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Automotive Technician

Automobile Mechanic, Automotive Service Technician

Job Description: Automotive technicians use their knowledge of physics, technology, and electronics along with complex diagnostic tools and computer software to analyze and repair vehicle problems and to perform general evaluation and maintenance tasks. Service technicians employ a variety of hand and power tools such as pneumatic wrenches, flame cutters, and grinding machines to fix, replace, or tweak malfunctioning parts. Advancements in the electric and technical components of automobiles and the introduction of alternate-fuel technologies make this a constantly evolving profession.

Working Environment: The average workweek for repair shop auto technicians is 40 hours, but night or weekend work is sometimes required to meet customer deadlines. In addition, some aftermarket service technicians do private jobs on the side to boost their income.

Conditions can vary depending on area of specialization and workload. For example, transmission technicians or brake repairers may need to get their hands dirty, tinkering around inside the engine or undercarriage; those who specialize in the ECU (the car’s computer “mainframe”) may be able to make only minor, computerized adjustments.

Education and Training Requirements: The best training programs are usually found at vocational schools and community colleges. Vehicle repair and technology training at vocational and trade schools usually takes six months to one year, focusing primarily on hands-on learning. Community college courses tend to alternate classroom preparation in math, science, and other courses with stints at dealerships or training facilities. A community college program can take more than two years to complete.

In past years, automotive maintenance and repair skills could be learned through three to four years of apprenticeship. However, given the great variety of models on the road today, increasingly complex technical components of vehicles, and evolving alternative-fuel technologies, post-secondary training is now critical to finding work in the automobile services industry.

Experienced techs looking to expand their knowledge or take the fast track to journey-level technician jobs may benefit from continuing education opportunities offered by technical schools and automobile manufacturers. Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, Volkswagen, and others have advanced programs for capable graduates of technical training programs. Lincoln Technical Institute and other vocational schools offer qualified graduates of their regular automotive programs the chance to complete manufacturer programs as well.

Certification and Manufacturers Training: The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers experienced technicians the chance to get nationally certified in various areas of specialization, such as drive trains, exhaust systems, suspension and steering, brakes, or body systems. Those technicians with at least two years of work experience or one year at technical school and one year on the job can opt for the exams. Certification can often lead to increased pay and better job opportunities. (See the ASE section of this website for more details.)

Salary Range: 

* Entry Level Pay: $21,000-32,000
* Mid-Range Pay: $32,000-55,000
* Experienced Pay: $43,000-72,000
* Top Level Pay (Master Mechanic): $58,000-108,000  

Job Outlook: Good to Excellent. Experts expect a 12%-15% increase in new jobs over the 10-year period ending in 2012. The need for qualified technicians will be driven by continued growth in the number of cars and the introduction of more complex technologies and components. The outlook for long-term job security is also positive, as the automotive repair industry has historically been little affected by general economic trends and should thus be able to survive any economic downturns.

High-Growth Industry: In 2005, President Bush included the automotive services sector in his “High Growth Job Training Initiative” program, designed to attract future professionals to booming industries. With expectations of more than 56,000 new automobile technician jobs created yearly through 2012, industry and government leaders want to ensure there will be enough skilled professionals to care for the nation’s cars. In addition, more focus will be placed on continuing education and retraining of experienced technicians to keep up with changing technologies. (ETA)

Learn more about entering the automotive technology industry by requesting degree information from any of the schools listed below by state.

Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration (ETA)
Bureau of Labor Statistics