Car Mechanic: Career Profile, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for car mechanics. Get the facts about salary, job growth and education requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Automobile Repair degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Car Mechanic?

Car mechanics may work at an automotive dealership, at an auto parts store, for a gas station, or at an auto repair shop. They perform standard vehicle maintenance, such as rotating tires, checking vehicle fluids and changing the oil. They may also be responsible for performing safety inspections and replacing worn parts, such as brake pads or tires. When a vehicle isn't working properly, car mechanics can perform tests to determine the source of the problem, inform the customer of needed repairs, and conduct those repairs.

Education Required High school diploma at minimum; certificate and associate's degree programs available
Education Field of Study Computer applications, engine repair, applied automotive techniques
Key Responsibilities Diagnose problems with vehicles; make repairs; maintain customer's automobiles
Certification Optional but recommended; offered through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5%*
Average Annual Salary (2015) $40,720*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the Career Profile for Car Mechanics?

Car mechanics are also known as automotive service technicians. If you work in this occupation, you'll diagnose mechanical problems, repair various automotive systems and perform routine maintenance such as tune-ups and oil changes. You'll likely use checklists to inspect all major systems and parts.

While performing your duties, you'll use equipment such as power and hand tools, wrenches, jacks, engine analyzers and computerized diagnostic equipment, some of which may be supplied by your employer. As a car mechanic at a maintenance shop or automobile dealership, you'll likely work 40-hour weeks, but you may be required to work additional hours to accommodate customers.

What Is the Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for automotive service technicians and mechanics was expected to grow five percent between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This projected industry growth was average, compared to all other occupations. Formally trained mechanics who earn special certifications, such as those offered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), have the best employment opportunities, according to the BLS.

As of May 2015, the national average annual salary for automobile service technicians was $40,720, according to the BLS. If you worked at a dealership, you would have earned an average of $44,400 a year, compared to $35,070 a year if you worked as a mechanic at an auto parts, accessories or tire store.

What Type of Education Do I Need?

You can begin training as an automobile mechanic in high school by enrolling in trainee programs such as the Automotive Youth Education Service (AYES). These programs are certified by ASE and work with car manufacturers and dealerships to prepare students for entry-level positions as mechanics.

As an alternative, you could attend a formal program after high school. Some technical schools offer intensive 6-month or 1-year certificate programs, while many community colleges offer 1-year certificate or associate's degree programs in automotive technology. An associate's degree program will offer courses such as computer applications, applied mathematics, engine repair, electrical systems, applied automotive techniques, engine performance and alignment.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

While car mechanics focus on the maintenance and repair of standard vehicles, diesel mechanics perform the same maintenance and repair on large trucks, buses and vehicles with diesel engines. Heavy vehicle equipment technicians are responsible for the maintenance and repair of vehicles used in farming and rail transportation. Automotive body and glass repairers focus exclusively on repairing glass and damage to the body of a vehicle, and may replace or repair panels or windows on a vehicle.

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