Automobile Service Technicians
Education and Training Requirements
In today's competitive job market, aspiring automobile service technicians need a high school diploma to land a job that offers growth possibilities, a good salary, and challenges. There is a big demand in the automotive service industry to fill entry-level positions with well-trained, highly skilled persons. Technology demands more from the technician than it did 10 years ago.
In high school, you should take automotive and shop classes, mathematics, English, electronics, and computer science classes. Adjustments and repairs to many car components require the technician to make numerous computations, for which good mathematical skills are essential. Good reading skills are also valuable, as a technician must do a lot of reading to stay competitive in today's job market. English classes will prepare you to handle the many volumes of repair manuals and trade journals you will need to remain informed. Computer skills are also vital, as computers are now common in most repair shops. They keep track of customers' histories and parts and often detail repair procedures. Use of computers in repair shops will only increase in the future.
Employers today prefer to hire only those who have completed some kind of formal training program in automobile mechanics—usually a minimum of two years. A wide variety of such programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools, independent organizations, and manufacturers. Many community colleges and vocational schools around the country offer accredited postsecondary education. These programs are accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Postsecondary training programs prepare students through a blend of classroom instruction and hands-on practical experience. They range in length from six months to two years or more, depending on the type of program. Shorter programs usually involve intensive study. Longer programs typically alternate classroom courses with periods of work experience. Some two-year programs include courses on applied mathematics, reading and writing skills, and business practices and lead to an associate's degree.
Some programs are conducted in association with automobile manufacturers. Students combine work experience with hands-on classroom study of up-to-date equipment and new cars provided by manufacturers. In other programs, students alternate time in the classroom with internships in dealerships or service departments. These students may take up to five years to finish their training, but they become familiar with the latest technology and also earn a modest salary.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Automobile service technicians may be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) in one or more of 16 automotive specialty areas such as alternate fuels, light duty hybrid/electric vehicles, advanced engine performance, damage analysis, collision repair, and engine repair. Those who become certified in multiple areas are known as master mechanics. Although certification is voluntary, it is a widely recognized standard of achievement for automobile technicians and is highly valued by many employers. Certification also provides the means and opportunity to advance. To maintain their certification, technicians must retake the examination for their specialties every five years. Many employers only hire ASE-accredited technicians and base salaries on the level of the technicians' accreditation.
Technicians who buy or work with refrigerants must be licensed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Students should obtain as much experience in the field as possible by participating in summer internships and part-time jobs at auto repair shops.
To be a successful automobile service technician, you must be patient and thorough in your work; a shoddy repair job may put the driver's life at risk. You must have excellent troubleshooting skills and be able to logically deduce the cause of system malfunctions. Technicians must be able to work well with others and also independently when necessary. Other key traits for technicians are punctuality, the ability to follow instructions, and strong communication skills.