Engine Test Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about an engine test technician's salary, education/training and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming an engine test technician.
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Pros and Cons of an Engine Test Technician Career

Engine test technicians, also known as automotive service technicians, analyze and test automotive engines and systems to make sure they're working correctly. Reading the pros and cons of being an engine test technician can help you decide if this career is right for you.

Pros of Being an Engine Test Technician
Diploma, certificate or associate's degrees often sufficient for entry-level positions*
May receive training through auto manufacturer or dealership-sponsored programs*
Career offers various employment options (test technician, engine machinist, general service technician, diagnostician)**
Advancement opportunities available with further training (engineering, accident investigation, insurance appraisal)**

Cons of Being an Engine Test Technician
High rate of injury and illness (higher than national average)*
Work may involve overtime and working evenings and weekends*
Work often involves standing for long periods and bending in awkward positions*
Certification is usually required for employment*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Bronx Community College.

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Although engine test technicians often work in automotive shops as automotive service technicians, they may also assist engineers in the development and design of engines. They test engine characteristics such as engine efficiencies, torque and horsepower curves and exhaust emissions. Using computerized diagnostic equipment, they identify mechanical issues and any required maintenance. Their knowledge of automotive technologies, such as engine transducers, engine dynamometers and data acquisition systems, allow them to retrieve important data on the vehicle's engine. Engine test technicians also perform basic repairs and maintenance, including oil changes, tune-ups and oil changes. In addition to testing the engine, the technicians test and lubricate the engine and repair or replace parts.

Job Prospects and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of all automotive service technicians and mechanics, including test technicians, would grow 9% between 2012 and 2022. Individuals with formal training, specifically in specialized areas, were expected see the best employment opportunities. The BLS also reported that automotive service technicians earned around $40,000 as of May 2014.

What Are the Requirements?

Becoming an engine test technician may require completing an automotive service technician training program with a specialization in engines and engine work. Some automotive technicians are hired and receive on-the-job training; however, many employers prefer to hire individuals that have formal training. Training programs - typically found at technical schools and community colleges - are usually offered as diploma, certificate or associate's degree programs. Additionally, test technicians may be required to complete on-the-job training and obtain certifications. Technicians who purchase or work with refrigerants (chemicals used in car air conditioning systems) must be licensed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Education and Training Requirements

Training programs offer you a blended curriculum of coursework and lab studies where you can gain hands-on experience. Course topics may include emission control systems, engine construction and installation, technical math, engine development and design, heavy truck HVAC systems and engine repair. You'll also learn about alternative fuel technology, preventative maintenance, technical reporting and engine testing and testing equipment. Many employers require technicians to obtain certification through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE offers certification in several subject areas.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most employers want candidates with training and experience in an automotive industry. Although not a complete picture for this career, below are a few job postings to give you an idea of what employers may be looking for. These postings were open in May 2012.

  • A truck manufacturer in Washington is looking for a second-shift engine test technician to assist engineers in an engine test lab. Job duties include preparing, maintaining and testing engines and test equipment. Mechanical aptitude, computer skills and organizational skills are required. Education qualifications are an associate's degree in diesel power technology or equivalent and five years of experience with engine work. This is a second shift job.
  • A utility company in Texas is seeking an engine mechanic/governor technician to work on industrial vehicle engines. The candidate will repair, overhaul and test hydraulic governors used on the industrial gas engines. Planning service installation and project cleanups are also part of the job. In addition to having experience with industrial engines and controls, applicants must have valid driver's license, good communication skills, ability to work as part of a team and basic knowledge of natural gas engines. Candidates should also be willing to work overtime and travel when necessary.
  • An Orlando industrial manufacturing company is seeking an experienced engine technician to evaluate and repair gas and diesel engines. Applicants must have good driving records, good communication skills and must have their own tools. When necessary, employees are expected to take training programs; travel and overtime may also be required. Applicant should have at least two years of experience in engine repair and the ability to work well with others.
  • A Texas manufacturing company is in need of an experienced engine technician. Job duties include disassembling and reassembling calibration test engines, fabricating engine components, diagnosing and repairing electrical problems and instrumenting test engines. Interested applicants should have high school diplomas, ASE certifications and should have completed an automotive technical program. In addition to having two years of experience in automotive or truck repair, applicants must be familiar with automotive and truck engines, wiring schematics and electronic engine controls. Machine shop, along with, Mig, Tig and Stick welding experience is preferred.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

In addition to completing formal training and gaining work experience, there are still things you can do to maximize your skills and make yourself more competitive in the workforce. Taking continuing education courses can help keep you abreast of advances in automotive technology. You can take advantage of any automotive manufacturer or dealership-sponsored programs because they offer hands-on experience and additional training. It's also a good idea to utilize any apprenticeship, on-the-job training or co-op education programs available. Although your employment may require passing certain ASE certification exams, obtaining additional certifications can help you gain credentials that can enhance your skills.

Other Careers to Consider

If you're still not sure you're making the right career choice, there are alternative careers to consider. Here are a couple similar careers that may interest you enough to check them out.

Small Engine Mechanic

If for some reason being an engine test technician doesn't sound challenging enough, you may enjoy becoming a small engine mechanic. You'll get to work on motorcycles, powerboats, lawn mowers and other outdoor power equipment. According to the BLS, small engine mechanics earned a mean annual wage of around $31,000 as of May 2011. While this may be slightly less than automotive service technicians, it may offer more variety. The BLS also predicted small engine mechanics would see a faster-than-average job growth of 21% between 2010 and 2020. Although you may get by with on-the-job training, this profession usually requires completing formal training programs, which are typically certificate or associate's degree programs.

Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technician

If you enjoy fixing cars, you may find becoming a heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technician is a good career choose. You'll be one of the professionals repairing and maintaining vehicles and machinery used in farming, construction and rail transportation. Although some individuals are hired and receive on-the-job training, many choose to complete a formal training program, which can take 1-2 years. You'll probably still have some on-the-job training. Some equipment manufacturers require certification as well. According to the BLS, heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians were predicted to see an employment growth of 16% between 2010 and 2020. As of May 2011, mobile heavy equipment mechanics earned a mean annual wage of near $47,000, according to the BLS.

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