How to Advance (Advancement)
ASE certification has become a standard credential for automotive service technicians. While not mandatory for work in automotive service, certification is common for all experienced technicians in large, urban areas. Certification is available in eight different areas of automotive service, such as electrical systems, engine repair, brake systems, suspension and steering, and heating and air-conditioning. For certification in each area, technicians must have at least 2 years of experience and pass the examination. Completion of an automotive training program in high school, vocational or trade school, or community or junior college may be substituted for 1 year of experience. For ASE certification as a Master Automobile Technician, technicians must pass all eight examinations.
By becoming skilled in multiple auto repair services, technicians can increase their value to their employer and their pay. Experienced technicians who have administrative ability sometimes advance to shop supervisor or service manager. Those with sufficient funds many times open independent automotive repair shops. Technicians who work well with customers may become automotive repair service estimators. They may also find work as educators.
Automotive service technicians and mechanics held about 763,700 jobs in 2008. Automotive repair and maintenance shops and automobile dealers employed the majority of these workers, with 31 percent working in shops and 28 percent employed by dealers. In addition, automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores employed 7 percent of automotive service technicians. Others worked in gasoline stations; automotive equipment rental and leasing companies; Federal, State, and local governments; and other organizations. About 16 percent of service technicians were self-employed, compared with 7 percent of all installation, maintenance, and repair occupations.
The number of jobs for automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow slower than the average for all occupations, although many job openings will arise as experienced technicians retire. Opportunities should be good for those who complete postsecondary automotive training programs, as some employers report difficulty finding workers with the right skills; those without formal automotive training are likely to face competition for entry-level jobs.
Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is expected to increase by 5 percent between 2008 and 2018, slower than the average for all occupations. Continued growth in the number of vehicles in use in the United States will lead to new jobs for workers performing basic car maintenance and repair. More entry-level workers will be needed to perform these services, such as oil changes and replacing worn brakes. Additionally, the average lifespan of vehicles is increasing, which will further increase the demand for repair services, especially post-warranty work. The increasing use of advanced technology in automobiles will also lead to new opportunities for repair technicians, especially those with specialized skills or certifications. Workers with expertise in certain makes or models of vehicles, or with an advanced understanding of certain systems, such as hybrid-fuel technology, will be in demand. At the same time, consolidation in the automobile dealer industry, a significant employer of technicians, will limit the need for new workers.
In addition to openings from growth, many job openings will be created by the need to replace retiring technicians. Job opportunities are expected to be very good for those who complete postsecondary automotive training programs and who earn ASE certification. Some employers report difficulty in finding workers with the right skills. People with good diagnostic and problem-solving abilities, training in electronics, and computer skills are expected to have the best opportunities. Those without formal automotive training are likely to face competition for entry-level jobs.
Most new job openings will be in automobile dealerships and independent repair shops where most automobile service technicians currently work. However, the large-scale restructuring and closing of many automobile dealerships will lead to fewer openings in dealer service centers for the initial part of the next decade.
Median hourly wages of automotive service technicians and mechanics, including commission, were $16.88 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.44 and $22.64 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.56, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28.71 per hour.
Many experienced technicians employed by automobile dealers and independent repair shops receive a commission related to the labor cost charged to the customer. Under this system, weekly earnings depend on the amount of work completed. Employers frequently guarantee commissioned technicians a minimum weekly salary. Some employees offer health and retirement benefits, but such compensation packages are not universal and can vary widely.
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