Becoming a Mechanic or Automotive Technician in Illinois
If you love working with your hands, helping people and being around cars, you might want to consider a career as an automotive service tech or a collision and body repair worker. The demand for these skilled professionals in Illinois is high, and the salaries are great. To become a mechanic in Illinois you only have to be willing to complete a certificate or two-year degree program and continue training on the job. [En Español]
There were 28,410 auto service technicians and mechanics working in Illinois in 2020, in addition to 11,530 bus, truck and diesel specialists, and 7,010 auto body and repair workers. The job field that includes these careers is growing even larger, making room for thousands more positions for trained graduates in Illinois and in other states as well.
For an automotive techs or mechanic in Illinois in 2021, the average annual salary was $47,400 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bus and truck mechanics earned even more, with an annual average income of $58,150. Body repair workers made an average of $47,180 in the state in 2021.
For each of these careers there are opportunities to earn even more. The top 10 percent of earners in each category made $76,820, $77,710 and $76,610 on average in 2021. This means that workers with more years of experience or with specialized training or certification can earn a truly competitive income. Some of the highest incomes for mechanics and other auto workers in Illinois are in Naperville, Elgin, Chicago, Rockford and Peoria.
Salaries in Illinois by Occupation
|Occupation||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary||Lowest 10%|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||28,410||$22.79||$47,400||$29,110|
|Automotive Glass Installers and Repairers||680||$22.09||$45,950||$29,930|
|Automotive Body and Related Repairers||7,010||$22.68||$47,180||$23,340|
|Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists||11,530||$27.96||$58,150||$30,260|
Auto Mechanic Salaries in Illinois by Region
|Region||Total Employed||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Salary|
Auto Mechanic Schools in Illinois
Illinois students interested in these careers have a lot of options. There are many community colleges and adult education programs that offer automotive technology certificates and degrees, some in specialized areas of auto tech, some more general and even some that are specific to car manufacturers:
- Parkland College. Parkland, in Champaign, offers several options for students interested in automotive careers. These include certificates or degrees in automotive collision repair or automotive technology, as well as specialized concentrations in management, motorsport and technician. Students may also choose to complete the associate degree ASSET program, which trains students to work with Ford vehicles through coursework and work experience. The programs are accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
- Universal Technical Institute. Located in Lisle, UTI offers programs in automotive technology and diesel technology. UTI also offers students several options for manufacturer-specific training, including Ford FACT, Daimler trucks, Toyota TPAT and Peterbilt PTI. These programs are accredited by NATEF and prepare students for ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) certification.
- Illinois Central College. In East Peoria, Illinois Central College offers a two-year automotive technology program. The comprehensive program includes coursework and an eight-week internship for hands-on work experience. The college also offers students the General Motors ASEP program, a program for training to work with diesel engines and equipment, and the Caterpillar dealer service technology degree, which prepares students to work with Caterpillar equipment.
Illinois also has a lot of opportunities for high school students to get started training for a career as a mechanic. Many high schools have vocational programs that are accredited and that prepare students for entry-level positions. There are also vocational centers and adult education centers that accept high school students. Some examples include the Technology Center of DuPage in Addison, Lake County High Schools Technology Campus, and Parkland College, which admits high school students.
ASE certification is something that all mechanics and other types of automotive service and repair workers usually achieve at some point in their careers. It is not necessarily required, but employers often want to hire people who are working towards this important certification. In order to qualify to take the certification exams you must have either two years of experience working as a mechanic or service tech, or have completed a training program and one year of related work experience.
There are over 40 certification exams offered by ASE, covering a wide range of topics related to the automotive field. Many mechanics choose to focus on one or two areas of expertise, such as brakes or electrical systems, and become certified in those areas. Others may elect to take a broader range of exams and become certified as Master Mechanics, which is the highest level of certification offered by ASE.
Some of the more popular certification tests include:
- Truck equipment certification tests
- Engine machinist certification tests
- Light truck certification tests
- School bus certification tests
Working as a Mechanic in Illinois
There are plenty of job opportunities in Illinois for graduates of automotive technology, diesel and truck technology, and body and collision training programs. Graduates are typically hired for entry-level positions and then continue training on the job. They may be hired at dealerships, especially those who trained in manufacturer-specific programs. Other job opportunities include service stations, chain and independent repair and mechanic shops, and body and paint shops.
A career working with cars is a great choice for anyone who is mechanically-inclined, enjoys working with their hands, can work well with other people and who wants to have good job security and a great income. In Illinois there are many choices for training programs to get started.