Becoming an Auto Mechanic
If you’re fascinated by the mechanics of cars, becoming an auto mechanic might be a good career choice. The job has a relatively low stress level, offers great work-life balance and is good for people who enjoy the challenge of improving and upgrading vehicles. It also provides a decent income with plenty of career advancement opportunities.
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Mechanics can find work in car dealerships, independent garages and auto repair shops. Many shops have an apprenticeship system in which an apprentice works under a master technician for several years before working independently. Some shop employees earn a commission on parts or services that they sell. Others take private clients outside of their normal work hours and area, often for a fee or to make a profit.
Training and Education: Getting an associate’s degree in automotive technology or an associated field can help you build the skills you need for an auto repair career. Mechanics may also choose to attend vocational school or go to college and earn a bachelor’s degree in automotive technology.
The automotive industry is changing rapidly, and many of the systems in vehicles have become computerized. This has increased the level of difficulty in diagnosing and repairing problems, according to David Searles, director of training for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
Even the most basic repairs require special tools that aren’t readily available from a hardware store. A technician must also know how to read the electronic diagnostic codes in the vehicle, which can be a complex process.
Another major factor in the mechanics’ success is their knowledge of vehicles and the various components that make them work. Those who have worked on a variety of different models of cars can be able to quickly diagnose problems that might seem unusual to someone else. This is especially true when you are helping friends or family members with their cars.
A technician that is familiar with the complexities of many vehicles can also be more confident about estimating costs and explaining them to customers. This can be a valuable skill in business, as it helps you gain customer trust and earn repeat business.
Certifications: To be certified, a technician must complete an educational program and pass exams that cover specific areas of car repair. These areas include electrical/electronic systems, automatic transmission/transaxle, heating and air conditioning, suspension and steering, breaks an manual drivetrain axles, and diesel engines.
Mechanics with advanced certifications in certain fields are more likely to get promoted and make higher salaries than those who aren’t certified, according to ASE. In addition, many employers prefer hiring an experienced technician because they are able to get the job done faster and more efficiently than a newcomer.
Career Outlook: With more and more Americans driving electric vehicles, the automotive industry is expected to experience a booming job market over the next few years. The shortage of auto mechanics, coupled with the upcoming retirement of Baby Boomers, means that there will be a high demand for skilled and knowledgeable technicians who can troubleshoot and fix a variety of vehicles.
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