Auto repair training can come in many forms. Some high schools participate in the Automotive Youth Education Service and provide entry-level training, and some automobile manufacturers offer intensive 2-year, on-the-job training programs in the service departments of participating dealerships. However, the most common formal training programs are offered at community colleges, technical institutes and vocational schools. These programs may result in a certificate or associate's degree and typically follow Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) curriculum standards.
Certificate in Automotive Technology
Certificate programs in automotive technology provide students with basic skills in the repair and maintenance of key automotive components, such as brake systems, drive trains, climate control, electrical systems and engines. Students must attend both classroom lectures and hands-on labs, and day and evening classes are typically available. Graduates of certificate programs, which take about a year to complete, are generally qualified for entry-level auto repair positions.
Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology
Associate degree programs, which typically require two years of study, introduce students to technical theories and applications of automobile repair and maintenance. Coursework typically covers automotive electronics, engine control systems, transmissions and braking systems. Some schools partner with well-known manufacturers, such as Ford, General Motors or Toyota, to provide intensive training and certification specific to the manufacturer's service programs. In addition to automotive courses, students generally are required to complete general education requirements in communications, basic sciences and the humanities.
With the increasing complexities of automotive technology, auto repair technicians must possess strong analytical, computer and mathematical skills, in addition to in-depth knowledge of basic car maintenance and repair. Auto repair professionals should be familiar with both electrical and mechanical troubleshooting, utilizing diagnostic tools and digital equipment. They also must be mechanically inclined and possess a curiosity for how things work. Employers prefer to hire individuals who have completed formal training programs at postsecondary vocational schools or community colleges.
Individuals with little work experience can sometimes enter the auto repair industry as technicians' helpers. However, those with formal training, including some form of hands-on experience, can typically find entry-level opportunities as service technicians. Experienced technicians with five or more years of experience may be able to move into supervisory or administrative positions, such as shop supervisor or service manager.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an employment growth of 5% for automotive service technicians and mechanics for the years 2014 through 2024. The BLS also notes that the median annual wage for these workers was $37,850 in 2015.
Although not required, employers tend to hire automotive technicians who have ASE certification. The ASE Automobile Certification Test Series is comprised of eight exams in areas including heating and air conditioning, engine performance, engine repair, brakes and electrical systems. Individuals who have completed an approved training program and have two years of relevant work experience are eligible to take one or all of the exams. Auto repair technicians who have passed all eight exams are recognized as ASE-certified Master Automobile Technicians. To ensure that auto repair technicians stay current with changes in the industry, individuals must retest every five years to maintain certification.
The Automotive Service Association (ASA) offers a variety of workshops, seminars and other educational opportunities through its national organization, as well as smaller local chapters. The ASA's annual Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) is the premier event for all things related to automotive repair. Offering management seminars, exhibitor showcases and technical courses, the event lasts three days and is typically held in Las Vegas, Nevada.
With technology advancing and changing in the blink of an eye, it's vital that auto repair technicians maintain on-going training in electronics and further develop their computer skills. Employers commonly send repair technicians to manufacturer clinics and training centers to upgrade their skills and receive special training in repair procedures for new vehicle models.
Auto repair training incorporates classroom learning with applied practice to teach aspiring repair technicians the skills needed to repair and maintain automobiles. Certificate programs can take 1 or 2 years to complete depending upon the curriculum. Students can further their education and earn an Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology or ASE certification.
Training for a career in auto repair can begin with a basic certificate or Associate of Applied Science program in automotive technology. Graduates may also wish to see ASE certification, which carries merit with employers seeking knowledgeable technicians.