Emissions Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of an emissions technician career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming an emissions technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an Emissions Technician Career

Emissions technicians analyze and repair exhaust systems on motor vehicles, working within state and federal guidelines. Review the following pros and cons to decide if a career as an emissions technician is right for you.

Pros of Being an Emission Technician
Perform an essential duty for state automobile regulations*
Help car drivers see if their cars meet environmental standards*
Average job growth expected (9% between 2012-2022)*
Work with some of the latest automotive technology**

Cons of Being an Emission Technician
Few opportunities for advancement*
Labor-intensive working conditions**
Deadline sensitive**
Chemical-rich work environment**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine.

Essential Career Info

An emissions technician is an automobile technician who analyzes the air emissions that are coming from the exhaust of the motor vehicle. Professionally speaking, an emissions technician is an automotive technician or mechanic. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an automotive technician who conducts an emissions test typically connects electronic equipment to a car's computer and analyzes the emissions control systems. This gives the emissions technician the chance to see what chemicals and how much gas is being expelled from the car while it is running. Based on that data, the emissions technician can verify if the car is meeting state or federal emissions standards.

Salary and Job Growth Info

According to the BLS, most automobile service technicians and mechanics earn a median annual salary of $37,120, as of May 2014. This salary figure includes all technicians, not just emissions technicians. The lowest paid automotive technicians earned an annual average salary of $20,800, while the highest paid workers earned $62,280.

Although the industry is growing as fast as average (9% between 2012-2022), the BLS reports that there may not be as much of a need for new mechanics due to the improved quality of car performance. However, those with hybrid or computer training will have the best chances of gaining employment.

Training Requirements

Training to become an emissions technician involves vocational training during high school or through a community college program. High schools with vocational automotive programs are usually certified by the Automotive Youth Education Service (AYES), according to the BLS. This certification helps you graduate from high school with certification under the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), which help you gain entry-level jobs. However, the BLS reports that postsecondary training is usually the best preparation for this career.

What Do Employers Look for?

Many employers want technicians who are certified by the ASE or well-trained in most types of car repairs. It will also be helpful if you can demonstrate more skills than just emissions testing. Below are job postings from real employers in March 2012.

  • An Alabama automotive repair shop needs an ASE-certified technician to review or repair cars. Must know how to perform emissions testing, in addition to all Alabama safety requirements for motor vehicles.
  • A Pennsylvania car dealership wants a certified mechanic who has an emissions and inspection credential to check on the specific car brands brought to the dealership for check-ups and repairs. Must know or be familiar with Pennsylvania state inspection procedures to help cars pass an emissions test.
  • A Virginia car repair shop needs a general technician who can perform emissions tests along with a number of other duties. Must be able to follow Virginia state regulations and interpret the automobile computer system that controls the emissions system accurately.

How to Beat the Competition

The BLS states that certification has become a standard tool to highlight qualifications in a competitive pool of job applicants. Some states offer certification programs that allow you to gain state certification in emissions and inspection. These programs may be teamed up with schools or offered through a government department, such as the Department of Public Safety. To gain certification, you'll likely have to pass an exam that includes both written and practical portions. Additionally, you can receive ASE certification in a variety of specialities, including alternate fuels, damage analysis and advanced engine performance.

Other Careers to Consider

If you're interested in a career in the automotive industry, but don't want to check emissions, consider a career as an automotive body repair technician. An automotive body repair technician specifically repairs the aesthetic properties of a car, from the outer shell of the car to the glass. As an automotive body repair technician you can still working with cars in an auto repair shop; however, you do not replace parts in the car or check on the health of the engine and computer. You help replace and align the new exterior of the car onto the damaged automobile. The BLS predicts a 19% growth between 2010-2020, and the average salary for these workers is $42,000 as of May 2011.

If you'd like to specialize within the automotive industry, become a heavy vehicle technician. A heavy vehicle technician works specifically on large and commercial vehicles such as trucks or trains. The occupation is much more labor intensive as most parts are heavier than a typical automobile part. However, you will also need to use a computer that analyzes the vehicle's system, helping you decipher if the vehicle does not meet regulations or what specifically could be wrong with the vehicle. The BLS predicts a 16% growth in this field in the 2010-2020 decade.

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