Not everyone wants to sit behind a desk for eight hours a day. Some people prefer to work with their hands and aren't afraid to get a little dirty. If that sounds like you, check out what automotive schools have to offer.
Trade schools for auto mechanics combine classroom instruction with hands-on experience to teach students how to work on all types of engines. They prepare graduates to not only make manual repairs but also understand the complex computer systems found in today's vehicles.
Some automotive mechanic schools go beyond cars and light trucks to offer programs in aircraft, motorcycle and diesel engines. As with programs focused on passenger vehicles, students will learn about how to run diagnostics, make repairs and perform regular maintenance.
If you're considering an auto mechanic school, keep reading for more information about your specialization choices and degree options.
What are automotive repair specializations?
A mechanic trade school may offer general engine repair programs, or they may specialize. Here's a look at some common options you'll find offered across the country.
- Aircraft: Airplanes are complex, high-performance machines, and it takes a special breed of mechanic to make sure they are in top flying condition. Aviation mechanics perform maintenance and repairs on the engines, hulls, wings, instruments and other parts of aircraft and aviation equipment. If you want to pursue this career path, look for an aircraft mechanic program accredited by the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Diesel: Diesel technicians work on big rigs, and they need specialized instruction to understand how to diagnose and repair large engines. Many diesel mechanic schools have developed partnerships with manufacturers to ensure students have access to the latest technology used in today's semis.
- Motorcycle: Automotive trade schools may also have specific programs for those who want to work on smaller engines. Motorcycle technician training often provides skills that can be used for more than repairing bikes. Graduates may also be able to work on ATVs, personal watercraft and other small engine machines.
- Collision Repair: If you'd rather work on the outside of a vehicle, consider a collision repair program. Students learn how to remove dents, weld parts and airbrush exteriors. By partnering with local dealerships or auto body shops, collision repair programs at automotive schools often provide the chance to gain real-world experience.
- Automotive: For students who want to work exclusively on cars, automotive technician schools teach how to inspect, maintain and repair a wide variety of cars and light trucks. Students learn how to use diagnostic equipment and how to repair or replace vital parts of a vehicle, from brake pads to timing belts.
What are the educational requirements for automotive jobs?
Some high schools offer automotive training that can prepare students to find jobs directly after graduation. However, most automotive technicians have some post-secondary education. Trade schools for mechanics may offer programs that can be completed in anywhere from six months to two years. Some even offer blended online mechanic programs that combine online courses with hands-on instruction.
When selecting a program, consider whether it will help you become certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Many employers prefer to hire automotive technicians who are ASE certified.
Depending on the program you choose, you could walk away from school with one of the following:
- Diploma: A diploma is the standard academic award for many automotive schools. These programs typically take six months to a year to complete and focus on providing hands-on, real-world experience.
- Associate Degree: Although not as common as a diploma, you can also earn an associate degree in mechanics. These two-year programs are available from some automotive technician schools but may be more common at community colleges. An associate degree may provide a greater level of instruction than what is found in a diploma program.
- Specialized Training Certificate: If you're already working as an automotive technician, you can take specialized training classes that are specific to a particular manufacturer. These programs may take 3-4 months to complete and could qualify you for jobs at a dealership or specialty shop.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accessed October 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh
- Aviation Technology, Lansing Community College, Accessed, October 2018, https://www.lcc.edu/learning/areas-of-study/computers-engineering-technology/aviation-tech.html
- Automotive Specialized Training Programs, Universal Technical Institute, Accessed October 2018, https://www.uti.edu/programs/automotive/specialized-training
- Motorcycle Technician Training Program, Accessed October 2018, https://www.uti.edu/programs/motorcycle
- Collision Repair and Refinishing Training, Lincoln Tech, Accessed October 2018, https://www.lincolntech.edu/careers/automotive/collision-repair-and-refinishing
- AAS Degree, Mechanics and Maintenance, Tom Edison State University, Accessed October 2018, https://www.tesu.edu/ast/programs/aas/mechanics-maintenance