Car Installation Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary

About this article
Car installation technicians' median annual salary of about $31,020. Is it worth the training requirements? Read to find out job descriptions, salary information and more to see if becoming a car installation technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Car Installation Technician

Car installation technicians install all types of electronic accessories for automobiles: for instance, they may install stereos, CD players, alarms and navigation systems. Consider the below pros and cons to decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of Being a Car Installation Technician
Not much formal education needed (high school diploma or associate's degree)*
Most workers worked full time jobs*
Some degree of creativity on the job**
Ability to build business relationships with customers**

Cons of Being a Car Installation Technician
Expected employment decline (-6% for 2012-2022)*
Heavy lifting may be required for some tasks*
Some degree of risk in the occupation (due to tools and equipment)*
Some work areas may be noisy*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **O*NET OnLine.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Car installation technicians place optional accessories into motor vehicles. Normally, these accessories are electronic and include CD players, sound systems, speakers, video systems, cell phone accessories, navigation equipment, security systems and DVD players. They also diagnose, repair and test systems. New systems may require the installation of boxes to hold speakers, which requires removal of many parts of a car (seats, carpeting, etc.). They must also add sound-absorbing material, additional fuses and new electrical cables.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Because factories already install advanced equipment in new cars, the demand for car installation technicians may be limited. Additionally, new car technology may not need much maintenance. The BLS projects an employment decline (-6%) for these workers in the 2012-2022 decade.

According to the BLS, in May 2014, car installation technicians made a mean annual salary of about $32,920. The lower quarter of these workers made annual wages ranging from $18,330 to $23,180. The highest-paid workers made about $49,290.

What Are the Requirements for the Job?

In order to qualify for the job, you need a background in electrical equipment. Some companies prefer applicants with an associate's degree, although a high school diploma or the equivalent may be acceptable for some jobs. Beginner technicians work with more experienced technicians who can give them guidance and advice. After a training period, these professionals may gain more autonomy in their work.

In order to be an effective car installation technician, you'll need to have these following qualities:

  • Dexterity
  • Ability to distinguish colors
  • Interest in cars and technology
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Good customer service skills
  • Physical fitness (for heavy lifting)

Real Job Postings from Employers

Typically, you can expect employers to give general education expectations in their job postings. While many employers don't require any education beyond a high school diploma, some employers prefer those who have certification and experience in installation. Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com had the following job postings in April 2012:

  • A Massachusetts-based company searched for technicians who could work in Massachusetts, Hawaii, Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon, Florida, Virginia or Texas. They wanted applicants to have a high school diploma, and they also preferred workers with a Mobile Electronics Certified Professional (MECP) certification. Applicants would have a driver's license and prior experience in installing mobile electronics.
  • An electronics services firm in Texas needed a field technician who could install electronics like GPS systems, stereo systems and car alarms. The applicants would be able to provide quality customer service and could travel to installation locations. High school education was needed.
  • A retailer of electronics in New Jersey asked for a mobile installer with high school education and at least two years of experience. Applicants would be able to travel to designated locations to install car alarms, video systems and speakers.
  • Another retailer of mobile electronics located in Oregon required an installer with good customer service skills and a flexible schedule. They preferred applicants with a MECP certification and could speak Spanish.

How to Stand Out?

Most employers prefer that a candidate have a MECP certification. You can become certified by taking an exam in a testing center. These exams ask comprehensive questions on real technical issues and troubleshooting. There are three levels of certification for technicians: basic installation technician, advanced installation technician and master installation technician. These levels have varying work requirements. The MECP certifications must be renewed every 2-4 years. You can find out more information on the MECP website (www.mecp.com).

Alternative Careers

Automotive Service Technician and Mechanic

If you're looking for a career in cars that has a better career outlook, then you can become an automotive mechanic/technician. The BLS expects that these workers have a 17% employment growth for 2010-2020, since automobile maintenance is needed on a regular basis. The BLS states that these technicians make a median annual salary of about $36,000 as of May 2011.

These workers provide broader maintenance services and routine care, like tire rotations or oil changes. While they may have a better employment outlook, technicians and mechanics work irregular hours, which may include weekends, overtime and evenings. Similar to car installation technicians, these workers only need high school education and vocational training. Some technicians must be licensed.

Electrician

If you want a job that has better employment growth and salaries than a car installation technician, then you can also consider becoming an electrician. The minimum educational requirements are generally the same, but you would have to undergo a 4-year apprenticeship period (which is paid) with a more experienced worker. Electricians are usually required to have a license to work.

Electricians help wire and repair electrical systems for a variety of settings. They face some health risks in their jobs, but they are trained in safety procedures that address those risks. The BLS projects a favorable growth (23%) for 2010-2020. In May 2011, these workers made a median annual salary of about $49,000.

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