With more than 268.8 million vehicles registered in the U.S. in 2016, according to Statista¹, it’s easy to see why auto technicians are in such high demand. If you’re good with your hands, have mechanical aptitude, and are looking for an in-demand career with minimal educational requirements, you should consider becoming an auto technician. In just a handful of years, you could be earning competitive pay and enjoying many opportunities for advancement.
Like many people, you may not have the foggiest idea about how one becomes an auto tech. Fortunately, the process is fairly straightforward — and it doesn’t take a long time. In fact, you don’t even need a college degree to get started.
What is an Auto Technician?
An auto technician specializes in repairing and maintaining automobiles, including all of a vehicle’s parts and systems. Some auto techs work in garages where they handle all aspects of repair and maintenance while others specialize in specific systems or types of repairs. In years past, this mostly meant working with mechanical parts and systems; today, it also means working with computerized technologies.
If you’re mechanically inclined and looking for a great career path, becoming an automotive technician may be the answer. For those who want to skip years and years of college, training to become an auto tech is a fast and easy way to start earning a sizable paycheck. Some of the top benefits of becoming an auto technician include:
- Start earning a paycheck quickly. You can earn an auto repair certificate in as little as six months. On-the-job training is par for the course in this industry, so you can start earning a paycheck almost right away.
- Enjoy competitive pay. Even entry-level car mechanics earn well above minimum wage. Depending on your ambitions, you could progress into owning your own shop or into a lucrative industry and do quite well for yourself.
- Choose your career path. You don’t have to stick with being an auto tech. Many who start out there progress into a dizzying array of careers in a variety of industries.
- Breathe easy with career stability. With hundreds of millions of vehicles out there, the automotive industry is an excellent one in terms of job security. Talented technicians are in high demand across the country.
How to Become an Auto Technician
There are a number of pathways to becoming an auto technician. To give you an idea, here’s an example of how you might consider getting there:
Start in high school: If possible, take auto tech classes while still in high school to learn the basics. You can even begin taking trade school courses as a high school senior to get a jump start on your career.
Obtain education and training: Some automotive techs complete certificate programs to start, which usually take anywhere from six to 12 months. Others opt to pursue two-year associate’s degrees. Still others earn bachelor’s degrees to pave the way for managerial positions later.
Check with dealerships and manufacturers: Instead of, or in addition to, completing a certificate program or earning a degree, you might look into training programs that are offered by local dealerships and car manufacturers.
Earn specialization certificates: Make yourself more marketable and more highly skilled as a tech by pursuing specialty certifications. There are certifications for specific makes and models; for high-performance vehicles; for diesel engines; and for specific systems, including transmissions, engines and brakes. Each additional certificate means you’re a specialist, and you can earn more money as a highly qualified auto tech.
Complete an apprenticeship: Find a local on-the-job training program. These usually last anywhere from two to five years, and you earn a paycheck while working under a master technician.
Get licensed: You’ll command higher pay by earning your ASE license. Issued by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, the license is not easy to get. You need at least two years of experience as a technician, or you need to have completed a two-year program and have one year of work experience. To become a master licensed automotive technician, you must pass all eight licensing exams.
How Much Can I Earn?
Auto technicians enjoy competitive pay. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics², or BLS, auto technicians earned a median pay of $39,550 in 2017, which is equal to $19.02 per hour. The top 10 percent of earners made around $65,430 per year, or $17.99 per hour, while the lowest 10 percent made around $22,610 per year, or $10.87 per hour.
Pay also varies by workplace and industry:
- Dealerships – $43,180 per year, or around $20.76 per hour
- Parts and accessories retailers – $33,640 per year, or $16.17 per hour
- Repair shops – $37,420 per year, or $17.99 per hour
Jobs in This Field
After learning the basics of being an auto technician, you can gain experience and training to move into different career paths. A few especially popular examples include:
- Auto machinist
- Collision technician
- Service advisor
- Paint technician
- Auto shop owner
How to Become an Auto Technician
If college isn’t for you but you have mechanical aptitude and enjoy tinkering around with things, pursuing a career as an auto technician is a terrific option to consider. With so many auto tech certificate programs out there, though, it’s crucial to do your own research before embarking on this exciting path.
To get started, make sure you research the different options for a career as an auto technician and the different ways to become trained and certified. Consider all of the available options, and don’t forget to do additional research to find the right educational or training program for you. From different specialities to new avenues for auto techs, there are so many opportunities and options in this stable, growing field.
Like anything, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.