Becoming an Auto Mechanic or Automotive Technician in North Dakota
Does the mechanics of cars, trucks and other motor vehicles fascinate you? Why not make a career out of it and become an auto or diesel mechanic or an auto body repairer? Aside from being able to fix your own vehicle, you can earn a good income helping other people while doing what you love. These jobs are among the most sought-after nowadays, as new automobile makes, models, technologies and service procedures continue to emerge. From the year 2009 to 2016, North Dakota has seen an increase in the number of vehicles registered and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the area, according to data from the North Dakota 2018 Highway Safety Plan (ND2018HSP). It is therefore imperative for aspiring mechanics to be equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to handle the volume and complexity of work. [En Español]
Plenty of educational institutions that offer automotive technology programs can be found in the region. Go for secondary and college courses certified by the Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES) or the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), respectively. Although a high school diploma is enough qualification for entry-level employment, you’ll increase your earning potential and have better job choices with more specialization. If you can, finish a post-secondary diploma, certificate or degree program, then take the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) examination and be on your way to a rewarding career in the automotive industry.
The exams offered by ASE cover a wide range of major automobile systems, some of which include:
- Truck equipment certification tests
- School bus certification test
- Transit bus certification tests
- Engine Machinist certification tests
- Alternate fuels certification test
- Parts specialist certification tests
To become a certified master mechanic, you must first have two years of on-the-job training or ASE certification in three out of the eight areas of specialization. After that, take and pass the ASE master mechanic exam.
Some of the benefits you can enjoy as an ASE-certified technician include:
- Increased job opportunities and earnings potential
- Recognition from employers, colleagues and customers
- Greater sense of accomplishment and professional satisfaction
According to the May 2020 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), North Dakota employed 2,420 automotive service technicians, 1,520 diesel mechanics and 690 auto body and related repairers at the time. Although BLS reported that more auto workers were hired than average at the time, employment in the field is expected to grow by only 1 percent through the year 2030. So, this is a good opportunity for mechanics in the region to open their own repair shops rather than settle as employees, thus creating more jobs. The number of workers needed is still expected to be significant, especially in the northwest where the booming oil industry of North Dakota has seen an increase in VMT of 4.1 percent or 2.1 billion from 2009 to 2016, according to the ND2018HSP.
BLS also reported that mechanics in the region received annual salaries that were slightly higher than the average: diesel mechanics made an average annual salary of $59,770, automotive body and related repairers earned $50,170 and auto mechanics averaged $47,400 per year.
Entry-level automotive service technicians earned an average of $29,830 per year, but as they progressed in their careers and acquired more industry certifications, expert mechanics earned no less than $75,220 a year on average. The same goes for veteran truck mechanics and automotive body repairers, who saw a notable increase in their average annual wages at $75,050 and $76,150, respectively.
Salaries in North Dakota by Occupation
|Occupation||Total Employed||Average Hourly Wage||Average Annual Salary||Lowest 10%|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||2,420||$22.79||$47,400||$29,830|
|Automotive Glass Installers and Repairers||90||$18.23||$37,920||$28,470|
|Automotive Body and Related Repairers||690||$24.12||$50,170||$34,460|
|Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists||1,520||$28.73||$59,770||$44,880|
Auto Mechanic Salaries in North Dakota by Region
|Region||Total Employed||Mean Hourly Wage||Mean Annual Salary|
|Grand Forks, ND-MN||190||$25,45||$52,930|
Auto Mechanic Schools in North Dakota
- Bismarck State College (BSC). This institution has ASE master-certified instructors and NATEF-compliant automotive technology programs. They offer a 24-month curriculum on automotive technology and an 11-month training program for automotive collision technology. Entry-level and apprenticeship positions for graduates include auto service technicians, automotive collision techs and insurance adjusters.
- Lake Region State College (LRSC). This campus in Devil’s Lake offers automotive technology programs that have passed the NATEF standards. A student can choose to complete a certificate, diploma or degree program. The latter two can be substituted for one of the two years of hands-on work experience required to become ASE-certified. A typical school day comprises two hours of lecture in the classroom and four hours of hands-on application in state-of-the-art facilities.
- United Tribes Technical College (UTTC). Located in Bismarck, UTTC offers a diploma and associate degree program in automotive technology. Once a student graduates, he or she can work as an entry-level auto specialist line technician, shop foreman or owner of an independent repair shop. The path toward ASE certification is just one test and at least one year of relevant work experience away.
- Minot Public Schools. They offer courses in auto technology and auto collision repair and painting. The former focuses on areas such as electronic/electrical systems, brakes, suspension and steering, and engine repair maintenance, then student ASE certification and eventually gainful employment. The courses in collision repair and painting prepare students for related post-secondary education and cover areas such as custom painting, estimating and body components replacement.
Aside from North Dakota, neighboring states such as South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota offer NATEF-compliant programs in their colleges and universities.
Where to Find Work in North Dakota
More than a million vehicles were registered in North Dakota in 2016, according to the ND2018HSP. The state also reported more than nine billion VMT. Therefore, plenty of work opportunities exist for auto and diesel mechanics. This is not only in the northwest region where the bulk of the oil in the state is produced but in the rural areas as well, which composes most of North Dakota. In 2016, vans, utility trucks and pickups were involved in 48.4 percent of auto accidents, meaning plenty of jobs for auto body collision repairers.
New graduates can find entry-level work at car dealerships, transmission shops, fleet services and independent businesses.