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Learn to Be a Mechanic: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a mechanic. Research the education and career requirements, certification, and experience required for starting a career as a mechanic. View article »

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  • 0:03 Should I Become a Mechanic?
  • 1:00 Career Requirements
  • 1:32 Steps to Becoming a Mechanic

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Mechanic?

Mechanics are automotive service professionals who diagnose and repair cars and trucks. When a customer comes in with an automotive problem, mechanics will test and troubleshoot the issue until they understand what is wrong. Once the problem is diagnosed, they will explain the options to the customer and repair or replace the part. These automotive parts may include engines, brakes, transmissions, and electronic systems.

Most mechanics work on a full-time basis, and overtime is very common. Some may be required to work weekend shifts. Most mechanics work for automotive repair shops, including dealerships, though some are self-employed. Mechanical work can be physically demanding, requiring techs to work in uncomfortable positions, small spaces, and with loud noises. Some risk is associated with this career, although injuries are usually limited to small cuts, bruises, burns, and scrapes when safety precautions are taken.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Formal training at the certificate or associate's degree level is beneficial
Degree Name Automotive service technology or similar field
Certification ASE offers voluntary certification in the field
Experience Experience is necessary to earn certification
Key Skills Dexterity; customer service skills; troubleshooting abilities; proficiency with specialized tools and technology
Salary (2015) $37,850 (BLS Median for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); Monster.com (November 2012); ASE.

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Steps to Becoming a Mechanic

Step 1: Earn an Education

While training is available at the high school level, aspiring mechanics can enroll in auto service technology programs offered by community colleges, vocational schools, and automobile manufacturers. There are no formal requirements, but mechanics typically earn a certificate or an associate's degree. Certificate programs can last between six months and a year. Associate's degree programs require two years to complete. Coursework usually includes hands-on training in auto repair, computers, and electronics.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Entry-level mechanics usually start out as trainees, assistants, or lubrication workers. Many new mechanics go through a period of on-the-job training in which they work under supervision of experienced mechanics. It can take 2-5 years to become fully qualified as a service technician. Jobs for mechanics are available at maintenance shops, automobile dealers, independent garages, and service stations. Individuals with solid customer service skills may go on to be service managers, supervisors, or repair service estimators.

Step 3: Get Certified

National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification is the standard credential for auto mechanics throughout North America. Mechanics with two or more years of work experience are eligible for ASE certification; those who have completed formal training programs may only need one year of experience. Certification isn't required, but it often improves employment prospects.

Certification tests consist of multiple choice questions that measure diagnostic and repair skills. Certification is available in eight specialty areas, including engine repair, engine performance and brakes. In order to maintain certification in any area, a mechanic must retest every five years.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that technicians working with air conditioning or climate control systems need a license for proper refrigerant usage from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some colleges or employer groups may offer preparation programs to assist mechanics in preparing for the licensure examination.

Success Tip:

  • Obtain master designation. Mechanics can earn master designation by earning certification in all eight specialties. Earning this designation demonstrates mastery of automotive skills. Master mechanics earn significantly more and find more career opportunities.

Hopeful mechanics should earn an education, gain entry-level work experience, become certified in a specialty and consider becoming certified in all eight specialties to earn a master mechanic designation.

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