Becoming an Engine Mechanic
Engine mechanics examine, tune, and repair many different kinds of engines. They often choose a specialty area, such as motorcycles, power equipment, or diesel trucks. Engine mechanics often work overtime hours, which may include weekends and evenings. Mechanics frequently work with oily tools and parts, often in uncomfortable positions and noisy areas.
|Degree Level||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Degree Field||Automotive service technology, small engine repair, or related field|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Licensure may be required; professional certification may be preferred by employers|
|Experience||At least a year of on-the-job experience|
|Key Skills||Manual dexterity, attention to detail, customer-service and troubleshooting skills, ability to perform computerized diagnosis and use customization programs, familiarity with repair and maintenance tools|
|Salary (May 2015)||$34,650 per year (Median annual salary for automotive service technicians and mechanics) and $44,520 per year (Median annual salary for bus and truck mechanics and diesel specialists)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Let's take a closer look at the steps to becoming an engine mechanic.
Steps to Become an Engine Mechanic
Step 1: Earn a Certificate or Associate Degree
High school graduates can advance their knowledge and maintenance skills by enrolling in a small engine, automotive engine repair, or diesel engine maintenance certificate or associate degree program. Although these programs provide similar instruction in electrical components and power supply, each program differentiates training based on their respective specialization. For example, small engine students study transmissions on lawnmowers or other landscaping equipment, while automotive and diesel engine candidates work with ignition and emission systems on automobiles.
Certificate programs typically last 6-12 months and only include classes geared towards engine repair. Associate degree programs generally take 1-2 years to complete and include required general education classes.
- Research licensure requirements. For some engine mechanics, such as those who work on diesel engines or handle refrigerants, licensure may be required. Mechanics should make sure they're familiar with any state-specific requirements or prerequisites prior to gaining experience.
Step 2: Gain On-the-Job Experience
Entry-level engine mechanics may be assigned to work with a more experienced technician in order to gain working knowledge of transmissions, cylinders, and other engine components.
For example, new hires may perform supervised work adjusting valves, replacing spark plugs, and changing filters. Once new engine mechanics are comfortable with these repairs, they move on to more advanced tasks such as diagnosing engine malfunctions or disassembling engine parts. Additionally, experienced employees may be responsible for calling vendors to find parts and interacting with customers.
Step 3: Gain Credentials
Although not required for all positions, many employers look for engine mechanics who have professional credentials. Automotive and diesel engine mechanics with a minimum of two years of working experience qualify to become certified engine mechanics or machinists by the ASE. Some educational experience, such as postsecondary training or an apprenticeship, may be accepted in lieu of work experience, according to ASE.
Aside from experience requirements, applicants must complete one or more certification exams, such as truck equipment tests or automotive service consultant exams. To improve career opportunities, applicants should also consider becoming a master technician by passing a series of corresponding exams that may include testing in steering, suspension and electrical systems.
- Become familiar with certification requirements. Candidates may want to check with the ASE to see if any completed education may render them exempt from work experience requirements. Certifications last five years and candidates must retake the qualifying exams in order to maintain their credentials.
Hopeful engine mechanics should earn a certificate or associate's degree, determine licensure requirement, gain experience through an entry level job and become certified.