Auto Mechanic
Schools & Training Programs
Tune-Up for a Career in Vehicle Maintenance

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When the car starts sputtering, most people start looking around for a good auto mechanic. Mechanics know how to pull an engine apart to find a problem—and then put it back together with a solution. As cars have become more and more sophisticated, so has the job of a mechanic. They must get in-depth training both in traditional mechanics as well as the electronic components common to most vehicles today, and stay up-to-date with developing technologies. Read on to find out more about educational opportunities and how to get started in the industry.

Best Mechanic Programs 2018-2019

2-Year Colleges

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.

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 Washburn Institute of Technology $5,472 18 82% 54% Yes Yes Yes

With its newly remodeled automotive lab, the Washburn University Institute of Technology's Auto Service Technician program provides students with both classroom and hands-on learning opportunities as they learn about the maintenance and repair of engines, brakes, transmissions and electrical systems in various types of vehicles. The program can be completed in 2 semesters by full-time students, or in 4 semesters by part-time and high school students. Upon completion, students will earn a 52-credit hour technical certificate and be eligible to pursue an associate or more advanced degree.

2 Salina Area Technical College $4,531 20 77% 4% Yes Yes Yes

Salina Area Technical College's Automotive Technology program prepares students for careers as general mechanics, brake specialists, transmission specialists, specialists in electronic systems and others. Students receive a personal tablet computer upon enrollment, and have the option of earning a technical certificate (53 credits) in 4 semesters or an Associate of Applied Science degree (68 credits) in 5 semesters. In addition to classroom and on-campus shop work, students also work in real-world situations as part of their education. While classes must be attended in-person, free online tutoring is available.

3 Central Louisiana Technical Community College $3,335 22 72% 20% Yes Yes Yes

Central Louisiana Technical Community College (CTCC) has an automotive program that prepares students to service all types of vehicles upon graduation. This 60-credit program is generally completed in 4 semesters based on a full-time schedule (15 or more hours per semester). Students who complete the entire program earn a technical diploma (the highest credential for the program), and may take the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification test. The program itself, as well as all of its instructors, are accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).

4 Arkansas State University-Mountain Home $2,256 12 51% 19% Yes Yes Yes

Arkansas State University's automotive program offers 2 options for students to gain entry-level skills as auto mechanics. They can earn a technical certificate in Automotive Systems Repair over the course of 2 semesters and 48 credits, or an Associate of Applied Science in Workforce Technology with an emphasis in automotive systems repair with 1 additional semester and 12 credits. ASU emphasizes hands-on training, and uses a curriculum developed by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) to lead to National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. Some core courses may be taken online; however, the majority of students' time is spent in the on-campus shop.

5 Lake Area Technical Institute $2,616 14 67% 22% Yes Yes Yes

Lake Area Technical Institute's (LATI) Automotive Technology program emphasizes hands-on training to prepare students for future careers as service technicians, transmission specialists and auto shop managers. This 18-month program is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), and instructors hold certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Graduates may also go on to complete a Light Duty Diesel Technology program; for this option, students earn their ASE certifications in Automobile and Light Truck over a summer session, or enroll for a third year of study (9 months), culminating in an AAS degree in addition to ASE certification.

6 Mitchell Technical Institute $3,488 8 70% 26% Yes Yes Yes

Mitchell Technical Institute's Diesel Power Technology AAS degree prepares students for careers as mechanics, service technicians or field technicians specifically for machinery in the agriculture industry. Graduates may also work in sales at agricultural power equipment dealerships. Students will learn the fundamentals of power trains, hydraulics, air conditioning and electrical systems, and will participate in an internship to gain hands-on experience. The degree requires 76 credits taken over 5 semesters. Various scholarships are available.

7 Brigham Young University-Idaho $3,920 2 53% 33% No Yes Yes

Brigham Young University-Idaho's Automotive Technology Program is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) and offers students several options. On-campus students may obtain bachelor's degrees in either automotive engineering, advanced vehicle systems or automotive technology (requiring 120 credits over 4 years), or obtain an associate degree in automotive technology (64 credits). Students must take at least one course online; those interested in pursuing their studies completely online may choose BYU's Auto Service Technology Certificate. Students in this program learn skills such as diagnosis and repair, maintenance, and automotive operation; credits earned can be applied toward a full automotive degree or translated directly into the workplace as a service adviser or technician. The certificate program is composed of 17 credits, with each course worth 2-3 credits.

8 Cabell County Career Technology Center $2,700 8 94% 29% No Yes Yes

High school students and adult learners interested in becoming entry-level automotive technicians may apply to the automotive technology program at Cabell County Career Technology Center. High school students spend half a day in class over 2 years, for a total of 1,080 hours, while adults can attend evening classes over 2 years for a total of 1,200 hours. Students spend the majority of their time in the lab. The high school program teaches 4 core courses (Fundamentals of Automotive Technology, Basic Engine Concepts, Brake Systems, and Suspension and Steering Systems); the adult program has additional subject areas. Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education with approval by the West Virginia Department of Education, students are able to earn hours to become certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). A student services coordinator assists with services such as job shadowing and job placement.

9 Alexandria Technical & Community College $4,768 8 64% 33% Yes Yes Yes

The Diesel Mechanics program at Alexandria Technical Community college uses both classroom and lab work to prepare graduates for work on construction and agricultural equipment, as well as truck repair and maintenance. Students can obtain an AAS degree with the completion of 108 credits over 2 years, or the Diesel Mechanics diploma with 99 credits over the course of 2 years. Many scholarships are available to students through ATC's various industry partnerships. Graduates go on to jobs as diesel technicians, fleet mechanics and field service technicians.

10 Mesalands Community College $1,320 4 38% 40% Yes Yes Yes

In Mesalands Community College's Power Technology program, students may earn an Associate of Applied Science in either automotive technology or diesel technology with 61 credit hours, or an applied science certificate in either field with 37 credits. Programs provide students with the fundamentals and knowledge to service and repair vehicles pertaining to their specialization. Certificates can take as little as 6 months to 1 year to complete, while AAS degrees take 2 years or 4 semesters.

11 South Seattle College $3,393 44 - 8% Yes Yes Yes
12 Weber State University $4,611 6 50% 58% Yes Yes Yes
13 Arkansas Tech University $5,256 10 47% 40% Yes Yes Yes
14 Northern Michigan University $9,330 14 52% 82% Yes Yes Yes
15 Ferris State University $11,144 14 51% 69% Yes Yes Yes
16 Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas $2,445 20 37% 21% Yes Yes Yes
17 Pittsburg State University $5,396 6 51% 59% Yes Yes Yes
18 Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College $4,171 18 59% 17% Yes Yes Yes
19 Lakeshore Technical College $3,910 10 58% 6% Yes Yes Yes
20 Alfred State College $6,470 12 56% 83% No Yes Yes
21 Pickens Technical College $2,280 10 79% 4% Yes Yes Yes
22 Eastern Arizona College $2,400 16 31% 34% Yes Yes Yes
23 Northeast Community College $2,700 10 48% 40% Yes Yes Yes
24 Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Campus $1,800 20 30% 34% Yes Yes Yes
25 State University of New York at Delhi $6,470 8 55% 79% No Yes Yes
26 Athens Technical College $2,136 40 30% 3% Yes Yes Yes
27 Hutchinson Community College $2,688 10 33% 66% Yes Yes Yes
28 North Seattle College $3,393 16 - 19% Yes Yes Yes
29 Manhattan Area Technical College $4,290 10 53% - Yes Yes Yes
30 Traviss Technical College $2,851 24 86% 15% No Yes Yes
31 Southwest Wisconsin Technical College $4,002 8 51% 21% Yes Yes Yes
32 Trenholm State Community College $3,510 14 34% 18% Yes Yes Yes
33 Northwest Iowa Community College $4,710 12 56% 37% Yes No Yes
34 Southside Virginia Community College $4,133 20 36% 19% Yes Yes Yes
35 Washburn University $7,644 2 38% 64% Yes Yes Yes
36 Ridge Technical College $3,888 10 97% 8% No Yes Yes
37 University of West Alabama $7,286 2 36% 57% Yes Yes Yes
38 Williston State College $3,399 6 41% 91% Yes No Yes
39 Idaho State University $5,243 40 36% 62% Yes Yes Yes
40 Lake Region State College $3,326 10 37% 61% Yes Yes Yes
41 University of Arkansas-Fort Smith $3,840 14 31% 48% Yes Yes Yes
42 Randolph Community College $1,824 12 25% 15% Yes Yes Yes
43 Lurleen B Wallace Community College $3,510 6 27% 36% Yes Yes Yes
44 Seward County Community College $1,888 20 38% 42% Yes Yes Yes
45 Miles Community College $3,720 6 42% 55% Yes Yes Yes
46 Stanly Community College $2,432 4 29% 11% Yes Yes Yes
47 Dodge City Community College $1,410 8 42% 52% Yes Yes Yes
48 Moraine Park Technical College $3,965 16 46% 12% Yes Yes Yes
49 Morrisville State College $6,470 10 53% 85% No Yes Yes
50 Garden City Community College $1,824 8 31% 44% Yes No Yes

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.

Brady Marchant, owner of DogOn Automotive

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.
Community College

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:

Course Description
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.
Apprenticeship Program

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:

Progressive learning

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.

Technical skill development

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.

  • Available resources

    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).

  • School accreditation

    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.

  • Specialties available

    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
1 West Virginia 4,610 6.51
2 Montana 2,720 6.15
3 Maine 3,580 6.10
4 Missouri 16,060 6.01
5 Vermont 1,800 5.98

Highest-Paying States for Auto Mechanics:

State Annual Mean Wage (2014)
1 District of Columbia $52,560
2 Alaska $52,050
3 New Jersey $46,240
4 Massachusetts $45,250
5 Maryland $44,950

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:

Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)

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.

ASE Master Certification

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

  • Customer service

    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.

  • Troubleshooting ability

    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.

  • Identifying solutions

    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.

  • Technical expertise

    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.

  • Hands-on experience

    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.

Additional Resources

  • 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.

  • Diagnostic News

    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.

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