Schools & Training Programs Tune-Up for a Career in Vehicle Maintenance
Brady Marchant's Bio
Best Mechanic Programs 2018-2019
Hands-on learners who are intrigued by the inner-workings of automobiles are increasingly choosing mechanic training schools and training programs to receive the knowledge and credentials required for employment. With so many schools offering mechanic training programs, it can be easy to become overwhelmed while choosing the best school. To make this process easier, we have ranked schools that offer programs in this field based on factors such as tuition rates, financial assistance opportunities and class size. Explore the list below to find the top mechanic schools and training programs for 2018-2019.
Auto Mechanic Training: Snapshot
It would be great if auto care only involved changing the oil and rotating the tires. Unfortunately, cars break, and it often takes the knowledge of a professional auto mechanic to return them to working order. Mechanics are skilled in testing various parts and systems, and using to diagnostic tools to identify and fix problems. They play a pivotal role in keeping vehicles safe on the road. Graduates of auto mechanic training programs have the hands-on experience needed to enter the field, pass certification exams, and help customers effectively.
There were almost 740,000 jobs for auto mechanics and technicians in 2014, with a projected increase of 5 percent in the field through 2024.
Carving out a niche often helps in marketability: many auto mechanics become experts in certain areas, like brake repair or engine diagnostics.
Median pay for auto mechanics was roughly $37,000 in 2014, with workers in urban areas and those with specialized skills typically earning more.
Entry-level mechanics can expect to spend two to five years learning the ropes before becoming full technicians.
How to Become an Auto Mechanic: Education & Training
You have to be willing to research and learn. In this day and age, there are so
many resources available; you have to use them. The automotive industry is constantly changing and evolving. If you're willing to read, use the Internet, watch and learn, you'll be able to change with the times.
Holding a degree or certificate in automotive technology isn’t an absolute requirement for entry-level positions, but it’s desired by most employers, especially as automotive technology becomes more advanced. Many future mechanics take vocational or trade courses in high school to get formal training, and enter the workforce immediately upon graduating. In general, a trade school education should prepare the graduate for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) examinations. From there, auto mechanics can earn certifications in various specialty areas and work their way up into more advanced positions.Vocational & Trade School
Time to Complete: 12 months
Credential Earned: Certificate or diploma; Students should be prepared for ASE exams and certification
Applicants to an auto mechanic vocational or trade school should hold a high school diploma or GED, unless the program is part of a partnership with a local high school. Students will learn how to diagnose problems and maintain and repair vehicles of all types. Courses typically cover automotive power trains, brakes, climate control, engine repair and emissions repair. Some programs offer additional training in power and performance, diesel technology, and street rod or other specialty vehicles.
Students use a wide range of skills and technology to work on automobiles. Below is a sampling of typical courses that students take at the vocational school level.
|Basic Engine Management Systems||Introduces basic principles of electricity, batteries, engine theory, component inspection, and diagnosis.|
|Automotive Brake Systems||Provides a comprehensive overview of the design, operating principles, maintenance and service of brake systems.|
|Electrical Systems||Students learn about the theories of basic and solid state circuitry, including body electrical systems, charging systems, starting systems and lighting systems. They may also learn about operation and service of automotive storage batteries.|
|Drivetrain Systems||Covers the components that make vehicles move, including transmission hydraulics and clutches, transaxles, four-wheel drive, and manual clutches.|
Time to Complete: 2 years
Credential Earned: Associate degree
Applicants to associate degree programs must have a high school diploma or GED, or permission from the college to begin taking courses prior to high school graduation. Students must take required general education courses in addition to those required for the major. Students gain an understanding of brake systems, suspension and steering, electrical systems and heating and air conditioning systems, in preparation to take entry-level jobs and complete the ASE exams.
Automotive coursework is generally similar between community colleges and trade schools, but in community college students will also take general education courses to gain a more well-rounded education. Some automotive classes that are usually part of the curriculum include:
|Manual Transmission-Drivelines||Students learn about manual transmissions/transaxles and driveline components, including the function, construction, operation, inspection and troubleshooting of these devices.|
|Automatic Transmissions||Students look at the function, construction, operation, servicing and troubleshooting of transaxle automatic transmissions and rear-wheel drive systems.|
|Electronic Fuel Management Systems||Covers automotive fuel and emissions controls, focusing on microprocessor control systems.|
Time to Complete: 2,000 to 8,000 hours on the job (2 to 4 years), plus classroom time
Credential Earned: Certificate of completion
An apprenticeship program allows students to learn the trade through on-the-job training, giving them real-world experience that translates into marketability in the workforce. Programs may require a high school diploma or GED, although some are open to students in the last two years of high school. Many programs also allow students to choose a specialty area, such as body repair, servicing or transmission repair. Students also learn administrative and business management skills. Graduation requirements may include both work time and classroom time, but vary depending on the program.
Components of an Apprenticeship Program:
Not all apprenticeship programs require classroom time, but some have it built into the program. Students can expect apprentice programs to include:
On-the-job training typically begins with routine maintenance and service, such as replacing broken parts. From there, students move on to more complex tasks that involve diagnostics or hydraulic equipment. Advanced training sessions offered through manufacturers may be part of the program.Area-specific training
Students get training in skills specific to their specialty. Those specializing in diesel will study powertrain and ignition systems, for example, while electronics will be emphasized in general maintenance.
Students learn skills in specialized technical areas such as welding and soldering.General business skills
Because apprentices work in actual repair shops, they’re exposed to all areas of running a business, including keeping records or ordering supplies.Supporting education
Some programs may include courses in support areas such as English, math, and general business.
Before Enrolling: Mechanic School Checklist
Small class sizes
Small class sizes help students receive individualized instruction, and often afford more hands-on time with equipment. They also allow students to build relationships with instructors and fellow students.
Overall program cost
Look at the total cost of a program, including tuition, textbooks, tools or materials fees, and testing fees. Apprenticeships, unlike community college or vocational school programs, allow students to earn an income while training for their careers.
Take a campus tour to assess the resources available at the school. Consider services such as career counseling and academic assistance (such as tutoring or additional hands-on time).
Ensure the school is accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). This accreditation makes students eligible to sit for the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) exam upon graduation.
Students interested in a specialized area of automotive mechanics should check that it’s offered. Some schools allow students to take specialized classes concurrently with other courses, while others stipulate that basic requirements are met first.
Job & Salary Outlook for Auto Mechanics
From getting to work to shipping goods, the American economy runs on cars and trucks. As more vehicles hit the road, the career outlook for auto mechanics continues to grow. Auto mechanics are able to work in nearly any community across the country, though salaries are typically tied to the cost of living. In addition to opportunities as automotive service technicians, mechanics can also work in a variety of specialties such as body and glass repair, small engines, or diesel service. Overall, the need for specialty mechanics is growing faster than the need for service mechanics, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read on for more information about the various specialties and the job outlook for each.
Automotive Service Technicians & Mechanics
Job Growth: 5%
Annual Salary: $37,120
Typical Education: Postsecondary, non-degree
Automotive service technicians and mechanics identify problems with vehicles and test parts and systems to ensure they are in good working order. They perform basic car maintenance, such as oil changes, checking fluid levels and rotating tires, and make recommendations for the safety of the vehicles. They are employed by auto dealers, maintenance shops, and parts and accessory stores, often working evenings and weekends. About 10 percent of auto mechanics in the U.S. are self-employed.
Automotive Body & Glass Repairers
Job Growth: 9%
Annual Salary: $39,260
Typical Education: High school diploma or GED
Automotive body and glass repairers work in body shops on vehicles that have damage due to an accident. They realign car frames, weld replacement parts, and apply new finishes to restored body parts. They also repair or replace windows. Body and glass repairers generally work long hours and must lift and manipulate heavy objects.
Diesel Service Technicians & Mechanics
Job Growth: 12%
Annual Salary: $43,630
Typical Education: High school diploma or GED
Diesel mechanics work on trucks, buses and other equipment. They diagnose issues common to diesel vehicles and make repairs to engines, exhaust systems, emissions systems and brakes. Usually working with large vehicles, diesel mechanics use a variety of power and machine tools like pneumatic wrenches, grinding machines and welding equipment. About 19 percent of diesel mechanics work in the truck transportation field, and another 10 percent work for state and local governments.
Small Engine Mechanics
Job Growth: 4%
Annual Salary: $34,130
Typical Education: High school diploma or GED
A small engine mechanic works on small power equipment, from dirt bikes to chainsaws. The job generally requires the use of small hand tools, compression gauges and voltmeters. Small engine mechanics also use computerized equipment to calibrate the engines of higher-end vehicles. Many small engine mechanics work for vehicle dealers, while about 13 percent work in lawn and garden supply stores.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)
Top 5 States with the Highest Concentration of Auto Mechanics:
|State||Employment||Employment per 1,000 Jobs|
Highest-Paying States for Auto Mechanics:
|State||Annual Mean Wage (2014)|
|1||District of Columbia||$52,560|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014)
Mechanic Licenses & Certifications
While obtaining certification is not required for auto mechanics, it does demonstrate a commitment to improving skills, and some individual employers may require national certification. Auto mechanics typically seek the following certifications to move ahead in their careers and boost credibility in the profession:
This certification is issued by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation and is available to automotive technicians who have two years of on-the-job training or one year of work experience plus a two-year degree. More than 40 different certification tests cover nearly every facet of the industry. Practice tests are available on the ASE website, as well as a detailed list of what to expect on test day. Mechanics must retest every five years to keep their certifications current.
Experienced technicians who want to move forward in their careers can earn this certification, which applies to specific areas. Applicants take a series of tests in their chosen specialties, which include automobiles, truck equipment, school buses, collision repair, diesel engines, brakes, suspension and steering, and electrical/electronic systems. Tests are available throughout the year at testing centers across the country, and individuals must retest every five years. The certification is administered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
Essential Skills & Experience for Auto Mechanics
Mechanics need to be able to customers what is wrong with their vehicles, and outline the steps and involved in repairing them. No one wants to feel like they’re being gouged by high prices at the repair shop, so mechanics should be able to clearly explain all costs.
Sometimes figuring out what’s wrong with a vehicle is a guessing game, requiring a mechanic to diagnose the problem by eliminating others. Mechanics should be skilled in interpreting a car’s “symptoms” to diagnose problems, and understand how unaddressed problems may cause others.
Auto repairs are often expensive, so mechanics should be able to suggest less expensive solutions if possible, and explain to customers the relative benefits of various options. A good mechanic will take the time to educate customers so they can make informed decisions.
Automotive repairs require a gamut of tools, from the most basic screwdriver on up to advanced electronic equipment or heavy machinery. Mechanics should be familiar with an assortment of tools and their specialized uses. In addition, as automotive technology evolves, mechanics should take the time to stay on top of the latest developments.
There’s no substitute for practice and on-the-job experience. Exposure to multiple problems and types of vehicles broadens a mechanic’s knowledge base and hones the necessary skills needed to address both common and uncommon issues.
Automotive Maintenance & Repair Association
The main mission of this nonprofit trade association is to provide information to the general public, but it also represents the interests, policies and purposes of companies that provide auto maintenance and repair services.
Automotive Service Association
Since 1951, the ASA has worked to advance the professionalism of the auto repair industry. It educates and represents members through various services and resources.
AVI On Demand
Designed for industry professionals, this website offers fee-based online courses, ASE test prep, and some free courses.
Sponsored by AVI, this online tool helps keep mechanics up-to-date on the latest news in the automotive industry. It also has a library of tips and articles and a Q & A section.
International Automotive Technicians Network
The iATN is an international network of automotive professionals that promotes the growth, success and image of automotive professionals.