Pros and Cons of a Service Writer Career
Service writers use their knowledge of auto mechanics and skills in interpersonal communication to deliver the best services possible to people in need of vehicle repairs or maintenance. Check out the pros and cons of being a service writer to see if it's the right choice for you.
|Pros of Being a Service Writer|
|Positions only require a high school diploma*|
|On-the-job training is often available*|
|Work for various types of employers (governments, car dealerships, equipment distributors and repair stores)*|
|Voluntary certification available for career advancement*|
|Cons of Being a Service Writer|
|Low salary range ($21,000-$54,000 in 2015)**|
|Related work experience is usually required*|
|Service writers may have to work nights and weekends*|
|Requires strong customer service and mathematical skills*|
Sources: *California Occupational Guide, **PayScale.com
Essential Career Info
Job Description and Duties
Service writers, also called automobile service advisors, usually work in auto repair shops or dealerships, where they are responsible for completing administrative and customer service duties. As a service writer, you'll listen to customers describe their auto problems and perform drive tests to suggest repair options. Once the problems are identified, service writers write repair orders that tell the mechanics where the problems are located and the repair options.
Before the car repairs are made by a mechanic, you'll explain the repair procedure to the customers and give them a time and cost estimate. Other duties of service writers include listening to customer complaints, processing warranties, scheduling maintenance work and driving repaired cars to ensure they run properly. If you chose a career as a service writer, you should be ready to work night and weekend hours, and you will likely be working in a fast-paced environment that requires long periods of standing.
According to PayScale.com, the annual salary range for service writers was around $21,000-$54,000 as of July 2015. Whether you earn on the lower side of the salary range or the higher depends on many factors, such as the industry you work in and your experience. For example, recent high school graduates with no work experience earn less than people with over five years of sales experience.
What Are the Requirements?
A high school diploma and work experience in the automotive or administrative industry qualify you to work as a service writer. Since a college education is not typically required, you should enroll in auto mechanic classes or an Automotive Youth Educational Systems program while in high school. Students in these classes develop basic auto skills and knowledge, such as how to use diagnostic equipment and hand tools. Newly hired service writers usually receive on-the-job training or attend employer- or manufacturer-sponsored training programs before they can work unsupervised.
Additionally, you'll need a driver's license and a clean driving history, since service writers often test drive cars. Other qualifications service writers must have include:
- Manual dexterity
- Strong customer service skills
- Mathematical knowledge
- Problem-solving skills
- Knowledge of auto shop safety
What Employers Look for
Job postings for service writers show that employers request candidates who have high school diplomas and some sales experience. A range of technical and interpersonal skills are other qualities that employers seek. Here are a few examples of actual service writer job postings in July 2012:
- An auto repair store in South Carolina sought a service writer who has three years of customer service experience. Applicants were required to be physically fit, because the position required constant jogging, walking and standing and occasional crouching and kneeling. Other qualifications included strong mathematical knowledge and the ability to work weekends.
- A Kansas car dealership wanted candidates with clean driving records and experience using computer management systems, such as DealerTrack and Motor 3k/ALLDATA. The employer preferred applicants with sales and service writing experience.
- A heavy equipment distributor in Pennsylvania looked for a service writer familiar with Microsoft software and data entry. Applicants with college education, experience with Lawson software and office work experience were preferred.
- A car dealership in California looked for candidates capable of working flexible schedules that included night and weekends. Other qualifications included sales experience, problem solving skills, the ability to work with a team and organization skills.
- A company in Alaska advertised for a service writer with knowledge of diesel engines. Some job requirements included strong negotiation skills, creative thinking, computer skills and the ability to use QuickServe Online.
How to Beat the Competition
Demonstrate your competence in the field of mechanics and customer service by receiving the Automobile Service Consultant certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). To be eligible for the certification you must have two years of experience in service writing and pass a multiple-choice exam. The certification exam tests candidates on topics including shop operations, vehicle systems, communication, customer relations and sales knowledge.
There are no college degree programs or certificates in service writing, but you can set yourself apart from other applicants who only have high school diplomas by taking classes that will help you develop valuable skills. Courses in communication, marketing, automotive mechanics and automotive technology will benefit service writers since they spend much of their time talking to customers and solving their car problems. Computer and data entry classes will also be helpful to service writers who are responsible for administrative tasks. ASE certification and college classes can lead to higher salaries and advancement to a service manager position, a career with a salary range of $30,000-$81,000 in July 2012.
Other Careers to Consider
Automotive Service Technician
If you're more interested in working on cars than dealing with customers, automotive service technician is a career worth considering. These technicians perform any needed repairs or maintenance work on cars; therefore they need more mechanical knowledge than service writers. Most service technicians receive their training through short 6-month or 1-year postsecondary programs and on-the-job training. Employers also typically require technicians to be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median annual wage for service technicians at about $36,000 in May 2011.
Alternatively, you can become a parts salesperson for a dealership, home electronic store, auto repair store or equipment dealer. As a parts salesperson, you'll need excellent customer service skills, mechanical knowledge and knowledge of marketing principles. Your daily tasks will include solving customer complaints, recommending replacement parts, examining parts for defects and placing orders. Parts salespersons also need high school diplomas and some sales experience. The median annual salary for parts salespersons is relatively low, at around $29,000 in 2011, according to the BLS.
Cost estimators work for manufacturing companies, auto repair shops and construction companies, where they estimate the costs of services and materials needed for projects or products. Cost estimators need exceptional math, analytical and technical skills to be successful in their job. Employers typically hire cost estimators who have bachelor's degrees in fields such as construction management, engineering, statistics, business or finance. Before newly hired cost estimators can work unsupervised, they spend about a year learning the ropes from an experienced estimator. The BLS reported the median annual salaries of cost estimators at approximately $58,000 in 2011.