How to Train to Become an Auto Mechanic
A career as an automotive service technician, or auto mechanic, requires a lot of specialized knowledge and skills. You can’t simply start working as a mechanic tomorrow without some type of education, training or ideally both. There are no requirements in most states for what level of education or certification you need, but most employers will have their own qualifying factors for hiring mechanics.
The most common path to becoming a mechanic is to complete a secondary or post-secondary education program, followed by some degree of training on the job. Alternatively, some mechanics did not go to school but learned everything by working as an apprentice or trainee before becoming a full mechanic. For this option, you will need to find a master mechanic willing to train you.
Auto Tech in High School
For young people who know they want to work with cars and trucks, an automotive program in high school is a good place to start. Depending on the program it can provide a foundational set of skills and knowledge that will make a college program easier to complete successfully. In some cases, though, a vocational program or high school may provide everything a student needs to begin working as an entry-level mechanic right after graduation.
Post-Secondary Automotive Programs
Not everyone knows exactly what they want to do while still in high school, and there are many post-secondary automotive programs in all states. Most of these take one year or less to complete and are open to new high school graduates as well as older students looking to make a career change. Most of these programs are for certificates or diplomas, but you can also choose to earn a two-year associate’s degree.
You also have the option of choosing a specialty when earning a certificate or degree in automotive service and technology. For instance, you may choose to train as a diesel and truck mechanic. Or, you can select a manufacturer-specific program to prepare for work in a dealership. Some of these are offered at community and technical colleges, while other manufacturers have their own training centers.
An alternative to going to school is to find a mechanic who will hire you as a trainee or apprentice. This is not a common approach to becoming a mechanic, because classes provide such an important foundational knowledge for learning how to do this work. There are some potential benefits, though. As a trainee you will be working in a mechanic’s shop, earning a wage while you train and learn. On the other hand, it can be difficult to find a mechanic who will train you in this way. Apprenticeship is not as common in this industry as it is in others.
Becoming certified as a mechanic is not generally required, but it is considered to be the best way to prove you have the knowledge and ability to do the work. You can also command a higher salary if you have a certification. The National Institute for Automotive Excellence (ASE) is the industry standard in certification for mechanics.
To qualify to take an ASE exam you need either two years of work experience or one year of experience after completing a post-secondary program. ASE offers general certification as well as exams for specialty certification, including engine performance, suspension and steering and other areas. Master mechanics must pass a series of eight exams for certification.
Automotive service can be a rewarding career and a lucrative one with mechanics earning up to $65,000 per year. If this career interests you, consider your training and education options and make a decision about what path you’ll take to achieve your dream.