From semi-trucks to construction equipment, diesel engines drive many of the most powerful moving machines. However, not just any mechanic can work on these engines. Diesel technicians and mechanics provide specialized service doing the following:
- Using technical charts and manuals to plan work procedures
- Inspecting components of diesel engines and vehicles, including brakes, steering mechanisms and transmissions
- Diagnosing mechanical problems
- Repairing or replacing malfunctioning parts
- Providing maintenance services such as changing oil and rotating tires
Diesel Mechanic Specializations
A diesel mechanic school provides the knowledge needed to work on a variety of vehicles, but some mechanics want to specialize their career. The following are some examples of specializations pursued by graduates of diesel mechanic trade schools.
- Diesel auto mechanics. These diesel service technicians inspect, repair and maintain auto engines to ensure they run smoothly.
- 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 and boats.
- Heavy vehicle diesel technicians. These mechanics specialize in larger machinery such as construction equipment, farm tractors and diesel trains.
How to Become a Diesel Mechanic
At one time, diesel mechanics weren't expected to have any education beyond a high school diploma. While there are still some jobs available for those without a postsecondary education, employers are increasingly looking for graduates from diesel mechanic trade schools. In general, expect to need the following:
- Earn a high school diploma, though this is not always necessary.
- Complete training in a degree or certificatte program for diesel mechanics.
- Stay up to date with certification sometimes required by employers.
Having a formal education means less on the job training is needed and helps ensure new workers have a good grasp of all the following:
- Basics of diesel technology
- How to read technical manuals
- Diagnostic and repair techniques
Degree programs for diesel mechanics
To become a diesel mechanic, you can earn a degree or complete a non-degree postsecondary program. Both can provide the knowledge needed to begin a career in the field. Here's a look at each option:
- Diploma/Certificate: A diploma or certificate is a common level of education for diesel mechanics. If you're concerned about how long is diesel mechanic school, the good news is that these postsecondary programs can often be completed in less than a year. Diploma and certificate programs teach all aspects of diesel vehicle maintenance and repair and some even provide specialized training for those who want to become experts in working with engines from a particular manufacturer.
- Associate Degree: Although less common, some mechanics choose to earn an associate degree in diesel technology or a similar field. These programs cover much of the same material as a diploma or certificate but may delve into more advanced concepts related to engine design and shop management. An associate degree typically takes two years to earn.
Diesel mechanic schools
You can find diesel technology programs at dedicated trade schools as well as community colleges. Since diesel mechanics have a hands-on job, most programs provide in-person training.
While you can find a diesel mechanic school online, distance education programs may not provide hands-on instruction. However, some online diesel mechanic schools offer hybrid programs which can be the best of both worlds. These programs may allow students to take online classes that are complemented with face-to-face instruction.
Diesel mechanic certification
While not required to work as a diesel mechanic, many employers prefer to hire those who have become certified. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, known as ASE, offers what is considered the standard level of diesel mechanic certification. Those working with diesel technology can earn an Electronic Diesel Engine Diagnosis Specialist certification or be certified in one of the following areas for medium and heavy trucks:
- Diesel Engines
- Drive Train
- Suspension & Steering
- Electrical/ Electronic Systems
- Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC)
- Preventive Maintenance Inspection
Career advancement for diesel mechanics
Certification is a key ways to advance a career as a diesel mechanic. Earning specialty certifications may open the door to new job opportunities. Some mechanics also obtain a commercial driver's license so they can fill jobs requiring test drives.
Top Diesel Mechanic Programs
Before enrolling in a diesel mechanic program, you should check whether the school is accredited, has a record of student success and offers an affordable tuition rate. Those are a few of the factors we checked when making our list of the best diesel mechanic schools in the nation. Based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard, the schools below represent top choices for those studying to become diesel mechanics.
Bates Technical College has three campus locations offering affordable tuition and small classes. Both recent high school graduates and adult learners are welcome here, and the median age of students is 32. The college was founded in 1940 and enrolls approximately 8,000 students each year.
Diesel mechanic programs at Bates: Within its diesel and heavy equipment technology program, Bates offers certificates of training, a certificate of competency and an Associate of Applied Science. These are designed to provide the knowledge and skills needed to work as a diesel or heavy equipment technician. Courses are taught in a live shop setting, and off-site internships and apprenticeships are available as well.
At West Kentucky Community and Technical College, the focus is on teaching career skills that will have students ready for the workforce. It's an affordable choice too, having the lowest tuition in the state. You may be able to earn a two-year associate degree at WKCTC for less than the cost of a single year at a university.
Diesel mechanic programs at WKCTC: Students can select from more than 15 diploma and certificate options in diesel technology. Many of these prepare graduates for specific repair and maintenance work and may lead to jobs as a construction equipment technician, diesel engine mechanic or heavy duty brake mechanic. Training at the school is provided by a National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation Master Certified Truck Technician.
With four campuses and one extension location, Maysville Community and Technical College offers convenient education options to residents of northeast Kentucky. The school has a low tuition rate and offers transfer degrees, technical degrees, adult education and workforce training programs.
Diesel mechanic programs at MCTC: The diesel technology program at MCTC offers diplomas, certificates and an associate degree in general occupational/technical studies with a focus on diesel technology. Some certificates teach about specific diesel repairs, such as electrical/electronics systems and mobile air conditioning, and may be completed with as few as 12 credits. Meanwhile, the associate degree program runs for two years.
Designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education, Amarillo College is home to a diverse student population. It is focused on creating a culture of caring while offering high-quality programs that prepare people for in-demand careers.
Diesel mechanic programs at AC: At AC, future diesel mechanics study in the Kritser Diesel Technology program. It offers both basic and advanced certificates which can be earned alone or stacked to earn an associate degree in diesel technology. Students take classes in recently renovated facilities. An on-site hydraulics component ensures students are gaining the skills and experience needed by local industry employers.
Great value and an open and encouraging atmosphere are among the hallmarks of Elizabethtown Community and Technical College. The school provides a career education at one of the lowest tuition rates in the state. Students can study at one of four campus locations or choose from eight other off-campus sites.
Diesel mechanic programs at ECTC: There are plenty of program options for diesel technology students at ECTC. These include four associate degrees, a diploma and more than a dozen certificates. The Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Education Foundation accredits the ECTC diesel technology program, and students can become ASE certified.
Ashland Community and Technical College is another affordable education option for diesel mechanic students. The school offers certificates, diplomas and associate degrees. Through the Work Ready Kentucky program, state residents may even be able to complete a course of study in four months or less and at no cost.
Diesel mechanic programs at ACTC: If you want to study diesel technology at ACTC, you can choose from more than a dozen options. There is an Associate of Applied Science in general occupational technical studies as well as a diploma and certificates. These programs cover everything you need to know about diesel engines or their components to start on an engaging, new career.
Atlanta Technical College provides an inclusive environment in which students from all backgrounds are welcome. The school enrolls approximately 4,000 students and teaches both academic knowledge and technical skills. Some programs at Atlanta Technical College, including the diesel maintenance technician certificate, can be completed tuition-free thanks to the HOPE Career Grant.
Diesel mechanic programs at ATC: Diesel technology programs at ATC can be complete in anywhere from one to four semesters. They result in either a diploma or a certificate, and graduates should have the skills needed for entry-level diesel mechanic positions.
As one of the Kentucky's public two-year institutions, Somerset Community College offers career-focused diploma, certificate and degree programs. The school has two main campuses and four learning centers. At each location, Somerset Community College seeks to create a learning environment that promotes confidence and collaboration.
Diesel mechanic programs at SCC: There are both certificates and diplomas in diesel technology at SCC. These may require anywhere from 12 to 55 credits for completion. Depending on the program, students may learn how to make specific repairs or provide general maintenance service for diesel engines.
Founded in 1947, Laredo College is the oldest institution of higher learning in its city. It offers both instructional services and community education classes on two campuses. The programs at Laredo College may lead to academic degrees or technical certificates.
Diesel mechanic programs at LC: Laredo College offers two one-year certificates for those interested in diesel engine mechanics and repair. These are a diesel heavy truck technician certificate and a heavy truck undercarriage specialization certificate. Both programs are offered on the school's south campus and prepare students for entry level employment.
As the largest community college in Mississippi, Hinds Community College serves approximately 32,000 students each year. These students may be enrolled in academic degrees, career and technical programs, workforce training or adult education. Through the state's Complete 2 Compete initiative, students may be able to earn college credit for work or military experience.
Diesel mechanic programs at Hinds: Enroll in the Hinds Diesel Technology Academy for highly personalized training. Only 12 students are admitted for each the program's five annual start dates. They gain hands-on experience using industry-standard equipment. The Hinds curriculum is based on the ASE Certification for Medium/Heavy Truck Technician Training Program and takes 14 months to complete.
Skills and Qualities for Diesel Mechanics
Before enrolling in a diesel mechanic trade school, it's a good idea to understand what skills and abilities are needed for the job. Here's a look at the traits successful mechanics possess.
- Troubleshooting: While modern computer systems can help identify engine problems, mechanics still need to be able to interpret data and inspect vehicle parts to determine how to make a repair.
- Operation monitoring: Mechanics must be able to monitor gauges, dials and fluids to ensure a vehicle is in peak condition.
- Quality control analysis: When inspecting and maintaining a vehicle, a mechanic must be able to identify whether correct parts have been installed and determine if they are in good working condition.
- Finger dexterity: Mechanics may use hand tools and manipulate small parts on a daily basis so good finger dexterity is a must for this job.
- Hearing sensitivity: Sometimes mechanical problems can be noticed and identified based on sound. A good mechanic will have a sharp ear for when something might be wrong with an engine.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Diesel Mechanics
It's time to address a question that's probably on your mind: how much does a diesel mechanic make? The chart below includes national diesel mechanic salary data. However, keep in mind that a person's income can depend on many factors including education, work experience and certification. Just as diesel mechanic salary figures can vary across the country so too can job prospects. Average nationwide job growth is listed below, but you're more likely to find jobs in states like Texas and California than in less populated regions:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists||264,860||$49,150||9.5%|
Professional Resources for Diesel Mechanics
If you are planning a career as a diesel mechanic, you should be familiar with the following three organizations.
- Association of Diesel Specialists - Dating back to 1956, ADS is the leading trade organization for the diesel industry. The group also offers an ADS/Ortner Foundation Scholarship.
- Association of Equipment Management Professionals - This organization represents those who manage heavy, off-road equipment. It too offers a scholarship for future diesel technicians.
- National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence - The ASE offers the standard diesel mechanic certification preferred by employers today.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard, we generated a list of schools that met the following criteria:
- Institution type is less than 2 years, greater than 2 & less than 4 years
- Accredited by at least 1 agency (institutional accreditation)
- The school falls under one of the following classifications: (Carnegie Classification 2015: Undergraduate Instructional Program)
- Associate's Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Vocational & Technical
- These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with 30-49% of awards (degrees and certificates) in career & technical programs.
- Associate's Colleges: Mixed Transfer/Vocational & Technical
Associate's Colleges: High Vocational & Technical
- These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with more than 50% of awards (degrees and certificates) in career & technical programs.
Special Focus: Two-Year Institution
- These institutions awarded associate's degrees but no bachelor's degrees with typically more than 75% of awards in a single career & technical program
- The school must offer at least 1 program for the subject in question
We ranked the resulting colleges on the following variables:
- Cost of attendance, based on the average net price for students receiving scholarship and grant aid, and the total cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- No. of Associate degree and undergraduate Certificate programs offered for the subject (relevant CIP codes), National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- No. of Associate degree and undergraduate Certificates conferred for the subject (relevant CIP codes), National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of undergraduate students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Full-time student retention rate & part-time retention rate (if full-time retention rate is not available, then use part-time retention rate), National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2017
- The graduation rate in 150% time, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2014-15
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics, Accessed December 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/diesel-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
- ASE Medium-Heavy Truck Certification, National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, Accessed December 2018, https://www.ase.com/Tests/ASE-Certification-Tests/Test-Series/T-Series.aspx
- Diesel Mechanics/Heavy Truck Maintenance, Penn Foster Career School, Accessed December 2018, https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/automotive-and-engine-repair/diesel-mechanics-career-diploma
- Diesel Technology Program, Universal Technical Institute, Accessed December 2018, https://www.uti.edu/programs/diesel
- Diesel Technology, Midland College, Accessed December 2018, https://www.midland.edu/academics/degrees/energy/diesel.php
- Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, O*Net Online, Accessed December 2018, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/49-3031.00
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2014-15, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- About, West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Accessed June 2019, https://westkentucky.kctcs.edu/about/index.aspx
- Culture of Caring, Amarillo College, Accessed June 2019, https://www.actx.edu/president/culture-of-caring
- About, Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, Accessed June 2019, https://elizabethtown.kctcs.edu/about/index.aspx
- Work Ready Kentucky, Ashland Community and Technical College, Accessed June 2019, https://ashland.kctcs.edu/education-training/apprentice-opportunities/work-ready-kentucky.aspx
- About ATC, Atlanta Technical College, Accessed June 2019, https://www.atlantatech.edu/about-atc/
- The HOPE Career Grant, Atlanta Technical College, Accessed June 2019, https://www.atlantatech.edu/applynow/tuition-free-programs/
- About, Somerset Community College, Accessed June 2019, https://somerset.kctcs.edu/about/index.aspx
- Facts & Figures, Bates Technical College, Accessed June 2019, https://batestech.edu/about-bates/facts-figures/
- Our History, Laredo Community College College, Accessed June 2019, http://www.laredo.edu/cms/lcctemplate.aspx?menu_id=99&id=1092
- About Hinds Community College, Hinds Community College, Accessed June 2019, https://www.hindscc.edu/abouthinds/index#gsc.tab=0