How to Become a Mechanic

A puppet auto mechanicIf you like cars and want a job that’s always in demand then you should definitely become an automotive technician. The days of the grease monkey are over with today’s cars more complicated as ever. Hybrids, complex computer systems and alternative fuels require anyone wishing to become an automotive technician to have extensive training. This is an exciting time for cars as manufacturers are making radical changes to keep up with technology and meet stricter environmental regulations. You can make yourself quite a career and a good amount of of money by becoming an automotive technician these days.

Years of Education

2 years of technical school or equivalent work experience.

Degrees & Licenses

  • ASE Certification or Manufacturer certification recommended.

Job Availability

High availability of jobs for all skill levels. Advanced certifications increase job availability.

Income

Low

$22,000 / a year

Medium

$40,000 / a year

High

$61,000 or more per year with advanced certification.

Perks

  • A job that you can leave at the job, no taking it home
  • Satisfaction of fixing things
  • People will always need mechanics

The Basics to Becoming a Mechanic

auto shopBecoming an automotive technician can be done in a variety of ways because there’s no single defining qualification. You can attain some two years degrees but you can also get recognition through experience alone. In fact you could open up your own garage tomorrow if you wanted to and be a mechanic without any certification at all. You won’t get many customers but it can be done.

Since experience is key, automotive technicians run much the same way computer technicians do, gaining certifications to prove their abilities. The more certifications you have, the more desirable you are and the more money you can make. Getting experience can be a challenge since most reputable garages will only hire technicians that already have certification. In your quest to become an automotive technician then it’s good to look into a program through a tech-school.

There’s also a wide range of different specialties you can go into when you become an automotive technician. Doing general repair is great but continuing your training can lead to more employment opportunities and better wages. Why work on minivans all day when you can learn to work on high-performance imports? Diesel mechanics are always in high demand which will only increase as more small cars are released with gas saving turbo-diesel powerplants. Whatever you want to do you should devise a plan early to focus your experience and find the right programs where you can get specialized skills.

Starting Out as a Mechanic

Since it’s difficult to become a fully certified automotive technician without experience you’ll need to start out by doing simple jobs. The ‘entry-level’ technician typically is limited to doing oil changes, tire work and simple part replacements. It’s not very exciting, the pay is mediocre but it’s something. If you’re under eighteen you’ll face some issues with safety regulations that prevent you from working with certain equipment. If that’s the case then even a job sweeping up can get you good experience since you’ll be around the work being done and have access to manuals.

Service manuals are the repair guides compiled by the manufacturer that give technicians the specifics on how to fix new cars. You can buy them but they’re not cheap and considering there’s one for each car on the road it would take a small fortune to assemble a collection. Instead working at a garage can get you access to their manuals and let you learn on your own time. If you want to become an automotive technician then self study is important. You can never start too early learning all you can from all sources available.

One advantage to entering a tech-school program is that you can get placed in an internship or apprentice position while you’re learning. You’ll probably be doing fairly simple work there too but the experience counts towards your certifications. Also from time to time you’ll actually get to touch something interesting instead of pulling oil plugs all day.

ASE Certifications for Mechanics

ASE certification ribbon for mechanicsIf you want to become an automotive technician then you’ll need to know all about ASE certifications. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence was created to give customers confidence in their automotive technicians. ASE certification is your proof of ability and experience when looking for work.

There are dozens of ASE tests you can take to develop a unique skill set. Depending on the various certifications you have you can earn titles ranging from basic technician to master level titles in various specialties. These are the most universal qualifications you can add to your resume if you want to become an automotive technician.

To get ASE certifications you need to combine experience with testing. Many tech-schools have programs that can prep you for the tests as well as count as your experience component. This is often your best route since it’s difficult to get experience without having your qualifications.

Manufacturer Certifications for Mechanics

Dodge emblemIf you’d like to become an automotive technician and specialize with a certain manufacturer you can go through their specific programs. These are similar to the ASE programs through tech-schools but the focus is on the technology of one manufacturer. Schools that offer these programs are less common so you might have difficulty finding one in your area. If you want to get more information about becoming an automotive technician for a particular manufacturer you can get lots of information online or stop in at a dealership.

Getting certification with a particular manufacturer can get you preferential hiring at dealerships and get you a better salary as well. More experience and more certifications are always a plus in the automotive technician world.

Small Shop Mechanics

There are many different types of garages out there from giant dealerships to shade-tree mechanics. Most shops only hire certified technicians to do the work but a small shop might bend a little. You won’t become a certified technician working at a small shop but you can get valuable experience. Small shops like these typically don’t hire just anyone off the street. You’ll have to get to know the owner and talk your way in and have at at least some skills.

Computer Skills for Mechanics

Engine diagnosticsBecoming an automotive technician these days requires good computer skills and a familiarity working with different technology. Computerized diagnostic equipment has been standard for years and these days a dash mounted computer that relays performance data is almost standard. Being an automotive technician is now one part mechanic and one part computer tech. It’s never too early to start developing those computer skills.

Taking classes can give you a leg up if you don’t feel you have the best computer skills. Also a few electronics courses will help as well. Being able to diagnose and repair the extensive amount of electronics packed in a modern vehicle is vital. It’s no longer just turning wrenches if you want to become an automotive technician. You’ll need a wide set of skills these days and it’s never too early getting started learning them.