Auto mechanics have come a long way from the days when they were called "grease monkeys." Automotive technician careers today require careful training, and some mechanics command respectable salaries. Automotive vocational programs often provide a combination of classroom knowledge and hands-on experience working on all aspects of cars and light trucks, from the steering to the exhaust systems. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), automotive mechanic career prospects are excellent for those with formal post-secondary training.
Career snapshot: What auto technicians do
Auto mechanics, also known as service technicians, inspect, maintain and repair a wide variety of cars and light trucks. They have to know how to use diagnostic equipment and how to maintain detailed checklists for ensuring all the important parts of a vehicle are examined.
When problems arise, the mechanic needs to know how to repair or replace vital parts of a vehicle, from brake pads to timing belts.
Much of their work is on common mechanical parts of a vehicle, including the transmission, drive train and engines, but increasingly those who have chosen automotive technician careers are called on to diagnose and repair electrical components.
Computers are playing an increasing role in the operation of modern vehicles, and an automotive mechanic career means technicians need to understand the complex electronic systems that run steering, sensors and components essential for operating a car or light truck.
Where automotive careers get started
Auto technician careers are available in a wide array of commercial and government operations. Some examples include:
- Automobile dealerships
- Government and municipal agencies that operate motor pools
- Private garages and repair shops
- Franchise oil-change establishments
- Specialty repair shops that focus on such things as clutches, transmissions, radiators, brakes, tires, air conditioning or exhaust systems
|Career||Projected Employment Change||Projected 2012-2022 Growth|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||39100||5.3|
Auto technician careers outlook
The demand for auto mechanics is expected to remain steady at 9 percent growth from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. The demand for entry-level technicians is expected to be especially strong because the number of vehicles on the road is increasing. Technicians with advanced training in hybrid fuel or computer systems from a post-secondary training program are also expected to be in high demand.
The annual salary for an auto mechanic is highest for those who work for the government. The BLS found that auto dealers also pay more than automotive repair facilities, gas stations, or parts and accessory stores. According to the BLS, the national median annual wage for auto service technicians and mechanics was $36,710 as of May 2013, while the lowest 10 percent earned up to $20,920 and the highest 10 percent earned at least $61,210.
Most auto technician careers are with auto dealers and automotive repair shops. The third-largest employer of auto mechanics is automotive parts, tires and accessory stores. Local governments hire a small percentage of auto technicians.
Training needed for an automotive mechanic career
Prospective auto technicians should have a high school education, but many mechanics increase their hiring potential and wages by getting additional vocational or post-secondary training, reports the BLS. Some mechanics get a two-year degree while completing on-the-job training. Additionally, mechanics can earn certifications in eight different areas in order to become a Master Automobile Technician.
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/CURRENT/oes493023.htm
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm