Auto Maintenance Technician Career, Employment and Education Info

Research what it takes to become an auto maintenance technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Automobile Repair degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Auto Maintenance Technician Do?

As an auto maintenance technician you would perform a range of tasks related to the inspection, repair and maintenance of motor vehicles - primarily cars but also light trucks. Your career profile encompasses routine tune-ups, lube jobs, oil changes and simple parts replacements, computer diagnostics and rebuilds of braking, steering, exhaust, electrical, air conditioning and power systems. Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as an auto maintenance technician is right for you.

Education Required Postsecondary nondegree award or vocational program
Training Required 2-5 years of on-the-job training typical
Key Skills Customer service, dexterity, mechanical and troubleshooting skills
Certification Required Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence is standard
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5% (for all automotive service technicians and mechanics)*
Median Salary (2015) $37,850 (for all automotive service technicians and mechanics)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What's My Potential Occupational Outlook?

Your two leading employment prospects are with automotive repair shops and auto dealers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Parts dealers, local government agencies and gas stations provide further opportunities. You could also be self-employed. Auto maintenance technicians held approximately 638,080 jobs as of 2015 and is expected to rise to about 779,000 by 2024. Growth in the total number of vehicles on the road is expected to create demand for technicians, but the rising use of more reliable technology, such as electric cars, may partially offset the gain. As of May 2015, the median salary of technicians was $37,850.

What Education or Training Is Available to Me?

Automotive technology programs that prepare you for entry-level technician positions are available from some high schools and a wide assortment of vocational and community colleges. High schools confer an overall diploma, and colleges confer a certificate or an associate's degree. Many high school-level programs are approved by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Training programs that place you directly into a real-world shop environment are available from auto dealers and manufacturers.

The content of these programs is similar from school to school, featuring a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on experience with cars. Early stage courses teach you shop safety, the proper use of hand tools and the operating characteristics of a vehicle's engine, transmission, exhaust, suspension, braking and electrical systems. Middle- and late-stage course cover individual vehicle systems in depth, specialized tools and troubleshooting. Certificate programs typically last a year and cover a more limited range of topics compared to associate's degree programs, which last two years. Although some spread their content over three years, high school programs fall somewhere in the middle.

What Certification Is Available to Me?

Certification is voluntary but helpful for gaining employment, especially if you plan to work in a large urban area. As of July 2015, ASE certification was the industry standard for competence. Nine tests - engine repair, automatic transmission, manual drive train, suspension and steering, brakes, electrical, HVAC, engine performance and light diesel - compose the Automobile and Light Truck series. Passing all except the light diesel test earns you 'master automobile technician' status.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Many of the skills learned by auto maintenance technicians are similar to those required of automotive glass and body repairers, though the latter focus on repairing the body of a vehicle rather than its mechanics. Heavy vehicle and diesel technicians inspect and repair different parts of larger vehicles, such as buses, trucks and farm vehicles. Small engine mechanics specialize in reparing a certain type of equipment, such as motorcycles, boats or outdoor power equipment like lawnmowers. These professions require the same or similar amounts of education as auto maintenance technicians, and a large part of the training is through hands-on experience.

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