Being and auto mechanic or technician is an interesting and challenging career for people with a technical or hands on bent. Though not the highest paying profession in the world, it’s quite possible to make respectable salary with this type of work. It can be a rewarding and reasonably well paid career for those who like cars, like problems solving of a straightforward and technical nature, and enjoy physical type work.
The salary range for this job tends vary a bit, bit as a rough estimate it is around $12 to $15 an hour. Job seniority and experience can take it up to over $20 hourly. The US Bureau of Labor statistics gives the 2008 median hourly wage for automobile repair technicians as $16.88. The site Salary.com puts the current median yearly range between $29,104 and $38,425. The total range this site gives is between $25,322 and $43,128. These figures are roughly coherent with each other, though they suggest that the bottom of the range has gone up slightly since 2008.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Most people are fairly familiar with the type of work that auto service technicians perform. They generally handle many phases of repair and maintenance of automobiles. This may include diagnosis of vehicle problems, recalibration or repair of existing parts, replacement of various parts, entire engine repairs, replacement, or overhaul, routine maintenance such as oil changes and tire care, and vehicle inspections. They usually spend a large portion of their work day in a garage type vehicle repair environment performing the repairs and maintenance.
Though much of the work is fairly basic and hands on, there is increasingly a high tech side to automotive repair. The technician may run diagnostic tools that extract information from the automobile’s on board computer and recommend various repairs. The systems installed in automobiles are themselves becoming somewhat more complex, so auto technicians are often required to have a more in depth knowledge of electrical and electronic systems than in the past. They must be prepared with documentation –in the form of manuals and guide books that can be used for reference in certain more advanced type repair situations.
The job outlook for the automotive technician career field is reasonable though it is expected to grow and expand somewhat more slowly than a number of other professions. A 5% increase by the year 2018 (from the 2008 job demand levels) is expected. Generally speaking, individuals with post secondary education (i.e. some type of college education) are expected to fare the best in finding and maintaining jobs. As the field gradually becomes more technical, repair shop owners are increasingly requiring employees with greater education and formally technical background.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
It is possible to get started working in automotive repair after having completed a high school (secondary) level training program. Many of these programs are offered at high schools throughout the country. The most highly regarded of these courses are ones that are part of the Automotive Youth Education Service (AYES). This program represents a partnership between auto manufacturers, dealers, and auto repair educational programs.
As far as post secondary education goes, most college programs take form of either 2 year associate degree programs or shorter certification programs. These programs are often offered at community colleges and include a number of standard academic subjects such as math and English along with automotive repair classes.
There are also educational programs offered through auto dealerships and auto repair companies. There may be a partnership between colleges and dealerships or shops in which a student alternates actual work in a repair shop with classroom study.
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (abbreviated ASE) certification is the most widely accepted and standard automotive repair certification. There are eight concentrations in which a technician may become ASE certified such as engine repair, brake repair, and heating and air conditioning to name a few. Certification is gained by accruing 2 years of shop experience in one the concentrations and passing the ASE certification exam.
It should be noted that ASE or any other certification (or even formal education) is not required by law for an individual to work as an automotive technician. An individual could conceivably learn about auto repair on their own, be hired by a garage, and begin an informal educational process that way. However, certification and formal training are recommended, especially considering the increasingly high tech nature of auto repair work today. As with any other career field, self and on-the-job educated individuals can often go quite far, but the added credentialing provided by education and certifications can prove a very valuable asset as well.
The ASE is one of the major professional associations in the auto repair field, but there are a number of others such as the Automotive Service Association (ASA), and the National Automotive Technicians Education Association. In addition to these and other national level trade associations there are literally hundreds of local and regional associations that coordinate, oversee, and maintain standards in automotive repair work and education. Membership in these associations helps regulate the industry and is a valuable credential for auto techs to put on their resumes when searching for a job.
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