How to Become a Diesel Mechanic in Alaska
Anyone who has watched Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel has seen that diesel trucks in Alaska can take a beating and also travel some unusual terrain and encounter obstacles that are unique to the area. This means that diesel mechanics in Alaska need to be able to meet the demands of vehicles driven in both rural and urban areas. Inclement weather can create additional challenges.
Choosing to become a diesel mechanic involves commitment and hard work. This is a challenging career that encompasses everything from completely overhauling diesel engines to changing tires and brakes and all tasks in between. Effective communication, problem solving abilities and attention to detail are some of the skills that would be essential to this field.
Alaska State Requirements for Becoming a Diesel Mechanic
Multiple trade schools and colleges within Alaska offer programs that teach students to assess, evaluate, maintain and repair diesel vehicles. Programs can vary in length but tend to average about a year to 18 months. Some programs include shop operations as part of their curriculum. Job placement assistance is even offered at some schools upon completion of their diesel mechanic programs. There is typically financial aid available, including scholarships.
Diesel mechanics need to be adept at working with their hands. A career as a diesel mechanic could be ideal for someone who enjoys being challenged with a variety of tasks. They require excellent vision and the ability to work in physical positions they may find uncomfortable for a much of their workday.
Education Opportunities for Diesel Mechanics in Alaska
To be considered for the best jobs available as a diesel mechanic in Alaska, completing an education program with hands-on training is a must. Students will learn the ins and outs of all systems and parts of diesel vehicles, as well as tasks such as welding, fluid changes and tire changes. Some diesel mechanic programs available in Alaska are:
- University of Alaska at Anchorage. There are options to earn either a certificate or an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Diesel Power Technology. The curriculum is designed with ASE Foundation task lists in mind. Students learn to diagnose and repair most any part of a diesel engine, including hydraulics and electrical systems.
- AVTEC – Alaska Vocational Technical Center. Located in Seward, this Diesel/Heavy Equipment program is designed to be completed within 42 weeks. The curriculum is 60 percent hands-on training and 40 percent classroom study. Specific numbers of hours are assigned to each task or system, including 395 hours spent on engines and 30 hours on welding. This is a certification program with options to enroll in additional courses to prepare for ASE certification tests.
Certification of Diesel Mechanics in Alaska
The state of Alaska does not require a license to become a diesel mechanic, but certification from National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is often listed as a preferred qualification among employers. A diesel mechanic who passes multiple tests for ASE certifications will have the opportunity to earn ASE Master Status. Having ASE certification gives an edge to applicants, as shops hiring them will know their skills have been tested.
Job Opportunities and Salary Outlook for Diesel Mechanics in Alaska
Nationwide, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the diesel service technician and mechanic field is expected to grow by a rate of approximately 5 percent, which is steady but moderate growth. Within the state of Alaska, CareerOneStop expects growth within this field to be approximately 2 percent during the 10 years between 2016 and 2026. This is a bit lower than the national average, but Alaska is also much less densely populated than most other states.
The median annual salary paid to diesel mechanics in Alaska as of May 2018 was $68,270. This means that half of all the people who worked as a diesel mechanic earned more and half earned less. The hourly mean rate of pay during 2018 was $32.82. It will vary a bit in different areas of the state, with Anchorage offering a slightly higher rate of pay than Fairbanks.
Working as a Diesel Mechanic in Alaska
Choosing to become a diesel mechanic means that it’s not likely that two consecutive working days will be exactly the same. Some days might be slower and include only fluid, oil and tire changes, while others involve repairing a hydraulic system, servicing a heater or overhauling an entire engine.
Welding and being able to lift heavy parts are often expected, as is contact with customers. Work can be found with a large company seeking to maintain their fleet, with a family-owned business or possibly even a dealership. Within Alaska, given its terrain, population and geography, there are more likely to be jobs available near larger cities, such as Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks.