Best Online Auto Mechanic Programs 2021

Going to trade school to become an auto mechanic can unlock a higher potential salary, prepare you for certification, and improve your knowledge base.

May 26, 2022 • 6 Min Read

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

true Q. How long does it take to complete an auto mechanic program?

According to the BLS, most auto mechanic programs take six months to complete. Auto mechanics typically do not need an associate or bachelor's degree.

true Q. Do I need a license to be an auto mechanic?

Many employers require auto mechanics to hold certification, but most states do not require professionals to hold licensure to perform car repairs. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) provides certification for workers in the field.

true Q. Why go to school to become an auto mechanic?

While some mechanics can earn an entry-level position by completing on-the-job training, most employers offer higher salaries to individuals with a degree or certificate. Higher education can also help employees secure leadership roles.

Q. Can I get financial aid to become an auto mechanic?

Students at many trade schools can obtain federal funding, including grants and subsidized loans. Additionally, some trade schools offer need-based scholarships.

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.

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Salary Summary
Lowest 10% Median Annual Salary Highest 10%
Less than $24,400 $42,090 More than $68,880

Source: BLS

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.

Auto Mechanic Certification and Licensing

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Automotive Hall of Fame Scholarship

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: Varies

Automotive Aftermarket Scholarships

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: Varies

ShearComfort Scholarship

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: $1,500

TechForce Foundation Scholarships

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: Varies

Women in Auto Care Scholarship

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: Varies

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.

  1. City Colleges of Chicago

    Chicago, IL



    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.

  2. Sinclair Community College

    Dayton, OH



    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.

  3. Central New Mexico Community College

    Albuquerque, NM



    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.

  4. Florida State College at Jacksonville

    Jacksonville, FL



    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.

  5. Ivy Tech Community College

    Indianapolis, IN



    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.

  6. College of Lake County

    Grayslake, IL



    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.

  7. Richland Community College

    Decatur, IL



    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.

  8. Delta College

    University Center, MI



    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.

  9. Miami Dade College

    Miami, FL



    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.

  10. Chemeketa Community College

    Salem, OR



    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.

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