Best Automotive Trade School Programs 2024

ASO Staff Writers
Updated September 5, 2023
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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.

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Best Auto Mechanic Trade School Programs

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 Best Automotive Trade School Programs 2024

College of Lake County

  • Location-markerGrayslake, IL
  • 2 year
  • Campus
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,806
  • Out-of-state$11,914
  • Retention Rate71%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled13,743
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment23%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Automotive Trade School Programs 2024

Delta College

  • Location-markerUniversity Center, MI
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$5,910
  • Out-of-state$11,130
  • Retention Rate62%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled7,819
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment33%
  • AccreditationYes

Frequently Asked Questions about Careers as an Auto Mechanic

question-mark-circleHow 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.

question-mark-circleDo 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.

question-mark-circleWhy 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.

question-mark-circleCan 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 SalaryHighest 10%
Less than $24,400$42,090More 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.

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.

  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

    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.

  3. 3

    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.

  4. 4

    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.

  5. 5

    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.

plusAutomotive 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

plusAutomotive 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

plusShearComfort 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

plusTechForce 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

plusWomen 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

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