Automotive Vocational Schools

Article Sources


  1. Automotive Body and Glass Repairers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes493021.htm Automotive Body and Glass Repairers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-body-and-glass-repairers.htm
  2. Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes493023.htm
  3. Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
  4. Bus and Truch Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes493031.htm
  5. Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/diesel-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
  6. "Major: Automotive-Body Technology," The College Board, Big Future, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/mechanic-repair-technologies-vehicle-maintenance-repair-automotive-body-technology
  7. Projections Central, State Occupational Projections, Long Term Occupational Projections, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Weird noises. Stalled engines. Ominous black smoke. Anyone who ever had major car trouble likely appreciates the value of a good auto mechanic. These professionals not only fix cars and trucks in need, but perform the regular maintenance to prevent major blow-outs down the line. Knowing how to tend to these tasks takes some serious auto know-how, however. While a lot of auto mechanics get their start tinkering with their own vehicles, many refine their skills in automotive vocational schools. Some may even choose to specialize their education, as in the case of auto body or diesel engine specialists. This borders on essential —the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) reports that as automotive technology becomes more sophisticated, more employers may require formal education. Here is a quick review of some of the different types of careers available in the auto field, and what future professionals can expect once in them.

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Top Auto Mechanic Trade Schools

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), automotive service technicians and mechanics held an estimated 633,390 jobs in 2014. New technologies, such as electric vehicles, mean that those who have completed formal postsecondary education programs or certification typically stand a better chance of landing the most stable, highest-paying positions in the field.

If you're interested in a career in the automotive industry, start by researching auto mechanic schools that can provide you with the necessary education. You can get a leg up on your research by reading through our list of the top auto mechanic schools in the country. We've gathered key data in order to rank the 10 best auto mechanic schools that offer both distance education and on-campus programs.

San Juan College

This college came in at No. 1 in our review of the top ten auto mechanic schools, ranking very well for affordability with low in-state tuition figures along with low costs of supplies and books. San Juan College offers two possibilities for those interested in pursuing training in auto mechanics: A two-year associate degree or a one-year certificate in automotive technology. They also offer industry-specific programs in Toyota, Chrysler and General Motors. In these programs, students are sponsored by the dealerships.

  • Location: Farmington, New Mexico
  • Total enrollment: 8,323
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $1,474
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 11
Wilkes Community College

Out of the 480 schools we assessed, Wilkes Community College ranked 74th for graduation rate and 89th for distance education participation, which helped it land the No. 2 spot overall. This college's automotive systems technology curriculum integrates both technical and academic course work, and the course helps prepare students for taking the certification exams necessary to become an automotive technician.

  • Location: Wilkesboro, North Carolina
  • Total enrollment: 2,718
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,508
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 9
Western Wyoming Community College

Ranking 39th for the cost of books and supplies, 14th for graduation rate and 66th for instructional spending per full-time student, this community college came in at No. 3 overall in our ranking of top auto mechanic schools. Within the field of auto mechanics, they offer an associate degree, a certificate, and an alternative fuel vehicle technology certificate.

  • Location: Rock Springs, Wyoming
  • Total enrollment: 3,472
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,424
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 4
Forsyth Technical Community College

Low in-state tuition figures and a high distance education participation level make this college an excellent choice for affordability and flexibility. Forsyth Tech's Transportation Technology Center offers the following programs: diesel and heavy equipment technology, automotive systems technology, race car technology, collision repair and refinishing technology, and motorcycle mechanics.

  • Location: Winston Salem, North Carolina
  • Total enrollment: 9,148
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,025
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 8
Randolph Community College

With an in-state tuition rank of 57th out of 480 schools, combined with a distance education participation rank of 8th, Randolph Community College came in at No. 5 on our list of top auto mechanic schools in the U.S. RCC offers an associate degree, diploma or certificate in automotive systems technology. Students can also choose either an associate degree or certificate in alternative transportation technology.

  • Location: Asheboro, North Carolina
  • Total enrollment: 2,771
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $1,912
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 6
Eastern New Mexico University - Roswell Campus

The Roswell campus of Eastern New Mexico University came in at No. 6 in our ranking most likely due to low in-state tuition fees and high distance education participation numbers. After completing the automotive technology program, which leads to either an associate degree with the two-year program or a certificate with the one-year program, students may seek certification as Master Technician by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

  • Location: Roswell, New Mexico
  • Total enrollment: 3,303
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $1,944
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 5
Owensboro Community and Technical College

The data shows that this college invests in its students by keeping the costs of books and supplies down and the amount of institutional grants high. Within the automotive technology field, Owensboro Community and Technical College offers eight different certificate programs, two diploma programs and two associate degrees, including an automotive parts/service writer concentration and automotive technician concentration.

  • Location: Owensboro, Kentucky
  • Total enrollment: 4,156
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $3,624
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 8
Casper College

Casper College ranked well across all the major categories of data we evaluated. It did especially well in the areas of instructional spending per full time student and academic support spending. The school's automotive technology program offers a one-year certificate or a two-year program, with automotive, machine tool and welding electives.

  • Location: Casper, Wyoming
  • Total enrollment: 3,824
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,640
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 6
Hawaii Community College

Our data shows that this community college offers a rich distance education program and invests heavily in students through grants and other academic supports. Their automotive mechanics technology program prepares students to become service station mechanics or specialists on engine tune-ups.

  • Location: Hilo, Hawaii
  • Total enrollment: 3,186
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,940
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 6
Seward County Community College and Area Technical School

This college, which ranked 14th for its low cost of books and supplies and 57th for its high graduation rates, rounds out our list of the top ten auto mechanic schools. Seward's degree in automotive mechanics technology helps prepares students for accurately diagnosing and correctly repairing cars and trucks in the workplace.

  • Location: Liberal, Kansas
  • Total enrollment: 1,852
  • In-state tuition and fees 2015-2016: $2,816
  • Total number of degree programs offered: 6

Specializations at auto-mechanic schools

To say auto service technicians and mechanics fix cars would be an oversimplification. Yes, many techs do specialize in car repair and maintenance, but some choose to specialize in a particular area of the field, or in working with a specific type of vehicle. The following specializations are just a few of those available to future techs, as reported by the BLS.

  • Brake repairers: Brake repairers examine, adjust and repair brake rotors and pads.
  • Front-end mechanics: These technicians align and balance wheels, steering mechanisms and suspension systems.
  • Transmission technicians and builders: These professionals examine, repair and replace gear trains, hydraulic pumps, and other elements of a vehicle's transmission.
  • Drivability technicians: Drivability technicians are extremely knowledgeable in the areas of engine management, fuel, emission, electrical and ignition. They often use diagnostic systems or electronic systems to examine cars and diagnose problems.
  • Diesel mechanics: Diesel mechanics specialize in working with diesel engines, including big trucks and watercraft.
  • Auto body and glass repairers: Auto body and glass repairers restore, refinish and replace vehicle bodies, frames, and window glass.

Note that many professionals who graduate from automotive vocational schools go on to seek professional certification (or multiple certifications) in the areas above while actually working in the field.

Automotive certifications and degree programs

There are a number of different types of credentials students can earn through automotive vocational schools and industry-related professional organizations. Though many programs offer an associate degree, The College Board reports that post-secondary certificates remain one of the most common credentials. Automotive repair technicians who already hold a certificate or degree can often go on to earn additional professional certifications, too. These certification programs allow techs to specialize their education, which may, in turn, improve their earnings and employment prospects.

Though automotive vocational schools vary tremendously in scope and availability, they do tend to offers many of the same courses. The following are a few of the most common classes, as reported by The College Board:

  • Auto repair fundamentals
  • Auto-body welding
  • Major collision repair
  • Conventional frame analysis and diagnosis
  • Mechanical and electrical repair
  • Steering and suspension problems
  • Structural and non-structural repair
  • Body shop management and estimating
  • Refinishing
  • Auto paint fundamentals and color matching

Auto-mechanic career information

It can be difficult to say precisely how much those who graduate from automotive vocational schools could definitively earn, or how easily they could find work upon graduation. The chart below shows the annual median compensation for various automotive professions.

CareerAnnual Median WageProjected Number of New Jobs
Automotive and Watercraft Service Attendants22,42011,700
Automotive Body and Related Repairers41,54013,900
Automotive Glass Installers and Repairers34,3401,300
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics38,47047,600
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

A number of variables influence these trends, including experience, education and even geographical location. The following examples give a sense for what graduates can generally expect.

  • Automotive service technicians and mechanics: Because this category of service repair technicians includes auto, big truck and diesel engine specialists, earnings can vary wildly from one position to the next. With this in mind, the BLS reports that auto mechanics earned a median national pay of $36,710 annually in 2013. The BLS projects that employment of these professionals should grow by 9 percent across the board between 2012 and 2022, but emphasizes that prospects may be best for candidates who have acquired formal education through automotive vocational schools.
  • Automotive body and glass repairers: These professionals tend to earn salaries comparable to those of auto service technicians, but are generally in higher demand. The BLS reports that in 2013, auto body and glass repairers earned a national median annual pay of $38,850. The BLS projects that demand for these professionals should grow by about 13 percent between 2012 and 2022, and that those with formal education may enjoy the best prospects.
  • Bus, truck and diesel engine specialists: Diesel and large engine specialists tend to have a bit more education than many auto service technicians, so tend to earn slightly more. The BLS reports that these professionals earned a national median annual wage of $42,730 in 2013. As with auto mechanics, the BLS projects that demand for diesel specialists should grow by 9 percent between 2012 and 2022. Once again, candidates with formal education through automotive vocational schools are expected to enjoy the best career prospects.

Note that all of these figures tend to change regionally, especially with respect to career outlook. For example, Projections Central reports that demand for auto service technicians is expected to grow the fastest in Utah, Colorado and Puerto Rico between 2010 and 2020, while employment of diesel engine specialists should grow the fastest in Utah, Nevada and Washington D.C. over the same period. Demand for auto body repairers, meanwhile, is likely to be strongest in Utah, Colorado and Hawaii.

Top School Ranking Methodology

We ranked a set of schools offering undergraduate programs in auto mechanic technician on several criteria pertaining to cost, program availability, and student success, among other factors, using the following data points and the weights specified.

  1. In-state undergraduate tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015: 25%
  2. Estimated cost of books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015: 5%
  3. Total number of degree and certificate programs in criminal justice offered at the bachelor’s level or below, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015: 15%
  4. Admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 10%
  5. Total institutional grants relative to enrollment, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 5%
  6. Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 7.5%
  7. Retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014: 5%
  8. Graduation rate in 200 percent time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014:7.5%
  9. Flexibility, based on the following seven factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014 and 2015:
    • 20% Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
    • Whether the school offers credit for life experience
    • Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
    • Whether the school offers remedial services
    • Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
    • Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
    • Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
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