Perhaps because you just love cars or perhaps because you hate your desk job, you’ve decided you want to become an auto mechanic. Given that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics believes future job opportunities to be very good, and with the top 10% of automotive technicians earning over $27* an hour, you’ve probably made a great choice. So where to start?
High school vocational programs
If you’re still in high school, you should take advantage of any vocational programs in auto repair and electrical trades. It is an advantage to have physical science and math courses under your belt before you start. Automotive Youth Education Systems (AYES) is a not-for-profit organization that brings together the automotive industry, participating dealers and high schools to help prepare students for entry-level careers in retail automotive service. For more information, and to find participating schools and dealerships, visit http://www.ayes.org
Once you have some classroom training to your name, you should look for a combined apprenticeship and training program. Thanks to the short supply of good, qualified auto mechanics, many larger employers offer first-rate programs for entry-level technicians. If you’re not ready for the level of commitment a full time trade school might entail, you might consider working in an auto repair shop and taking evening courses, or look for an online program. Many mechanics have started this way.
Finding a trade school
Investigate the some of the thousands of technical schools and community colleges that offer programs in automotive repair in your area. You should look for those schools whose programs are specifically structured to prepare you for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. For most mechanic positions, employers will require you to have a minimum number of ASE certifications. They will require more still if you want to be classified as an automotive technician. The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF – http://www.natef.org) is the organization responsible for granting certification to qualifying schools. For a fast, state-by-state list of certified auto mechanic schools, visit http://www.automechanicschools.com.
You should bear in mind that many trade schools partner with employers. Their sponsorship of students is given in return for an employment commitment.
Finding the right employer
Choose the opportunity that best suits your skills and requirements. As mechanics pay is based on their productivity, your earnings will partly depend on the volume and type of work that comes through your employer’s shop.
Additionally, some shops offer incentives such as in-house ASE preparation courses. Continued professional development through training and certification will help you to command a higher hourly rate. Some shops may offer new mechanics discounts on the basic equipment for a personal tool inventory. When applying for jobs, make sure to list all certifications you hold and detail your experience of areas such as advanced computerized diagnostic system, which are of great interest to potential employers.