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How to Become a Mechanic in 2021

October 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

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If you’ve always been handy with vehicles, then thoughts of becoming a mechanic have crossed your mind. You’ve probably been repairing your car for years with a bit of online guidance, particularly the mechanics on YouTube. As it turns out, you have a knack for vehicle repairs and maintenance, which is why you’re giving some serious thought to turning it into a full-fledged career. 

If embarking on a career path as a mechanic piques your interest, it’s no secret that you’re aware of how physically taxing it can be. However, if you revel in working with your hands and are eager to learn the tools of the trade, then you’ll find it immensely fulfilling. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to become a mechanic, including the skills required to thrive in the automotive industry and the education requirements. 

Types of Mechanic School Programs

Two common paths lead to a career as a mechanic; an associate degree or certificate auto mechanic program. While there are bachelor’s degree programs, these are a rarity. 

1. Mechanic Certificate

These programs usually take anywhere between a few months and one year to complete. With a general certificate, students can learn how to repair, maintain, and diagnose a vast assortment of vehicles. Some specialized certifications revolve around particular types of vehicles, engines, or parts of vehicles. 

For instance, learners might opt to pursue a certificate in fuel injection systems, diesel mechanics, computer systems, or ignition, making them qualified to become an automotive technician or diesel mechanic. 

It’s worth noting that even in a more specialized automotive technology program, general courses are necessary. Therefore, let’s discuss a few common courses that learners can expect to find in mechanical school. 

Introduction To Automotive Technology 

In addition to providing a strong overview of vehicle systems and their correlation, this course delves into the common issues and repairs that might be required. The skills learned from the course are: 

  1. How to pinpoint common problems 
  2. An understanding of engines and vehicles, including engine performance 
  3. How to handle fundamental repair work 

Diesel Service Techniques 

In addition to troubleshooting common maintenance and repair problems with diesel-powered vehicles, the course explores how diesel engines differ from the gasoline, hybrid, and electric counterparts. The skills gained are:

  1. How to use specialized equipment to maintain and repair diesel engines 
  2. How to work with various types of diesel engines 
  3. How diesel engines work 
  4. Guaranteeing automotive service excellence as a qualified automotive service technician

Automotive Electrical Fundamentals 

It explores vehicles’ electrical systems, including how they correlate with other components, common repairs, and unique techniques for diagnosing problems. The skills acquired from this course are:

  1. Using diagnostic tools 
  2. A broad understanding of the electrical systems in vehicles 
  3. Handling electrical repairs 

Emissions And Fuel Systems 

It’s a course that delves into the practical and theoretical issues revolving around the analysis of fuel system components, service and testing procedures, emissions and fuel, and government regulations. The skills that students learn from this course are:

  1. The ability to accurately diagnose issues with fuel systems 
  2. Effective ways of improving engine performance 
  3. Making sure vehicles are at par with the government regulations for emissions 

2. Associate Degree in Automotive Service Technology

Focusing on specific mechanical work courses, this associate degree also offers those in management and business, preparing learners to run their auto service business or work in an auto repair shop. 

Additionally, some programs include general education courses, providing learners with the option to transfer their credits to a bachelor’s degree program. Here are a few of the most common courses found in associate degree programs across the US. 

Advanced Transmission Diagnostics 

It’s a course that includes adaptive shift changes, electronic control system theory, hydraulics overhaul, electronic testing procedures, and reviews transaxles and transmissions. The skills that students acquire are:

  1. How to program modules for peak performance
  2. Mechanical testing procedures
  3. Knowledge of electrical testing and hydraulic procedures

Automotive Mechanics Technology 

It’s a historical overview of how automobiles have impacted modern life, the advents of technology that have been instrumental in maintaining, creating, and repairing vehicles, and how auto mechanic technology has evolved. In this course, you learn:

  1. The technological shifts that can predict future changes in repair procedures 
  2. Underlying historical and technology precedents 

Automotive Service Management 

It encompasses a survey of financial considerations, customer relations, operations, regulatory responsibilities, and management strategies integral to the efficient running of an automotive repair business. The skills gained from this course are:

  1. Regulatory responsibilities for the staff and the shop 
  2. Excellent customer service techniques 
  3. How to handle human resource problems 

Alternative Hybrid And Fueled Vehicles 

It revolves around hybrid and electric vehicles, including those that operate on bio-diesel and other alternative fuels, in addition to the maintenance and repairs unique to each. The skills learned from this course are:

  1. Ideal ways to handle maintenance and repair situations
  2. The technology behind hybrid and electric vehicles 
  3. How changes in technology impact the broader societal context 

 The best colleges and universities that offer an auto mechanic program are:

Advanced Technology Institute 

Located in Virginia Beach, VA, this learning institution’s in-state and out-of-state tuition is a standard $13,200. 

Aiken Technical College 

In Graniteville, SC, out-of-state students pay tuition of $9,200, whereas in-state learners pay $3,979. 

Allan Hancock College 

Situated in Santa Maria, CA, an out-of-state learner pays $6,692, while the tuition for in-state students is $1,288. 

Alpena Community College 

Found in Alpena, MI, out-of-state students enrolled in this college pay $5,430, whereas in-state learners pay $5,430. 

Baker College of Auburn Hills 

Found in Auburn Hills, MI, the tuition for an in-state and out-of-state student is $8,280. 

Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute 

Found in Hudson, NC, the tuition for out-of-state learners is $8,448, whereas that of in-state students is $2,304. 

Catawba Valley Community College 

Located in Hickory, NC, out-of-state tuition is $8,547, whereas in-state students pay $2,403. 

The main elements of a mechanic program are:

1. Trade School/ Vocational School

Typically, trade schools have programs geared towards anyone who wants to work with engines, including more targeted and general mechanic courses. Learners can begin studying at a vocational school from high school and progress to earn a diploma or certificate. 

2. Military

There’s a demand for people to work on the vehicles used to transport supplies and troops. Mechanics in the military gets a crash course in a broad range of engines and their components. While they might not earn a degree or a certificate, their skills after their service are impeccable. 

3. Community College 

If you want to earn an associate degree, you can turn to a reputable community college (such as those mentioned earlier), where a 2-year program is the norm. After completing the associate degree, you’re ready to progress to a bachelor’s degree program. Students that choose to pursue an applied associate degree will be ready for the job market after graduation. 

4. Mechanic School 

It’s no secret that these stand-alone, specialized focus on one thing; teaching aspiring mechanics everything they need to know to thrive in the workforce. Classroom work helps learners broaden their knowledge, whereas hands-on courses focus on enhancing their skills. Enrolling in mechanic schools typically leads to a diploma or certificate. 

How to Get an Apprenticeship as a Mechanic

Becoming an auto mechanic apprentice is an incredible way to gain on-the-job training that will steer you on the path to becoming a successful motor mechanic. Automotive service excellence doesn’t occur accidentally. It’s the outcome of dedicated job training coupled with hands-on work experience as an automotive mechanic.

A technician training program takes about nine months to complete and will furnish you with the opportunity to work alongside an experienced vehicle mechanic in an auto dealership. 

More importantly, it’ll prepare you for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification exam. An automotive service apprenticeship refers to a type of hands-on work experience that allows a student to rake in extra bucks while learning how to be an automotive technician. 

An apprentice mechanic works alongside a master mechanic to develop the much-needed abilities and skills to thrive in the automotive industry. If you’re a high school student whose graduation is on the horizon and have always dreamed of pursuing a career as an automotive mechanic, apprenticeship training is right up your alley. 

Granted, experience in the automotive industry isn’t a necessity. However, you typically require a high school diploma, or the equivalent coupled with mechanical aptitude and physical fitness to be an ideal fit for an apprenticeship. Other employers may require you to complete an automotive technician training program. 

The responsibilities of an apprentice mechanic entail working on the day-to-day tasks of a certified automotive service technician. Overall, the main purpose of an apprenticeship is to usher in an excellent opportunity for an apprentice to perform the key tasks they would perform as a certified auto mechanic or auto technician. 

Usually, an apprentice can start by performing important but simple tasks. For example, they can help in organizing the auto repair department and ordering parts. Additionally, they shadow their shop managers and supervisors, helping them to complete projects. 

After gaining familiarity with various procedures and mastering basic tasks, an auto mechanic apprentice can perform simple tasks without supervision. They include:

  • Testing and inspecting vehicles
  • Taking inventory
  • Changing rotors and brake pads
  • Following servicing checklists
  • Ordering and replacing auto components and fluids
  • Replacing and testing car batteries
  • Cleaning the customer service areas and the shop
  • Preparing automotive repair estimates for customers with the guidance of their supervisor 

An apprentice mechanic earns an hourly rate of $18.34 on average. The average pay is based on many variables, such as the type of facility or dealership offering the apprenticeship and the state in which the auto mechanic apprentice lives. 

An automotive apprentice usually starts earning money right off the bat from the day they start their apprenticeship. The perks that come with becoming an apprentice mechanic are:

  • Gaining hands-on experience in auto workplaces and repair shops
  • Becoming certified by the  National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence
  • Receiving training by experts in transmissions, engine repair, HVAC components, and ignition systems
  • Earning money while you learn the basics of working as a motor mechanic on foreign and domestic vehicles 

Certification Requirements for Mechanics

If you’re wondering whether you need a certification to work as an auto mechanic, the answer is yes. Most employers of automobile mechanics gravitate towards applicants who have undergone formal training. Once gainfully employed, an automotive mechanic or automotive technician becomes eligible for certification. 

For instance, an automotive air-conditioning technician must have a mechanic certificate that allows them to handle refrigerants. An auto mechanic certification proves a mechanic’s competence to get the job done and typically comes with a higher payslip. To become certified, they must pass an exam and have at least two years of experience. 

1. ASE Certification

The standard credential for an automotive service technician is certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). It’s this certification that sets apart an automotive mechanic who can demonstrate the skills and knowledge required to service, repair, and diagnose SUVs, cars, and light trucks. 

Testing to become certified is available one year-round at testing centers across the US. Although the computer-based test isn’t available virtually, registration to take the test is at a fee. 

The ASE test encompasses 40 to 75 multiple-choice questions that measure knowledge in a myriad of content areas. The NIASE makes sample tests available virtually to allow candidates to prepare for the test. 

Furthermore, testing centers offer a demonstration that involves test-takers viewing samples of the actual exam to get a feel of what it’s truly like. The credentials for ASE certification are valid for five years, after which an auto mechanic must apply for re-certification that involves taking another test. 

2. Other Certifications Available 

Currently, you can take your pick from 8 different specialty areas to earn auto mechanic certifications for light trucks (A Series) and automobiles. 

  • Engine Performance
  • Brakes
  • Transaxle/Automatic Transmission
  • Steering and Suspension
  • Electronic/ Electrical Systems
  • Air-conditioning and Heating
  • Engine Repair
  • Axles and Manual Drive Train

Technicians who pass all eight tests get recognition as ASE-Certified Master Automobile Technician. Furthermore, certification is available for light vehicle diesel engines. However, this certification isn’t the stepping stone to becoming a master automotive technician. 

Additional ASE Certification Exams

In addition to light truck and automobile certification, more than 40 ASE certification exams are available. They cover all aspects of automotive technology and the automotive service and repair industry. We’ve outlined those certifications and what they cover. 

Refinish and Collision Repair (B2 to B5 Series)

You acquire the much-needed skills to assess and repair paint finish damage and automotive collision. Refinishing and B2-Painting; B3-damage repair coupled with non-structural analysis; B5-electrical and mechanical components. 

Estimating and Damage Analysis (B6)

It involves estimating the automotive repair costs and assessing the level of collision damage. 

Automotive Service Consultant (C1)

It encompasses internal and customer relations, auto repair shop operations, communications, sales skills, and vehicle systems. 

Truck Equipment (E1 to E3 Series)

It involves the automotive repair, installment, service, and diagnosis of all tractors and trucks. E2- electronic/electrical repair and equipment, E1- truck repair and equipment installation, and E3-auxiliary power systems repair and installation. 

Alternate Fuels (F1)

It entails the repair, service, and diagnosis of compressed natural gas vehicles. 

Light Repair and Auto Maintenance (G1) 

It involves working as a maintenance technician in automotive repair and common maintenance duties. 

Transit Bus (H1 to H8 Series)

It entails the repair, service, and diagnosis of the transit buses. H2-diesel engines, H3-drive train, H1-compressed natural gas systems, H7-ventilation, air conditioning, heating, H8-inspection, preventative maintenance, H5-steering and suspension, H6-electronic/electrical systems, and H4-brakes. 

Advanced Engine Performance Specialist (L1)

It involves the diagnosis of issues revolving around emissions on SUVs, automobiles, and light-duty trucks, in addition to the diagnosis of drivability. 

Electronic Diesel Engine Diagnosis (L2)

It involves the diagnosis of sophisticated diesel engine issues on heavy-duty and medium trucks. 

Electric Vehicle/ Light Duty Hybrid Specialist (L3)

It entails the diagnosis of electric/hybrid SUVs, automobiles, and light trucks. 

Parts/Components Specialist (P Series)

It encompasses medium-heavy and automobile truck parts; P2-automobile components, P4-general motor components, and P1- medium-heavy truck components. 

School Bus (S1 to S7 Series)

It involves the repair, diagnosis, and service of the subsystems of type D, B, A, and C school buses; S2- diesel engines, S5-steering and suspension, S7-air conditioning controls and systems, S1-special equipment and body systems, S6-electronic/electrical systems, S3-drive train, and S4-brakes. 

Medium to Heavy Trucks (T1 to T8 Series)

It involves the auto repair and diagnosis of the various classes of systems, ranging from Class 4 to Class 8 tractors and trucks: T5-steering and suspension, T7-air-conditioning, heating, and ventilation, T1-Gasoline engines, T4-brakes, T8-preventative inspection and maintenance, T2-diesel engines, T6-electronic/electrical systems, and T3-drive train. 

Undercar Exhaust Systems Specialist (X1)

It involves the repair and diagnosis of automobile brakes, exhaust systems, steering, and suspension. 

Mechanic Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor reports 5% growth predictions for skilled auto technicians and mechanics, which is slightly lower compared to the average for other occupations. Nonetheless, some states might experience higher growth compared to the national average. 

Entry-Level Jobs for New Mechanics

Let’s discuss the most common entry-level jobs for new mechanics. 

Auto Mechanic 

Their job description entails troubleshooting, repairing, and maintaining all the electrical and mechanical systems on your vehicle, including transmissions, brakes, climate control, emissions control systems, cooling, suspension, and engines. 

The National Institute of ASE, an acronym for Automotive Service Excellence, provides certification for auto mechanics. An entry-level mechanic is usually required to have some type of formal training or schooling to qualify for employment. 

Some mechanics will earn a 2-year associate degree in automotive technology. Education can be substituted for prior experience in other fields such as the military. Currently, more than 640,000 automobile mechanics earn an average annual salary of $42,660. 

Diesel Mechanic

Their job encompasses diesel repair, troubleshooting, and maintaining diesel vehicles such as tractor-trailers, buses, and automobiles. Although a diesel mechanic can learn the tools of the trade on the job, others attend school anywhere between six months and two years. They can also earn an ASE certification and have an average salary of $48,000 per year. 

Aircraft Mechanic

Also called an aviation mechanic, an Aircraft mechanic troubleshoots, repairs, and maintains mechanical systems on all types of military, private, and commercial aircraft. They earn an average annual salary of $62,540. Some of the systems that an aircraft mechanic is responsible for are engines, brakes, flight controls, and landing gear. 

An aviation mechanic can gain ample training and experience in the military or via 2 to 4-year degree programs approved by the Federal Aviation Authority. The job can be labor-intensive and call for a significant amount of overtime. 

According to the FAA, an independent aviation mechanic must acquire a power plant and airframe license. Some companies may also require that an aircraft mechanic is licensed.

Heavy Duty Mechanic 

Their duties are closely similar to those of an auto mechanic, with the only difference being that they repair large equipment such as bulldozers, cranes, boom lifts, and farm equipment. At times, a heavy-duty mechanic has to travel to the equipment because moving it isn’t feasible or it’s too heavy. These mechanics take home $50,800 per year, on average. 

Car Mechanic

It refers to an auto mechanic responsible for all upgrades, repairs, and maintenance of a car. By working closely with the driver, car mechanics can constantly boost the vehicle’s performance. 

A car mechanic also does pit-stop repairs and is a fast-paced job that requires a combination of extensive training and formal education. This type of auto mechanic must also have a strong mechanical understanding and be innovative. 

Most car technicians work for automakers and major teams and earn an average salary of $32,000 per year. 

Motorcycle Mechanic 

They diagnose, maintain, and repair all motorcycle systems, including the indication, engine, fuel, suspension, lights, and brakes. Certifications are usually done via the manufacturers, after which they earn an average salary of $38,000 per year. Additionally, a motorcycle mechanic can also attend schools to learn the field. 

Small Engine Mechanic 

They repair, diagnose, and maintain engines on small vehicles such as jet skis, ATVs, snowmobiles, and lawnmowers. Based on the equipment or vehicle, a small engine mechanic can work on a full-time basis or seasonally for a company or independently. They can gain the skills and experience by enrolling in a degree program, after which they can expect an average salary of $35,000 per year. 

Auto Body Mechanics

They repair automobiles that have been damaged incidents, such as a collision. An auto body mechanic performs minor or major repairs, for instance, structural replacement, scratches, and dents. Additionally, they can perform full paint jobs. 

Although an auto body mechanic can learn on the job, most employers prefer those who have attended trade schools, technical schools, or community colleges. These programs take anywhere between 6 months and two years to complete. 

Given that automobile technology is constantly evolving like auto mechanics, auto body mechanics must receive ongoing training to update their skills. They can be certified via an ASE program and earn an average annual salary of $37,000. 

Tire Mechanics 

They perform maintenance, replacement, and repairs of tires on a wealth of vehicles. Tire mechanics also perform routine inspections of tires for abnormalities, proper inflation, and wear-and-tear.  

Furthermore, they must be proficient in removing tires from the rim and balancing them. They also have to know how to properly torque and install the wheel according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Working as a tire mechanic can be physically taxing, and although formal education typically isn’t a requirement, some employers may prefer those with certifications. Tire mechanics earn an average hourly wage of $13.71. 

Bicycle Mechanics

They assemble, maintain, and repair bicycles at large stores or shops. Although a bicycle mechanic can work independently, some learn on the job, whereas others complete training courses. As part of their job description, these mechanics must be able to troubleshoot particular problems and perform upgrades. Their average annual salary is $27,000. 

Boat Mechanic

Their responsibilities entail troubleshooting, repairing, and maintaining engines, steering systems, and propellers. While a boat mechanic can work independently, others work at boat companies, taking home an average of $38,000 per year. Depending on the type of repair or boat, a boat mechanic can work outdoors or indoors. 

Furthermore, they usually have to do on-site repairs for large boats with particular problems and gain experience via school programs or apprenticeships. Only a few schools offer boat repair training, and those that do are typically found near coastal areas. 

Auto Glass Mechanics 

They repair, install, and remove vehicle glass. Auto glass mechanics are employed at a manufacturing facility or repair shop. In a manufacturing company, their job description includes installing glass and windshields on new vehicles. 

To be qualified to do so, a mechanic must be certified in auto glass repair, collision, or installation. They can earn certification via some manufacturers, trade schools, or community colleges. 

Auto glass mechanics in shops mostly replace or repair broken windshields or other types of auto glass and usually provide in-shop and mobile repairs. It can take anywhere between six months and a year to become a connoisseur, and certified mechanics receive a higher salary. 

An auto glass mechanic earns about $41,000 per year and also performs glass weatherproofing duties. They involve treating the auto glass with a chemical to withstand tough weather conditions such as heavy snow and rain. 

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