Becoming a Mechanic or Automotive Technician in California
If you are looking for a job that is hands-on, involves working with automobiles and includes interaction with customers then you may be interested in a career in automotive mechanics. A job in this field is not just limited to working as an auto mechanic. You may also find work as a diesel mechanic, body or collision repairer or glass installer. In California, all you need to work as a mechanic is a driver’s license and a high school diploma or GED. Training can be obtained on the job. [En Español]
While it is not a state requirement, many employers in California do prefer to hire mechanics who have completed a post-secondary training program and that are certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
Auto Mechanic Jobs in California
Employment of mechanics and other related jobs is steadily on the rise. The latest data supplied by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that California has the highest employment rate in the United States for auto mechanics and body and collision repairers. It is the second highest state in the employment of glass installers and diesel mechanics. The BLS also reported that as of May 2020, there were 66,800 auto mechanics, 12,300 body and collision repairers, 1,300 glass installers and 21,200 diesel mechanics working in the state of California.
Glass installers are expected to see a 15 percent rise in employment in the state by 2030. They are followed by auto mechanics with an 4 percent rise and body and collision repairers with a 8 percent rise. Diesel mechanics are expected to have the highest rise in employment, with a 17 percent predicted increase.
Because a lot of skill is required to work as an auto mechanic, the job pays well, even for entry-level workers.
In California, diesel mechanics are the highest paid workers in the mechanic field, averaging $29,11 hourly and $60,550 annually. Body and collision repairers come next at $27,91 hourly and $58,060 annually, followed by auto mechanics, who average $24.40 hourly and $50,740 annually. Glass installers come in last with an average income of $18,08 hourly and $37,610 annually. Those who have more education and experience, as well as certification, have the potential to earn more.
Salaries in California by Occupation
|Occupation||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary||Lowest 10%|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||66,800||$24,40||$50,740||$30,600|
|Automotive Glass Installers and Repairers||1,300||$18,08||$37,610||$29,720|
|Automotive Body and Related Repairers||12,300||$27,91||$58,060||$36,420|
|Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists||21,200||$29,11||$60,550||$37,650|
Auto Mechanic Salaries in California by Region
|Region||Total Employed||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Salary|
|El Centro, CA||250||$24,31||$50,570|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||17,540||$25,40||$52,840|
|Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA||1,310||$26,07||$54,220|
|Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA||8,290||$25,03||$52,060|
|San Diego-Carlsbad, CA||4,970||$26,08||$54,240|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||7,870||$29,49||$61,350|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||2,860||$30,20||$62,810|
|San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA||540||$25,67||$53,400|
|Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA||380||$26,35||$54,800|
|Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA||560||$27,71||$57,630|
|Santa Rosa, CA||1,060||$27,43||$57,060|
|Yuba City, CA||250||$25,37||$52,760|
Auto Mechanic Schools in California
There are many schools in California that offer post-secondary training in auto repair. Some are certificate programs, while others offer Associate degrees. Some even prepare students to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree. Below are just a few of the colleges that offer auto mechanic programs in California.
- Cerritos College in Norwalk, California, is one of the leading colleges in the state in automotive repair. Cerritos offers several options, both certificate and degree programs, for students who are interested in this field.
In the general technician program, students can earn a certificate in Automotive Mechanical Repair Technology with a focus on either alternate fuels, electrical/diagnosis technology, engine/machining technology, general technology or manufacturer specialty. They can also earn a certificate in General Automotive Collision Repair and focus on either automotive refinishing or automotive damage appraisal and management.
Cerritos College automotive technology students can also earn an associate’s degree. Associate degrees available are Auto Mechanical Repair Technology with a focus in either engine/machining technology, electrical/diagnosis technology, general technician, alternate fuels service technology, manufacturer specialty or automotive management, and general automotive collision repair. Students earning an associate’s degree can opt to transfer to Northwood University and continue their education with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management.
Cerritos College also offers several technician programs that are nationally authorized through manufacturers and dealerships. These programs not only provide students with classroom training, they also offer paid training on the job.
The programs available include:
- The Ford Automotive Student Service Educational Training (ASSET) Program
- The Import Technician Training Program (ITTP)
- The General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP)
- The Chrysler Automotive Program (CAP)
All these programs are two-year programs. The ITTP is a certificate program. The Ford ASSET and GMASEP programs lead to Associate degrees. Students who complete the CAP program will be manufacturer certified to work on Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles and will have two years work experience under their belt.
- Los Angeles Trade Technical College in Los Angeles, California, offers an associate degree in Automotive and Related Technology in which students must complete 36 credit hours of required curriculum. LATTC also offers certificate programs in Automotive and Related Technology with a focus in tune-up or transmission repair. These programs require the completion of 18 credit hours.
- Oxnard College in Oxnard has both an associate degree program as well as a certificate program. Coursework covers the fundamentals of engine repair, electrical analysis, reconstruction and trouble-shooting techniques. All instructors are ASE certified. Both programs are designed to prepare students for careers in engine repair, service and parts management, diesel mechanics and repair estimation.
- Consumnes River College in Sacramento offers a certificate program in Automotive Mechanics Technology in which students can complete the traditional program or the Ford ASSET program. This is a one-year program. The traditional route focuses on general automotive curriculum, and the ASSET program combines classroom learning with paid work experience in a Ford dealership. Once students complete a certificate in Automotive Mechanics Technology, they may also complete one of the following certificate programs: Certificate of Proficiency in Small Engine Repair, Certificate of Achievement in Automatic Transmissions/Transaxles, Certificate of Achievement in Automotive Suspension and Steering, Certificate of Proficiency in Automotive Heating and Air Conditioning, Certificate of Achievement in Automotive Engine Repair, Certificate of Achievement in Automotive Engine Performance, Certificate of Proficiency in Automotive Emission Control or a Certificate of Achievement in Automotive Electrical Systems.
ASE Certification in California
ASE certification is not a statewide requirement for working as an auto mechanic in California, but many employers prefer it and some require it. You will also have the potential to earn more if you hold at least one ASE certification. There are more than 50 ASE exams you can take to earn certification.
To obtain ASE certification, you must have two years of related work experience and pass the exam. You may also take the exam if you have only one year of work experience, if you hold other certification or an associate’s degree. Once you are ASE certified, you must retake the exam every five years to remain certified.
Other related certifications include:
- Light repair certification test
- Medium/heavy truck certification test
- School bus certification test
- Auto body repair certification test
- Collision repair and refinish certification tests
- Painting and refinishing certification tests
- Damage analysis and estimating certification test
- Refinish prep technician certification test
- Nonstructural analysis and damage repair certification tests
- Light truck certification tests
- Alternate fuels certification test
- Transit bus certification tests
- School bus certification tests
- Engine machinist certification tests
Working as a Mechanic in California
Auto mechanics in California can expect to find work in dealerships, parts stores and warehouses, repair shops, tire shops and service stations. Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Francisco, South San Francisco, Glendale and Redwood City are some of the highest employed areas for auto mechanics, diesel mechanics, glass installers and body and collision workers.
If you are looking for a well-paying career and enjoy working on automobiles, consider becoming an auto mechanic in California. In two years or less, you can earn a certificate or degree in automotive technology, become ASE certified and be ready to begin work as a professional mechanic.