Automotive Technology Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career in automotive technology? Get real job descriptions and training requirements to see if a career in automotive technology is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Automotive Technology

Automotive service professionals are responsible for inspecting and repairing vehicles. Professionals commonly associated with this field include automotive mechanics, automotive body repairers and diesel mechanics. Here is a brief comparison of these occupations:

Automotive MechanicAutomotive Body RepairerDiesel Mechanic
Career OverviewAutomotive mechanics repair and maintain cars and trucksAutomotive body repairers replace and restore damaged parts on vehiclesDiesel mechanics repair and service vehicles that are powered by diesel engines
Education RequirementsHigh school diploma required, but some employers may prefer postsecondary trainingHigh school diploma required, but some employers may prefer postsecondary trainingHigh school diploma required, but some employers may prefer postsecondary training
Program Length6-12 months for certificate programs, 2 years for associate's degree6-12 months for certificate programs, 2 years for associate's degree6-12 months for certificate programs, 2 years for associate's degree
Other TrainingOn-the-job training requiredOn-the-job training and continuing education requiredOn-the-job training and continuing education required
Certification and/or LicensingEmployers may prefer or require National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification or vendor-specific certifications; license required to handle refrigerants Employers may prefer or require ASE, Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair or vendor-specific certificationsOptional ASE certification; commercial driver's license required to test-drive large trucks and buses
Experience RequiredNone, entry-level None, entry-level None, entry-level
Job Outlook for 2012-2022Average growth (9% increase)*Average growth (13% increase for all automotive body and glass repairers)*Average growth (9% increase)*
Mean Annual Salary (2014)$39,980*$43,870*$45,160 (for all bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Automotive Mechanic

Auto mechanics diagnose problems, perform repairs and handle routine maintenance on motor vehicles. Also known as automotive service technicians, they replace faulty components, rebuild engines and transmissions, rotate tires, lubricate parts and perform other duties to ensure proper vehicle operation. They use power tools, hand tools and diagnostic equipment. Some automotive mechanics specialize in certain areas, such as transmissions, engines and brakes, and ASE certifications are available for different specializations. Most automotive mechanics are employed by automotive repair businesses, dealerships and automotive parts stores.

Requirements

A high school diploma or its equivalent is typically required for employment as an automotive mechanic. You can expect to receive on-the-job training when you start out, and it takes several years to learn how to repair the various automotive components. If you handle refrigerants, you need to pass the Environmental Protection Agency exam and obtain a license. Some employers prefer to hire candidates who have postsecondary training in automotive technology, and many expect employees to possess ASE certification or vendor-specific training for vehicles manufactured by companies like Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.

This is what employers were looking for in November 2012:

  • A leading tire manufacturer was seeking an ASE-certified automotive mechanic with more than 5 years of experience to diagnose, maintain and repair vehicles at one of its locations in Hawaii.
  • A garage in Illinois sought a master automotive mechanic to inspect, service and repair domestic and imported vehicles. Requirements included ASE certification and more than 7 years of experience. Candidates were also required to provide their own tools.
  • An automotive and parts manufacturing facility in Texas was looking for a lube technician with at least 1 year of automotive experience. ASE certification was required.

Standing Out

You can get a head start in the automotive field by studying computer science, electronics and automotive repair in high school. Although some employers are willing to hire entry-level automotive mechanics with only a high school education, if you want to advance quickly, you may want to continue your studies by completing a postsecondary certificate or degree program in automotive technology. ASE certification is another way to demonstrate your competence to employers and can help you earn a higher salary. If you want to reach the top of this field, you can become a master technician by passing 8 ASE certification exams, including those in engine performance, heating and air conditioning, electrical/electronic systems, brakes and engine repair.

Automotive Body Repairer

Automotive body repairers fix damaged vehicles. They replace parts, refinish surfaces by sanding and priming, hammer out dents and perform other tasks needed to restore a vehicle to its original condition. Automotive body repairers use hand tools, hydraulic jacks and equipment that cuts metal. Some specialize in collision repair, while others specialize in glass repair and replacement. Jobs for automotive body repairers are most commonly found in automotive repair shops and dealerships.

Requirements

Automotive body repair certificate programs are offered by vocational and technical schools, and some community colleges offer both certificate and degree programs in the trade. Some employers don't require postsecondary education, and on-the-job training is typically provided. Many employers require candidates for automotive body repair positions to have a valid driver's license.

The following are actual job postings that appeared in November 2012:

  • An automotive sales and repair company in Pennsylvania wanted to hire an automobile body technician to prepare vehicles for body repair, perform body repairs and maintain equipment. Candidates were required to have a clean driving record.
  • A North Carolina automobile dealership was looking for an automotive body/collision repair technician with at least 2 years of experience and a valid driver's license. Duties included estimating the cost of repairs, performing body repairs, painting repaired surfaces and straightening bent frames.
  • An automotive plaza in Ohio sought an automobile body technician with knowledge of AutoCAD, equipment maintenance and safety procedures to evaluate damage, order parts and perform repairs. Candidates had to be skilled with power tools, welding and fabrication.

Standing Out

Certification in automotive body repair can improve your chances of success in the job market and opportunities for career advancement. The ASE offers a number of certifications for automotive body repairers in the areas of painting and refinishing, non-structural analysis and damage repair, structural analysis and damage repair and mechanical and electrical components. If you pass the tests for all of these areas, you can become an ASE-certified master collision repair technician. You must provide proof of at least 2 years of work experience or a combination of experience and formal training to be eligible for ASE certification. Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair and vendor-specific certifications are also available.

Diesel Mechanic

Diesel mechanics maintain and repair vehicles that are powered by diesel engines. They diagnose problems, replace faulty parts, change the oil, overhaul engines and perform the other tasks necessary to keep the vehicles in working order. The types of vehicles they work on include trucks, boats, buses, tractors and bulldozers. They are employed by automotive repair shops, local governments and the trucking industry.

Requirements

A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for employment as a diesel mechanic; some employers look for mechanics who've also completed a postsecondary program in diesel technology. On-the-job training is provided, and vendor-specific training is available as well. Since some diesel mechanics test-drive large vehicles, like heavy trucks and buses, employers sometimes require their mechanics to have a commercial driver's license.

Employers were looking for the following in November 2012:

  • A Georgia company was seeking a diesel mechanic with at least 3 years of experience to service refrigerated delivery trucks. Duties included replacing engine transmissions, performing engine overhauls and repairing suspension, hydraulic and electrical systems.
  • A transportation firm in Texas sought an experienced diesel mechanic to perform diagnostics and repair heavy-duty trucks and trailers. Preventive maintenance experience and familiarity with Department of Transportation and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations were required.
  • A New Jersey dairy was looking for a diesel fleet mechanic with more than 2 years of experience to inspect, service and repair diesel-powered vehicles. Other duties included cleaning, painting and record-keeping. A commercial driver's license was required.

Standing Out

ASE certification is a good way to prove your expertise in this field and increase your value to employers. The ASE offers several types of certifications for diesel mechanics, including those in electronic diesel engine diagnosis, school buses, medium-heavy trucks and transit buses. You must pass an exam and have at least 2 years of experience in order to be certified.

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