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Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics - What They Do


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.

Employment
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.

Job Outlook
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.

Job Growth
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.

Earnings
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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Academic Programs of Interest

Automatic Transmission Service Technician
An Automatic Transmission Service Technician program will teach a student to remove, completely disassemble, check, replace worn and broken parts, and completely overhaul any automotive transmission. A typical Automatic Transmission Service Technician can expect to be fully competent in testing and ...more
Automotive Radiator Manufacturer and Repairer
An Automotive Radiator Manufacturer and Repairer program teaches students to remove, test, repair, and rebuild motor vehicle radiators. The program will generally take 3 years to complete. After graduating from the Automotive Radiator Manufacturer and Repairer program a student will have complete ...more
Automotive Refinishing Technician
An Automotive Refinishing Technician program teaches a student to paint and refinishe automobiles, trucks, and buses whether it's a result of a collision, restoration work or a custom-design paint job. As an Automotive Refinishing Technicians, you will be responsible for calculating the amount of ...more
Automotive Service Technician
An Automotive Service Technician program is designed to take a student with little or no experience in the automotive field and give them the necessary skills for employment as an apprentice mechanic in the Automotive Service Technician trade. In the Automotive Service Technician program you can expect ...more
Automotive Wheel Alignment and Brake Service Technician
An Automotive Wheel Alignment and Brake Service Technician program will teach a student how to check, align, replace and repair suspension systems, and overhaul drum and disc type braking systems. The program will generally take 2 years to complete. After graduating from the Automotive Wheel Alignment ...more
Commercial Transport Vehicle Mechanic
The Commercial Transport Vehicle Mechanic repairs and maintains transportation vehicles such as trucks, buses, and road transport equipment. This occupation is an apprenticeable trade that emerged to meet the needs of increased specialization in the transportation industry. ...more
Hydraulic Service Mechanic
The Hydraulic Service Mechanic Program teaches a student how to repair, maintain, adjust hydraulic units such as hoists, rams, jacks, lifting units and pumps. The Hydraulic Service Mechanic Program usually takes 5 years to complete. However, the program entails only work-based training. This allows ...more
Inboard - Outboard Marine Equipment Technician
As an Outdoor Power Equipment Technician student you can expect to learn general shop practices, 2 & 4 stroke engine theory and operation, repair and overhaul of small air cooled engines, outboards, inboards, quads, dirtbikes, personal watercraft and snowmobiles. It will also include servicing of the ...more
Marine Engine Mechanic
The Marine Engine Mechanic Program is designed to teach students how to install, repair and adjust gasoline/diesel engines and electrical/mechanical equipment in marine vessels. A student can expect to graduate from teh Marine Engine Mechanic Program within a 4 year period. Approx. 12 weeks of study ...more
Marine Repair Technician
The Marine Repair Technician Program will teach a student how to conduct repairs of a structural and/or cosmetic damage in wood, composite or metal motor and sail vessels up to 150 feet in length, including modifications, re-furbishing and upgrading. The Marine Repair Technician student will also ...more