the ASE certification test for automotive service consultants, an individual must have at least two years experience in the field. The certification test includes questions on customer service, sales, shop operations and communications as well as automotive knowledge.
Job Growth and Salaries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for all types of automotive service technicians and mechanics are expected to grow by about 5% during the decade of 2014-2024. The BLS also predicted that technicians and mechanics with formal automotive training will have the edge in getting jobs. The median annual salary in May 2015 for these professionals was $37,850, per BLS figures. Those working in the natural gas distribution industry made the most, with an average annual wage of $68,950.
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers 40 exams, and most mechanics complete certification in more than one area to increase their job prospects. Automotive mechanics may perform tasks such as changing the oil or changing tires, or more advanced tasks such as repairing a transmission system.