California roads may be some of the most crowded in the nation. The Golden State has the highest population of any state in the U.S. by a long shot, so naturally there are also more drivers than in any other state. In fact, there were over 24 million licensed drivers recorded in California in 2012, compared to Texas which came in second at 15 million licensed drivers. With all of those cars on the road, there is certainly a need for automotive technicians.
If you're considering a career in the auto industry, a great first step might be to enroll in one of the many automotive schools in California. Although automotive technician repairers and mechanics can learn their skills on the job, companies may prefer to hire employees who have completed a formal education, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is because vehicles are becoming more technically complex, and training programs can help provide students with the diagnostic skills useful to working on both older and newer cars.
Specializations in automotive technology
There are many specialized programs that you might consider when enrolling in automotive schools in California. These can build upon existing programs or be offered separately. As cars become more equipped with computer technology, advanced skills and training may become even more essential. That said, some of the available specializations that you may find offered through automotive school programs in California include:
- Automotive and Manual Transmission: Specialize in care and repair of transmission systems, and learn about transaxles.
- Collision Repair and Finish: Learn about custom body and paint fundamentals and how to analyze structural damage.
- Diesel: Learn about engine and fuel systems and other types of motorized equipment such as big rigs and farm equipment.
- Marine: Discover how inboard gas and diesel engines operate and about their related maintenance and repair, as well as 2-stroke and 4-stroke outboard engines.
- Motorcycle: Learn about vehicle maintenance, electrical testing, and the suspension and chassis on motorcycles.
Depending on which of the automotive schools in California you enroll in, you may also be able to take classes or complete programs related to specific manufacturers. For example, you might find niche training for vehicles made by companies, such as BMW, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, Toyota or others.
Degrees and certification available through automotive schools in California
Entry requirements for automotive school programs will vary, but they usually prefer students to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. There are many paths you can take, but most programs last from one to two years. Depending on the length and specific outline of the program you enroll in, you could end up completing a diploma, certificate or associate degree, the latter which generally takes about two years to complete. Common courses may include:
- Electronic Technology
- Emission Systems
- Engine Repair
- Power and Performance
Automotive school programs in California can also help students to prepare for certification in the future. In fact, some schools may even state on their website pages what credentialing exams students may be eligible for. One of the well-known organizations offering certification is the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), which offers credentials in eight different areas, ranging from brakes to engine repair to suspension and steering.
Automotive tech salary and career outlook
Jobs for automotive service technicians and mechanics are expected to grow by 15 percent in California from 2012 to 2022, according to Career One Stop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. This job growth could result in 2,590 new jobs becoming available in the state during this time. In fact, the job demand for the occupation in the state is higher than it is on average across the country, at 9 percent, according to Career One Stop.
According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for automotive tech and mechanics working in California was $43,220, as of May 2013. This breaks down to a mean hourly wage of $20.78. That's about $3,770 more than the mean annual wage for auto mechanics nationwide. The highest 10 percent of auto mechanics nationwide earned as much as $61,210 annually. Because job demand and mean annual wages in California are higher than nationwide figures, completing one of the automotive school programs in California could be advantageous. Keep in mind that an education can not only be helpful toward seeking ASE certification, but can also give you the opportunity to challenge yourself through postsecondary learning.
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics: California, Career One Stop, Accessed Jan. 18, 2015, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/49-3023.02
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes493023.htm
Automotive Technician, San Bernardino Valley College, Accessed Jan. 18, 2015, http://www.valleycollege.edu/academic-career-programs/degrees-certificates/automotive-tech/automotive-tech-cert
Automotive Technician Training, UTI, Accessed Jan. 18, 2015, http://www.uti.edu/programs/automotive
May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, California, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm#00-0000
Tests, National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, Accessed Jan. 18, 2015, https://www.ase.com/Tests.aspx