Do you have a passion for cars and work well with your hands? If you are considering a career as a mechanic, it’s important to understand the steps needed to work in this dynamic field. Auto repair techs work on vehicles, performing maintenance and repairs as needed. With the right job experience and certification, you can earn a competitive salary and opt out of a career behind the desk.
Many mechanics go on to open their own shops or work for reputable vehicle brands. However, in order to achieve your goals, you will need both hard and soft skills. Let’s start with the steps needed to gain skills required by auto-mechanic employers.
Steps to Becoming an Auto Mechanic
Step 1: Complete High School or Pass the GED Exam
Although it’s possible to obtain a job as a mechanic without a bachelor’s degree, most employers want to see some kind of postsecondary education and training. However, first, you’ll need to complete your high school diploma or pass the GED exam. Additionally, you could take advantage of vocational programs that allow students to complete their high school education while learning a trade.
Ideally, students will complete their high school coursework and graduate with their peers. However, you can also take courses that will help you prepare for, and obtain, your GED.
Step 2: Apply to College Programs
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 50% of auto mechanics have a bachelor’s or advanced degree. In order to obtain the highest salary possible, you’ll need to focus on your education first.
Those who want to become auto repair techs can receive their education from a variety of organizations:
- Public universities
- Community colleges
- Automotive Repair Tech vocational programs (high school and post-secondary)
- On-the-job training
- Online courses
Research nearby schools or online campuses that will help you meet your career goals.
Step 3: Complete the Program
Because of the nature of the work, students who want to become mechanics will typically have both classroom instruction and hands-on experience in auto shops. As you can see, programs give students the chance to meet others with similar interests and network with professors and instructors.
Auto repair techs typically take courses in the following subjects:
- Automotive electrical systems
- Engine performance
- Suspension and alignment
- Brake systems
- Automatic/manual transmissions
- Shop procedures
- Professional development courses
After obtaining the prerequisite knowledge of how cars operate, students will put their knowledge to use in hands-on classroom training. Internships and apprenticeships are a great way to further their knowledge and prepare them for the workplace.
Upon obtaining a degree or diploma, a mechanic should be familiar with how to perform the following:
- Repairing auto electrical systems
- Brake repair
- Carburetor replacement
- Interpreting service manuals
- Use of diagnostic tools
- Interpreting diagnostic charts
- Fixing other essential automotive parts and systems
All programs emphasize the importance of safety procedures to prevent accidents on the shop floor or damage to customer vehicles.
Step 4: Get Certified
Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Certification is the most common credential for auto repair techs. Auto mechanic programs typically aim to prepare students for their ASE examinations. Optimally, students will obtain their ASE student certification. This certification differs from the main ASE certification, which also requires work experience to obtain.
After passing the student ASE examination, you have two years to obtain your regular ASE certification. Typically, schools offer these tests in the fall and spring semesters as computer-based exams.
How Much Does It Cost?
The type of program will often determine the cost. For example, online mechanic programs typically cost between $750 and $1,000. On the other hand, an auto mechanic certificate program may cost as little as $5,000, or as much as $20,000, and take six months to two years to finish. For students who want to obtain their associate’s degree, these programs typically take two years and cost between $10,000 to $25,000.
How Much Can You Make, on Average?
Auto repair techs can make a competitive salary, depending on their skill level, experience, and location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for an automotive repair tech is just under $47,000. The lowest 10% of wage earners make about $29,000, while the highest paid mechanics average $75,000 per year.
Many mechanics turned their passion for cars and trucks into a career choice. Do you have what it takes to run your own repair shop or repair pricey foreign imports? Here are a few personality traits shared by successful auto repair mechanics and business owners:
- Problem Solving Skills: To repair a vehicle, you need to have the tenacity and ability to solve problems on the fly. Typically, you’ll have to look at an issue in several different ways, run diagnostic tests, and perhaps collaborate with one or more peers.
- Perseverance: In the beginning, you may find problems that you cannot solve. Instead of becoming frustrated, remember that, if you stick with it, you can become as good or better then anyone you’re working with. Tenacity and perseverance can get you over rough spots and help you focus on the problem at hand.
- Work ethic: Customers often expect their car back the same or next day. The more time you spend fixing a car, the more inconvenience your customers feel. That’s why becoming a mechanic often involves long hours and grueling work that lasts until the job is done.
- Attention to detail: Auto repair techs work on diagnostics, maintenance, and repairs. All of these tasks require great attention to detail.
- Good interpersonal skills: Do you want to be a great mechanic? If so, you might be surprised to know that your customer service skills matter as much as your technical capabilities. Keeping a pleasant and positive attitude not only keeps customers coming back to your shop, but can also garner positive online reviews and referrals.
Above all, auto mechanics typically have a desire to learn about new makes and models. As technology progresses, the job changes. Those who don’t want to be left behind develop a zest for learning that keeps them at the top of their field.
You’ll need great customer service skills in order to succeed as an automotive technician. This is particularly true if you plan to open your own shop or count on referrals to keep customers coming back to your place of business.
Mechanics also possess a natural ability to figure out how engine components and other systems work. This allows them to effectively diagnose problems with cars, trucks, and other vehicles.
Without organizational skills, an auto shop can quickly become a pretty messy place. It takes a lot of organization to keep an auto shop clean when dealing with grease and oil all day. Equally important, tools and other equipment left lying around pose safety and security risks. So, tidiness and organizational skills can make or break a career as an automotive repair tech.
Do you want to become an automotive repair tech? It all starts with making the right decisions about your training and education. If you opt to take online courses, ensure that your programs include the classes you need to succeed as a mechanic. Choose from the following list of accredited schools to begin your education research today!
Related: How to become a mechanic in Florida