From cars and buses to 18-wheelers, diesel engines truly help the world go round. At least when they are working properly -- an assurance that falls to diesel service technicians and mechanics. Diesel techs are much more specialized than general automotive mechanics, and so is their training. Even within the field there can be a great deal of specialization: Large truck and bus engines are subjected to different stresses than small car engines and can require much different care. Read on to learn more about diesel trade schools and the type of training they provide.
Graduates of diesel mechanic trade schools are more specialized than those who attend more general auto repair and maintenance schools, but the diversity of diesel engines allows for even more specialization. The following are just a few of the most common training options, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov).
- Diesel auto mechanics. These diesel service technicians inspect, repair and maintain small autos to ensure they run smoothly. Small cars are rarely subjected the same conditions as larger engines, so repair and maintenance tasks tend to vary.
- Bus and truck mechanics. As their title suggests, bus and truck mechanics tend to specialize in larger diesel engines. Often these vehicles are subjected to higher loads and run-times than passenger cars and require special care.
- Small engine diesel mechanics. Small engine mechanics repair and maintain diesel engines in motorized power equipment, like motorcycles, boats and outdoor power equipment.
- Heavy vehicle diesel technicians. These mechanics specialize in larger machinery, like construction equipment, farm tractors and diesel trains.
Note that while most aircraft do not use diesel engines, a 2013 report from Flying Magazine said that diesel-powered aviation is really taking off in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. This could create a great deal of opportunity for diesel specialists who study aviation maintenance and repair, especially if U.S. airliners follow suit.
Diesel mechanic certifications and degrees
While most diesel service technicians were historically trained on the job, the BLS reports that employers increasingly prefer to hire graduates of specialized diesel mechanic trade schools. The following rank among some of the most common credentials these professionals earn, per the BLS.
- Postsecondary certificates. Postsecondary certificates are among the most common credentials earned through diesel trade schools. Programs vary in length, but usually require less than two years of study. Courses provide both hands-on and classroom instruction, and also offer a means of specializing in certain types of engine, like small or heavy diesel engines.
- Associate degrees. Many diesel trade schools offer associate degree programs, which vary in scope, but typically take about two years of full-time study. Though not often a requirement of employment, some employers prefer to hire candidates with associate degrees.
- Bachelor's and master's degrees. Bachelor's and master's degrees are much less prevalent than associate degrees and postsecondary certificates, but can serve as a stepping stone for diesel engine enthusiasts who want to make the transition from engine maintenance and repair to mechanical engineering and design.
A note about diesel professional certifications
The BLS reports that for many diesel specialists, professional certifications (often completed in conjunction with apprenticeships on the job) serve as an important means for career advancement. Professional certifications are earned not through diesel trade schools, but rather nationally recognized professional organizations like the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE. Diesel mechanics can be certified in areas like drive trains and electrical systems. They must typically meet certain education and experience requirements before sitting for ASE exams, and must typically be re-certified every five years or so.
Diesel mechanic salary and career outlook
It is only natural for students attending diesel mechanic trade schools to wonder how much they will earn and how easily they can find work after graduation. The truth is there are many factors that can influence earnings and advancement potential. Demand is regional, and according to the BLS, education and experience play a role, too. The following breakdown offers general salary and employment trends for various diesel engine specialists.
- Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists. The BLS reports that these professionals earned a national median annual salary of $44,120 in 2013, and projects that demand for them will grow by 9 percent between 2012 and 2022. The states reporting the fastest growing projected demand between 2010 and 2020, per Projections Central, include Utah, Arizona and Nevada.
- Heavy vehicle service technicians. According to the BLS, heavy vehicle mechanics earned a national 2013 median annual salary of $45,710. The BLS projects that employment of heavy vehicle techs will grow by about 9 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Projections Central does not provide state-specific employment projections for heavy vehicle technicians.
- Small engine mechanics. The BLS reports that small engine mechanics earned a national median 2013 salary of $34,590 annually, and projects that demand for these professionals will grow by 11 percent overall between 2012 and 2022. Projections Central does not provide state employment projections for small engine mechanics specifically.
Perhaps one of the strongest indicators of earnings and employment is education. The BLS emphasizes that employers generally prefer to hire candidates with some postsecondary education, and many require certifications for advancement. In other ways, the right training pays off. Unfortunately, no single school or program is right for everyone. Lifestyle, location, career goals and even personal learning style play a role. We suggest researching prospective schools extensively before settling on any one program.
Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/diesel-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes493031.htm
Small Engine Mechanics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/small-engine-mechanics.htm
Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heavy-vehicle-and-mobile-equipment-service-technicians.htm
Projections Central, State Occupational Projections, Long Term Occupational Projections, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: United States, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
"Diesel Aircraft Engines Revolution," Flying Magazine, October 28, 2013, Stephen Pope, http://www.flyingmag.com/aircraft/diesel-aircraft-engines-revolution
National Institute for Automotive Excellence, http://www.ase.com/Home.aspx