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If you love motorcycles and have a knack for fixing stuff, you might want to consider going to motorcycle mechanic school. Training in the finer points of engine, chassis, transmission and electrical systems can help you turn your passion for fast machines into a rewarding career.
What does a motorcycle mechanic do?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), motorcycle mechanics tend to work full-time hours and make up about 25 percent of small engine mechanics in the U.S. Here's a quick rundown of the typical duties that graduates of motorcycle mechanic schools can expect to perform on an average day:
- Discussing equipment issues and maintenance or repair needs with customers
- Performing routine upkeep and repairing or replacing worn or broken parts
- Testing and inspecting engines to determine sources of malfunction
- Keeping records of tests, inspections, work performed and parts needed
How to become a motorcycle mechanic
It's possible to learn the ins and outs of motorcycle service and repair while working an entry-level job in a professional garage, but many employers prefer candidates who have done some formal training at a reputable motorcycle mechanic school. Community colleges, trade schools and vocational schools are all good sources for motorcycle mechanic training. A high school diploma or equivalent is often required for enrollment in these programs.
Here's a list of the type of courses you're likely to see on your schedule at motorcycle mechanic schools:
- Motorcycle theory
- Vehicle maintenance
- Engines and transmissions
- Electrical systems
- Engine troubleshooting and diagnostics
- Brake systems
- Chassis and suspension
These study areas are likely to be covered in all types of motorcycle mechanic programs, whether they're offered in a classroom environment, a vocational school machine shop or a teaching garage.
Motorcycle mechanic training programs
It's a simple question -- How long is motorcycle mechanic school? -- but there isn't a quick answer that conveys the whole truth. Some programs can take just a few months to complete, requiring a half a dozen courses or less, while others may last for anywhere from six months to two years.
- Certificate/diploma: Most of the shorter schedules of study available are structured as certificate programs, while those that tend to take six months or more usually lead to a diploma. There is no nationally standardized definition of those terms, however, so be sure to look into the details of a program and confirm that it suits your needs before signing up.
- Associate degree: Programs that last as long as two years may lead to an associate degree, which tends to require some general education coursework alongside the hands-on mechanic training. Some longer programs may include manufacturer-specific training, rather than general education classes, and therefore lead to a diploma instead of an associate degree.
Apprenticeships for motorcycle mechanics
If you'd rather learn in a working professional garage than in a classroom, you may be able to find apprentice positions that can teach you the trade in a real-world environment. Depending on the agency offering the position, you may be required to pass a knowledge exam or demonstrate some familiarity with the work before you can be considered a prime apprenticeship candidate.
Leading motorcycle manufacturers like Honda and BMW also offer apprenticeship programs for aspiring mechanics who want to specialize in a particular brand of bike. The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration provides a list of contacts for apprenticeship systems at the state and federal level.
Online motorcycle mechanic schools
Believe it or not, it's possible to learn how to maintain and repair motorcycles without ever setting foot inside a classroom. Attending motorcycle mechanic school online requires a strong work ethic and the ability to motivate yourself to study and complete assignments, but it can put less pressure on your schedule than a traditional, in-person program.
If you're looking into motorcycle mechanic training schools online, bear in mind that having a motorcycle available to you as a visual aid can be extremely helpful. Many of the programs at online mechanic schools are of the shorter variety, leading to three- or four-month certificates.
Motorcycle mechanic certifications
There is no national certifying body that covers motorcycle mechanics, but earning trade certifications can enhance your skills and demonstrate your competence to employers, which may lead to higher pay.
The Equipment & Engine Training Council (EETC) provides industry-recognized certification on small-engine outdoor power equipment systems, including the following:
- Two-stroke engines
- Four-stroke engines
- Compact diesel engines
- Electrical systems
- Mechanical systems
Each EETC certification requires at least a 70 percent score a test that consists of 150 multiple choice questions. EETC even offers online motorcycle mechanic certification tests for mechanics who are too busy to make it to an in-person site for the exam.
Some motorcycle mechanic schools may also offer their own specialized certifications, and manufacturers like Honda, Harley-Davidson and Yamaha can provide mechanic certification in their specific products.
Career advancement options for motorcycle mechanics
The clearest route to career advancement for motorcycle mechanics is to open your own shop and hire additional mechanics to handle an increased volume of work. Some motorcycle mechanic programs include business and management coursework designed specifically for entrepreneurs in the industry.
If that ship has already sailed for you, going back to school for an associate degree in business can help you run your shop smoothly. Even taking a few basic courses in accounting and operations management can make a world of difference.
Skills and abilities for motorcycle mechanics
Like with most jobs, certain skills and abilities can serve you better than others in your career as a motorcycle mechanic. Here's a short list of the skills and abilities listed by the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) as especially valuable when working on bikes for a living:
- Hearing sensitivity to tell the difference between various mechanical sounds
- Hand and finger dexterity for making coordinated, fine movements in tight spaces
- Troubleshooting to be able to find different possibly causes of mechanical issues
- Time management to ensure that jobs are completed on time
- Critical thinking to analyze situations and use reasoning to come up with solutions
Average motorcycle mechanic salary and career outlook
You know all sorts of things about motorcycle mechanic careers by now, but how much do motorcycle mechanics make? The average motorcycle mechanic salary tends to fluctuate based on experience, certification status, geographical location and the specific company where you work. These national average figures from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) present a rough estimate of how much you're likely to make once you're on the job, and what the job outlook looks like:
|Career||Annual Mean Wage||Bottom 10% Annual Wage||Top 10% Annual Wage|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||$42,660||$22,610||$65,430|
|Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists||$48,000||$30,400||$69,870|
|First-Line Supervisors of Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers||$68,120||$39,310||$102,350|
|Motorboat Mechanics and Service Technicians||$41,350||$23,860||$61,940|
Professional resources for motorcycle mechanics
Once you're an official member of the motorcycle mechanics' profession, it's a good idea to stay on top of the organizations that are out there advocating for your interests and those of the industry in general. Here are a few groups to keep in mind, all U.S. national organizations unless otherwise noted:
- Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC)
- American Motorcycle Association (AMA)
- Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCIA) - United Kingdom
- National Motorcycle Alliance (NMA) - Australia
Although you may not be able to join organizations based overseas, reading about their approaches to motorcycle advocacy can keep you as informed as possible about issues facing mechanics and motorcyclists.