How to Become a Diesel Mechanic: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a diesel mechanic. Explore the education requirements, training information and experience needed to start a career in diesel mechanics. View article »

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  • 0:02 Diesel Mechanics
  • 0:28 Career Skills & Info
  • 1:06 Step 1: Postsecondary Training
  • 2:18 Step 2: Specialize
  • 2:40 Step 3: Certification

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Video Transcript

Diesel Mechanics

Diesel mechanics inspect and repair vehicles with diesel engines, including buses, trucks and construction machines. To repair these vehicles and diagnose malfunctions, they inspect parts and systems, check batteries and adjust wheels. Being a diesel mechanic can be physically demanding. Diesel mechanics often work in uncomfortable positions and surroundings and use dirty or oily parts and tools.

Career Skills & Info

An in-depth knowledge of diesel engines and electrical systems, good customer-service and mechanical skills and manual dexterity are key for diesel mechanics. According to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), diesel mechanics and service technicians can look forward to a 12%, or faster-than-average, growth in jobs between 2014 and 2024. In May 2015, the median annual salary for diesel mechanics and service technicians was $44,520. Let's explore some of the entry-level educational requirements for diesel mechanics.

Step 1: Postsecondary Training

Diesel mechanics with a high school diploma typically require about 3-4 years of training as journey-level technicians. However, the BLS notes that formal training through a diesel engine repair program may result in better employment opportunities. Postsecondary diesel engine repair or service technology programs can lead to a certificate or an associate's degree. Students in these programs can learn about diesel engine fundamentals and power generation. Programs also offer students the opportunity to participate in hands-on work and begin repairing diesel engine vehicles. Additionally, since diesel engines are starting to incorporate electronic components, programs usually give students a chance to take courses in electrical systems and computer diagnostic software.

Here's a success tip for aspiring diesel mechanics: Start preparing in high school. Take advantage of courses in math, computers and electronics. Some schools have a basic automobile course, which can give students a taste of what it's like to work on vehicles. Many of the concepts used in standard automobiles are applicable to vehicles with diesel engines, giving students a head-start when they get into a postsecondary program.

Step 2: Specialize

In addition to classroom studies and hands-on work, specializing in light-duty diesel mechanics or high-performance powertrain service may be beneficial. For example, while light-duty diesel mechanics focus on consumer trucks and their respective power plants, high-performance powertrain service mechanics focus on fuel injection systems and reciprocating assemblies.

Step 3: Certification

Many employers prefer to hire diesel mechanics who have a professional certification, which can enhance job opportunities and prospects for career advancement. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers designations in medium/heavy trucks, truck equipment, school buses and transit buses. To become ASE certified, diesel mechanics need at least two years of work experience in their areas of specialization and pass an exam. For instance, advanced diesel mechanics can achieve master technician status by passing a series of exams covering diesel engines.

Just to review, diesel mechanics can follow these steps to enter the field: Earn a high school diploma and complete 3-4 years of training, or earn a certificate and/or an associate's degree in diesel engine repair or service technology and earn a certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Diesel mechanics and service technicians earned a median yearly salary of $44,520 as of May 2015.

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