Auto mechanics perform vital services in communities. Individuals, businesses, and schools rely on vehicles to provide transportation for daily tasks and emergency needs. Auto mechanics use diagnostic equipment to identify motor issues, facilitate repairs, and perform vehicle maintenance tasks such as oil changes and tire rotations.
Positions in the field require minimal education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), auto mechanics can practice after completing a postsecondary non-degree program. Learners typically complete auto mechanic trade school programs in six months. Applicants usually need a high school or GED diploma.
Auto mechanics need an eye for detail, fine motor skills, and problem-solving skills. This guide highlights the best auto mechanic programs, details common curriculum elements, and explores the field's employment and salary outlook.
Frequently Asked Questions about Careers as an Auto Mechanic
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Career and Salary Outlook for Auto Mechanics
While the BLS projects employment for auto mechanics to decline between 2019 and 2029, qualified mechanics are an integral part of any community. Students who attend the most affordable auto mechanic programs can benefit from low student loan payments and a steady salary.
Factors that can impact an auto mechanic's pay include years of experience, employer type, and geographic location. For example, an experienced mechanic working for a corporate auto shop in a large city may earn more than an entry-level mechanic working for a family-owned business in the rural midwest.
Mechanics who specialize in a difficult repair process or a certain type of vehicle may qualify for higher pay. The following table details the earning potential for automotive service technicians and mechanics.
|Lowest 10%||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10%|
|Less than $24,400||$42,090||More than $68,880|
Accreditation for Auto Mechanic Programs
Before enrolling in an auto mechanic vocational school, learners should research the accreditation status of the school and program. The accreditation process involves regular quality assessments from a third-party organization. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee these independent accrediting agencies.
Trade and vocational schools typically earn national accreditation from an organization that evaluates institutions throughout the country. The Accrediting Commission of Careers Schools and Colleges is one of the top accrediting agencies for career and vocational schools.
Auto mechanic programs can also earn accreditation. ASE awards programmatic accreditation in this industry. This article details the importance of programmatic and national accreditation.
In most states, auto mechanics do not need a license to complete most car repairs. However, mechanics who work with refrigerants must pass the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency refrigerant exam to earn licensure. Professionals can complete this test online. Test questions cover topics related to servicing small appliances, high-pressure appliances, and low-pressure appliances. To attain universal certification, individuals must complete this exam in a proctored format.
Auto mechanics can pursue certification to qualify for raises and leadership positions. ASE provides certification for professionals in the field. Earning certification can help mechanics position themselves as experts in areas such as collision repair, school and transit bus repair, and auto and truck parts. The institute provides practice exams. Candidates for certification need on-the-job experience, and the amount of required experience varies based on the type of certification.
Courses in an Auto Mechanic Program
Although curricula vary by program, most automotive mechanic programs help learners gain hard skills and hands-on experience. Coursework typically covers areas including repair safety, routine maintenance, and client communication. The best automotive mechanic programs feature comprehensive curricula, and some programs offer specialization options.
Prospective students should review course descriptions to ensure the program aligns with their career goals. While not every program features the exact courses below, many auto repair programs include the following classes.
- Diagnostic Equipment
- Enrollees learn how to use diagnostic tools to identify vehicle issues. Coursework covers common diagnostic codes. Learners gain hands-on experience troubleshooting problems with engines, water pumps, and spark plugs. Students practice using common diagnostic equipment including circuit testers, car battery testers, code readers, and tire pressure gauges.
- Servicing and Repairing Automotive Engines
- Learners explore the engine, one of the most complex components of a vehicle. Students identify the pieces that comprise the internal combustion engine and learn how they work together. This course may cover multiple types of engines, such as straight engines.
- Vehicle Steering Repairs
- This class prepares students to use tools to suspend and align steering systems. Learners practice aligning spring compressors and ball joints on test cars. Students explore front-end and rear-end alignment practices, and they learn how to use tire tread marks to identify possible alignment issues.
- Brake Systems
- To ensure cars run safely, auto mechanics must know how to properly repair and maintain font and back brake systems. Students in this course practice diagnosing issues with anti-lock brake and hydraulic systems, and they learn how to repair brake rotors and drums. This course also covers parking brakes, traction control systems, and master cylinder assemblies.
- Heating and Cooling Repairs
- Auto mechanics frequently repair heating and cooling systems in old and new cars, so the best automotive mechanic programs include at least one course in automotive climate control. Learners prepare to safely work with refrigerant and high-pressure systems. Students practice disassembling and reassembling these systems and performing routine cleanings and repairs.
Scholarships for Auto Mechanic Students
Learners can apply for scholarships to minimize student loans. Many nonprofits, foundations, educational institutions, and private companies offer scholarships. Scholarship programs often require application essays and recommendation letters, so applicants should allow time to gather necessary materials. The list below highlights five scholarships reserved for auto mechanic students.
Who Can Apply: Automotive students with a minimum 3.0 GPA can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must submit two recommendation letters and a letter of acceptance to an automotive program. The recipient must maintain full-time enrollment and must hold either U.S. citizenship or a student visa.
Amount: VariesLearn More \n
Who Can Apply: Auto mechanic students can apply for scholarships from more than 40 organizations by completing the application from Automotive Aftermarket. Full-time students attending an automotive program at an accredited U.S. college or university can qualify for these awards.
Amount: VariesLearn More \n
Who Can Apply: This seat-cover production company offers an annual scholarship for learners studying engineering or automotive technology. Students in the U.S. or Canada can apply. Candidates submit an essay detailing their prediction for the next biggest change in the automotive industry.
Amount: $1,500Learn More \n
Who Can Apply: Each year, the TechForce Foundation awards $1.5 million in scholarships and grants. Applicants must attend a tech school. Learners can apply for multiple scholarships and grants by completing one general application.
Amount: VariesLearn More \n
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports women who plan to join the automotive workforce. Applicants need a minimum 2.5 GPA and must enroll in an accredited program.
Amount: VariesLearn More \n
Best Auto Mechanic Programs 2021
Prospective students should take their time choosing a high-quality auto mechanic program. This regularly updated list of the best auto mechanic programs can aid in the research process. Factors that influence the rankings include affordability, graduate success rate, and accreditation status. Learners can use this list as a starting point, but students should contact each prospective program's admissions department before making an enrollment decision.
City Colleges of Chicago, Illinois' largest community college system, enrolls 77,000 students annually. The school's associate of applied science in automotive technology gives enrollees foundational training and practical experience for positions at automotive dealerships and similar operations. The 66-credit program requires limited general education courses, such as composition and math. The technical curriculum covers topics like engine concepts, automotive brakes, steering and suspension systems, and electrical systems and power accessories.
Learners also study topics such as inventory control, billing, and writing estimates and repair orders. Three courses in one of the nation's best auto mechanic programs train students in fuel management. Students learn how to maintain modern fuel delivery systems, use and interpret data from modern diagnostic test equipment, and diagnose and repair the sensors and actuators that control engine performance.
Students use elective credit to pursue hands-on training in a repair shop or dealership. Admission requires placement testing in reading, writing, and math.
Located in Dayton, Ohio, Sinclair Community College offers more than 250 programs. The associate of applied science in automotive technology blends shop instruction with internships at repair facilities and dealerships. The curriculum's 65 credits provide technical training in key automotive systems such as engine, brake, electrical/electronic, and steering and suspension. A limited number of general education courses include math for technologists.
Eight weeks into the program, students begin earning money while gaining college credit and practical work experience. They work at least 20 hours each week at an approved automotive service shop. Students enrolled in one of the nation's best auto mechanic trade schools benefit from one of the state's lowest tuition rates and a 95% job placement rate. Admission requires SAT, ACT, or ACCUPLACER scores.
Central New Mexico Community College provides comprehensive programming on five campuses and at several centers throughout New Mexico. CNM offers an associate of applied science in transportation technology with an automotive technology concentration. The 62-credit program blends classroom theory with practical experience in CNM's automotive lab. The program covers technical concepts such as brake systems, automotive electrical, engine repair, and automotive transmission.
Trainees also complete a limited number of general education courses in subjects such as math and composition. In their third term, enrollees complete a 45-hour internship that gives them shop experience. Students earn National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence certifications throughout the program. CNM also offers certificates in automotive technology and automotive service fundamentals.
CNM's tuition assistance helps laid-off workers and the unemployed train for new careers. Admission requires a high school or GED diploma and ACT, SAT, or ACCUPLACER scores.
Founded in 1965, Florida State College at Jacksonville operates five campuses in Duval and Nassau counties. The associate of applied science in automotive service management technology prepares learners for entry-level positions as auto technicians. One of the nation's best auto mechanic programs, the 68-credit curriculum combines theory and practical experience. Students complete the program's professional core at FSCJ's downtown campus. They may complete general education requirements at any of FSCJ's campuses or online.
The professional core requires 48 credits that develop technicians competent in diagnosing and fixing various automotive systems. The core explores topics such as engines, steering and suspension, brake systems, electrical systems, and air conditioning and heating. Three courses focus on engine performance, including the diagnosis and repair of drivability issues. Students can use elective credit to pursue an internship at an automotive repair facility.
A short-term option, FSCJ's automotive service technician technical certificate consists of the first 20 credits of the program. Admission requires a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Ivy Tech Community College partners with business and industry to develop programs such as the associate of applied science in automotive technology. Students can complete the degree at one of several campuses in areas such as Bloomington, Indianapolis, or Kokomo, Indiana. The program prepares students for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's certification exams. The 60-credit curriculum includes general education courses in technical math and workforce communications.
The program offers four 30-credit specializations: autobody, motorsports, automotive service, and diesel heavy truck. ITCC also offers a portfolio of certificates students can complete in an accelerated time frame in areas such as collision repair, truck chassis systems, and advanced diesel electronics controls.
ITCC offers comprehensive support services such as tutoring, career development, and childcare. Admission to the auto mechanic trade school requires PSAT, SAT, or ACT scores.
College of Lake County enrolls about 11,000 students annually. The school's associate of applied science in automotive technician program offers concentrations in under hood technician and under car technician. The program prepares learners to take the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's technician certification exams.
The 65-credit curriculum covers topics such as engine repair, auto electrical, braking systems, and powertrain controls. Students also learn about air conditioning and heating and advanced driveline systems. An internship in the final semester gives students hands-on experience at an automotive repair facility. The degree seamlessly transfers to bachelor's programs in automotive technology at Southern Illinois University and Ferris State University.
Students can also pursue certificate programs such as automotive specialist or automotive transmission specialist. Admission requires a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Richland Community College offers 80 degrees and certificates on campus in Decatur, Illinois. The associate of applied science in automotive technology prepares students to sit for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's certification exams. The 65-credit curriculum includes 15 credits of general education courses in subjects such as public speaking and technical writing.
The technical program explores topics including engine repair, electrical systems, manual drivetrain and axles, and advanced drivability problem diagnosis. Students also complete a course that introduces them to computer business applications. An internship provides students with at least 150 hours of work experience at an employer.
Learners can also pursue one of several certificates, including automotive service specialist and automotive performance specialist. Admission requires SAT, ACT, or ACCUPLACER scores.
Delta College offers 150 programs, including several automotive technology options. The associate of applied science (AAS) in automotive technology program prepares learners to earn Michigan's automotive service license. Enrollees also acquire the knowledge necessary to sit for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's (ASE) certification exams. The program blends classroom instruction with hands-on experience in two automotive labs.
The 64-credit curriculum examines the diagnosis and repair of automotive systems such as suspension and steering, electrical and electronic systems, and manual drive trains and axles. Co-op opportunities give students 20-25 hours of paid hands-on experience each week. During the capstone, students complete ASE's A1-A8 technician certification exams.
The school also offers an AAS in heavy-duty diesel service technology and an automotive service educational program affiliated with GM. Admission requires SAT or ACCUPLACER scores.
Miami Dade College hosts eight campuses and 21 centers around the county. Students can earn the associate of applied science in automotive service management technology at one of seven campuses. The degree focuses on the managerial side of the automotive service business. The program only enrolls students concurrently enrolled in, or those who have completed, a nationally certified automotive mechanics program. Students complete 68 credits in two years, including general education courses in subjects such as English and psychology.
The major explores topics like financial accounting, computer technology and applications, small business management, and business career strategies. Enrollees learn about effective supervision and human relations in a business context. Participants also complete a two-part, six-credit internship focused on management or general business. Students receive 24 credits for completing the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's certification exams. Admission requires SAT, ACT, or ACCUPLACER scores.
About 30,000 students attend Chemeketa Community College each year. The associate of applied science in automotive technology trains technicians for a variety of jobs in car repair and maintenance. Through a combination of classroom and lab work, learners study the eight areas covered on the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's certification exams. Students learn about automotive systems, including engines, steering and suspension, electronic vehicle controls, and manual drive trains and axles.
Participants may opt for a co-op experience that gives them paid experience in an automobile repair facility. Students can also pursue one of three certificate programs: automotive body repair, automotive machining, or automotive entry-level technician. Reasonable tuition and scholarships help make the degree one of the nation's most affordable auto mechanic programs. Admission requires a high school or GED diploma and ACCUPLACER scores.
Established in 1963, Wiregrass Georgia Technical College provides education and workforce development to students in South Georgia. Students can earn a diploma in automotive technology or automotive fundamentals on one of two campuses: Valdosta or Ben Hill Irwin. The diploma in automotive technology prepares technicians for automotive service and repair positions. The 59-credit curriculum provides training in automotive systems, including braking, suspension and steering, transmission and transaxles, and manual drive trains and axles.
The automotive fundamentals diploma prepares students to work as entry-level technicians through a combination of automotive mechanics theory and practical training. The 40-credit curriculum explores topics such as automotive brake systems, electrical systems, engine performance, and auto suspension and steering systems. Learners may apply credits from either diploma toward the associate in applied science in technical studies.
The school also offers an automotive engine performance technician - technical certificate. Admission requires placement testing such as SAT, ACT, or ACCUPLACER scores.
Indian River State College operates five campuses in Florida and ranks among the nation's top three affordable colleges. The 68-credit associate of applied science in automotive service management technology program holds master certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
Students acquire in-depth knowledge of various automotive systems, including electrical; engine overhaul, repair, and testing; suspension steering and alignment; and advanced engine performance. Students also learn about diesel service and hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. One course focuses exclusively on the managerial side of the automotive service business.
Enrollees may concurrently earn certificates such as automotive service technician or general automotive technician. IRSC's apprenticeship programs in automotive technology provide paid on-the-job training. Admission requires a high school or GED diploma.
Part of the State University of New York system, Erie Community College administers 100 programs on three campuses in Erie County. Students complete the associate of applied science in automotive technology at the south campus in Orchard Park. They can enroll on a full- or part-time basis and complete classes during the day or evening.
The 67-credit curriculum provides comprehensive training in areas such as automotive engine performance, alignment and suspension, service and parts management, and automatic transmissions and transaxles. Students learn about the state's inspection regulations and procedures in preparation for certification as New York vehicle safety inspectors.
General education courses include technical math and composition for the STEM disciplines. Enrollees supplement coursework with practical experience in the school's facility. All students can complete an automotive technology internship that gives them real shop experience. Admission requires a high school diploma or equivalent and placement testing.
The College of Southern Nevada manages one of the largest automotive technology programs in the West. The associate in applied science (AAS) in automotive technology program offers five concentrations, including service technician and alternative fuels and hybrid technician. The AAS, delivered on three campuses, prepares students to pass the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's certification exams.
The 62-credit AAS in automotive technology with a service technician concentration provides training in areas such as engine repair, automotive brakes, steering and suspension, and powertrain removal and replacement. The fuels and hybrid technician concentration requires 60 credits that cover topics like engine repair, advanced automotive electronics, alternative fueled vehicles, and hybrid vehicles service techniques.
One of the nation's best auto mechanic schools, the college also offers short-term certificates in collision repair, diagnostic specialist, and auto maintenance and light repair. Admission requires a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Palm Beach State College's career certificate program (CCP) prepares students for jobs in the transportation industry. The CCP in automotive technology prepares students to sit for 10 entry-level certification exams. Topics covered include the diagnosis and repair of general engine, valve trains, engine block, cooling systems, and general suspension and steering systems.
The CCP in basic diesel service technology prepares students for professional-level Automotive Service Excellence exams T2, T4 and T6. Topics covered include the diagnosis and repair of general electric systems, valve train, and air and hydraulic brakes. Other CCP options include heavy equipment service technician and diesel maintenance technician. Admission requires Tests of Adult Basic Education scores.
Founded in 1961, Pitt Community College serves students on its campus in Winterville, North Carolina. The associate of applied science (AAS) in automotive systems technology requires 67-70 credits and prepares students to work in dealerships and repair shops. The curriculum covers the contents of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's certification exams. Full-time enrollees complete the degree in five semesters.
Students learn how to diagnose and repair various automotive systems, including braking, suspension and steering, engine repair, and automotive transmission/transaxles. The program requires a writing and inquiry course and general education electives.
The school also offers an automotive systems technology diploma, basic and advanced automotive electrical certificates, and basic and advanced automotive mechanical certificates. Students interested in a bachelor's degree can seamlessly transfer the AAS to the bachelor of science in industrial technology at East Carolina University. Admission to the auto mechanic vocational school requires a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Oregon's largest postsecondary institution, Portland Community College hosts four campuses and eight centers. PCC offers the 93-credit associate of applied science (AAS) in automotive service technology on the Sylvania campus. The curriculum prepares learners to sit for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's certification exams. Students learn how to diagnose and repair problems with various automotive systems, including electrical, suspension and steering, and automatic transmission/transaxle.
Students gain hands-on experience during the program's labs and when they provide maintenance and repair services to the public. The program accepts about 20 students per term, and enrollees must attend an information session.
PCC also offers a 90-credit AAS in auto collision repair technology, one of the largest programs of its kind on the West Coast. Students learn in a 17,000-square-foot facility on the Rock Creek campus. They study topics like frame analysis and repair, panel replacement, and auto body repair. Admission requires ALEKS placement testing.
Henry Ford College offers 150 programs on its campus in Dearborn, Michigan. The associate of applied science (AAS) in automotive technology combines theoretical instruction with hands-on training. The 65-credit curriculum holds certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Students develop proficiency in diagnosing, fixing, and maintaining various systems, including the combustion engine, ignition, electrical, and transmission. Participants also receive 10 hours a week of hands-on experience with an employer.
The school also offers an AAS in automotive service and an AAS in automotive service management with a technical concentration. Learners can seamlessly transfer any of the AAS degrees to one of four schools, including the 2+2 bachelor of applied science at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Admission requires a high school or GED diploma.
Metropolitan Community College manages a strong automotive program on the Longview campus in Missouri. The associate of applied science (AAS) in automotive technology offers four tracks: Ford ASSET, GM-ASEP, mechanical, and collision repair. The curriculum holds accreditation from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence at the master level.
The 76-80-credit Ford ASSET program trains technicians to work at Ford and Lincoln dealerships. Students develop skills in areas such as engine repair, braking systems, diagnosis and repair, and automotive electronic systems.
The 76-80-credit GM-ASEP option prepares students for entry-level positions at GM dealerships. The curriculum covers topics such as engine repair, manual drivetrains and axles, and automotive air conditioning for GM motors. Both degrees offer paid cooperative experiences at dealerships.
Graduates may seamlessly transfer either AAS to the bachelor of science in technology management program at Kansas State University. Admission requires ACT scores and placement testing.
Muskegon Community College is one of Michigan's oldest community colleges. Students can complete the associate of applied science in automotive technology in two years of full-time enrollment. The program prepares students to work as service technicians, mechanics, and parts specialists. The 62-credit program offers tracks in automotive management and automotive engineering.
All students complete general education courses in subjects such as English composition and technical math. They also complete 18 credits of general automotive technology coursework covering topics such as electrical systems, engine rebuilding, and alignment and suspension. Students pursuing the automotive management track develop proficiencies in the technical and managerial aspects of the business. Topics covered include driveability, hybrids and alternative fuels, automotive services, and management.
Learners in the automotive engineering track study physics, calculus, psychology, and macroeconomics. Admission requires a high school or GED diploma.
Part of the State University of New York system, Monroe Community College provides comprehensive learning opportunities on its campus in Rochester. The school's associate of applied science program offers three specializations: General Motors automotive service educational program (GM ASEP), Toyota/Lexus technical education network (T-TEN), and multi-manufacturer automotive. Each program trains technicians with a curriculum specific to the automobile brand.
The GM ASEP's 64-credit curriculum covers topics such as engine repair, electrical/electronic systems, steering and suspension, heating and air conditioning, and automotive braking. The 64-credit T-TEN and 63-credit multi-manufacturer automotive programs cover many of the same topics. All three programs require general education courses such as technical math, automotive physics, or personal money management.
Students receive on-the-job training at a dealer, learning how to perform services to meet standards established by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Admission requires a high school or GED diploma.
Clackamas Community College enrolls about 26,000 students annually. The two-year associate of applied science in automotive service technology prepares students to repair and maintain passenger cars and light trucks. The 94-95-credit curriculum meets standards established by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. The degree plan requires general education courses in areas such as technical math and occupational writing.
The technical core covers topics such as auto repair, brake systems, advanced electrical systems, and fuel and emission control systems. Students also learn how to perform tests and service hybrid systems. In addition to completing lab experiences embedded in the program, students build hands-on experience during a co-op with local employers.
Learners interested in short-term programs may consider certificates such as under hood technician and under care technician - manual transmission. Admission to this auto mechanic trade school requires math and writing placement testing.
South Texas College offers 127 programs on five campuses. The college partners with GM to offer an associate of applied science (AAS) in automotive technology. The degree blends classroom instruction with hands-on experience at a GM facility. The 60-credit curriculum includes general education courses in subjects such as psychology and speech communication.
The technical curriculum provides comprehensive training in areas such as automotive electrical systems, engine repair, engine performance analysis, and suspension and steering systems. Four practicums give trainees workplace training specific to GM automobiles and technology. Learners can also work on customer vehicles. One of the nation's best auto mechanic programs, the AAS prepares students to sit for industry certification exams.
The school also offers a standard AAS in automotive technology (not affiliated with GM) and two certificates: automotive technology and automotive maintenance and light repair. Admission to all programs requires a high school or GED diploma.
Coastal Pines Technical College offers several diplomas in automotive technology on its Waycross, Georgia, campus. The 40-credit automotive fundamentals diploma prepares students for careers in automotive service and repair. Occupational courses cover topics such as electrical systems, engine performance, and suspension and steering systems.
The 55-credit automotive technology diploma offers a more comprehensive curriculum than the fundamentals option. Students learn about auto engine repair, engine performance, manual drivetrain and axles, and automatic transmissions and transaxles.
Students can complete each diploma's three general education courses online or on one of CPTC's campuses. The school also offers automotive climate control technician and automotive engine repair technician certificates. All programs hold accreditation from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Admission requires a high school diploma or the equivalent and placement testing.
Hutchinson Community College offers 75 programs on four campuses in Kansas. HutchCC's associate of applied science in automotive technology prepares students to repair, service, and maintain all types of automobiles. Learners study topics such as electrical, brakes, suspension and steering, and drive train. Two courses focus on engine performance, including the diagnosis and repair of emissions control systems.
Students can use 15 elective credits to develop skills in areas such as welding and machining. Electives also explore the automotive technology business, including small business accounting and how to develop a business plan. The program holds accreditation from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Admission requires a high school diploma and placement testing.