Associate programs are generally broader in scope, with practical training in all major areas of automotive maintenance and repair. General education coursework is necessary in most associate programs as well. Graduates of these programs are prepared to take written certification exams through the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, though work experience requirements need to be met as well in order to obtain certification. It generally takes two years to work through auto mechanics programs. Students are required to do hands-on training in auto repair facilities to supplement their coursework.
Certificate in Automotive Technology
Most automotive technology certificate programs emphasize a relatively narrow topic within the overall field of auto repair such as engine performance, air conditioning repair, brake maintenance, or suspension repair. Certificate programs vary from a few weeks to about two years in length, depending on the coursework and students' previous experience. Students usually gain practical experience working on automobiles after completing introductory classes.
The coursework in automotive technology certificate programs emphasizes practical skills development as it applies to troubleshooting and fixing mechanical and electrical issues with vehicles. Students also learn the theoretical aspects of automotive technology so that they can explain how cars and trucks operate when relaying information about necessary repairs to clients. Courses on the topics below are usually offered:
- Engine repair
- Automotive electrical systems
- Automotive brake systems
- Wheel alignment repair
- Transmission repair
- Understanding automotive repair manuals
Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology
Associate of Applied Science (AAS) programs in automotive technology teach students about several aspects of automotive repair and maintenance. Rather than specializing in one area, students learn about brake and suspension systems, automotive engines, electrical components, fuel systems, and wheel alignment. Automotive technology AAS programs blend classroom instruction with hands-on learning so as to prepare graduates for a range of careers dealing with automotive diagnostics and repair.
The curriculum for automotive repair AAS programs emphasize current theory and skills development that are relevant to automotive repair. Students usually work with current automotive parts to prepare for modern repair and maintenance careers. The subjects below are usually covered:
- Automotive engine performance
- Disc brake systems
- Manual transmission repair
- Automatic transition repair
- Automotive climate control systems
Popular Career Options
Earning a certificate in automotive repair prepares graduates for entry-level careers working with various automobile components. Since certificate programs usually cover a particular area of automotive repair, graduates have a relatively narrow area of expertise. The careers noted below are popular options:
- Air conditioning repair specialist
- Engine repair specialist
- Brake repair specialist
An AAS in automotive technology program graduate could be qualified for a range of repair and service careers. Since the degree program gives students a broad base of knowledge, graduates don't have to specialize in a particular facet of auto repair and they have broad career options. Graduates often choose one of the careers below:
- Auto repair shop manager
- General automotive mechanic
- Transmission repair expert
Continuing Education Information
A limited number of schools offer bachelor's degree programs in automotive technology. These programs feature coursework that is similar to that offered in AAS programs, but include more general education classes. Graduates of these programs have similar career options as those with an associate degree.
Most employers seek mechanics that have earned Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. This voluntary certification is available in eight separate areas, including engine repair, steering systems and brake repair. Mechanics need to pass a written examination and complete a specified period of supervised work experience to become certified.
Students who see themselves having a career in auto mechanics have the choice of getting a certificate or an associate's degree. Graduates of these programs can take an exam to get certification and also have the option to pursue more certifications and education.