Certificate and diploma programs are often one to two years in length and focus almost exclusively on automotive skills, while two-year associate programs include additional general education requirements. Hands-on experience is typically required for certificate or degree completion. Students need to have a high school diploma or GED for admission.
Some certificate programs are highly specialized, offering focused coursework in a particular automotive system, like brakes or engines, or specific automotive brands. Graduates of these programs should be prepared for entry-level employment as auto technicians and specialists, as well as certification through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
Certificate in Automotive Technology
Auto tech certificate programs generally require 15-30 credits. Students can often concentrate in a particular area of auto technology, such as heating and air conditioning systems, engine repair, electrical systems or brake technology.
Applicants to an auto tech certificate program must generally possess a valid driver's license.
Many classes at the certificate level are transferable to an associate degree program, if a student decides to pursue an advanced degree. Auto tech students may participate in a work experience and classes include:
- Introduction to automotive systems
- Valve systems
- Engine systems
- Engine performance
- Light line technology
- Common repair tools and techniques
Diploma in Automotive Technology
Auto tech diploma programs, generally offered through technical colleges, take two years to complete. Students who took auto tech courses in high school may be able to apply relevant classes toward the diploma curricula. Auto tech diploma programs are geared toward individuals who desire more advanced training than a certificate program offers but do not desire to pursue a 4-year degree.
In order to be admitted to an auto tech diploma program, applicants must generally take a math, writing and reading assessment test. Also, they may have to meet with a program advisor to discuss their background and professional goals.
At the diploma level, auto tech students may take courses in math and computers. Additional courses include:
- Automotive electronics
- Alignment and suspension
- Manual and automatic transmissions
- Fuel systems
Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology
The auto tech associate degree program is intended for students who want to transfer to a bachelor's degree program or who wish to increase their career opportunities after graduation. Many 2-year degree programs are sponsored by automotive employers. Specializations may be available in particular automobile brands, such as Ford or Honda.
At the associate degree level, auto tech students may have to have relevant work experience, and a skills assessment may be required for entry to the program. A personal interview or orientation is often necessary.
Auto tech associate degree seekers take classes in communication, science, math and social science. They also take auto tech specific classes, such as:
- Auto tech management
- Safety procedures in auto tech repair
- Emissions and clean air regulations
- Engine computer diagnostics
- Advanced engine operations
Professional Certification Information
Upon graduating from an auto tech certificate program and after completing at least two years of experience in the field, students may wish to seek certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, more commonly referred to as ASE (www.ase.org). ASE certification is available in single specialty areas. However, there are eight areas of certification available, and individuals who pass all eight exams earn the Master Automobile Technician designation.
Popular Career Options
Graduates of an auto tech certificate program may work in gas stations, dealerships, repair facilities or auto parts supply stores. Specific job titles may include:
- Auto parts tech
- Diagnostic specialist
- General auto technician
- Tune-up specialist
- Drivability tech
Graduates of an associate degree program in automotive technology can work for government or private agencies. Specific job titles might include:
- Service writer
- General mechanic
- Service manager
- Fleet supervisor
- Specialty auto tech
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), beginning in 2014 and continuing through 2024, employment of auto techs and mechanics was predicted to rise about as fast as average at 5% (www.bls.gov). The BLS also noted that in May 2015 auto service techs and mechanics had a median annual salary of $37,850.
Continuing Education Information
At the associate degree level, auto tech students often decide to pursue a bachelor's degree. Auto techs interested in career advancement within the industry may decide to pursue a business major, while those interested in teaching auto technology may decide to earn a degree in education.
Aspiring automotive service technicians or mechanics can apply to a number of programs including certificate, diploma and associate degree programs. Through classroom and hands-on experience, these programs can prepare students for entry level careers and, with two years of experience in the field, ASE certification.