How to Become an Automotive Mechanic in 4 Steps

June 25, 2020

Welcome to the fast-paced world of automotive mechanics! Through our comprehensive guide at the New England Institute of Technology, we dive into what it takes to become a skilled automotive mechanic.

From understanding the role and educational pathways to exploring career growth and the latest in automotive technology, this blog is your roadmap to transforming a passion for cars into a dynamic and rewarding career. Join us as we uncover the journey to becoming an automotive expert in today’s evolving industry.

What Do Automotive Mechanics Do?

Automotive mechanics are the backbone of vehicle maintenance and repair, ensuring that cars, trucks, and other vehicles operate safely and efficiently.

Key Responsibilities:

  1. Diagnostic Testing: Mechanics utilize advanced diagnostic tools to identify issues within a vehicle’s engine, transmission, exhaust system, and other critical components.
  2. Routine Maintenance: This includes oil changes, tire rotations, and regular inspections to maintain vehicle performance and safety standards.
  3. Repair Work: Mechanics perform necessary repairs, ranging from simple tasks like replacing brake pads to more complex issues involving electrical systems or engine components.
  4. Customer Consultation: Effective communication with clients about their vehicle’s condition, potential repairs, and maintenance advice is an essential aspect of a mechanic’s role.

4 Steps to Become An Automotive Mechanic

Embarking on a career as an auto mechanic involves a series of well-defined steps. These steps are designed to equip aspiring mechanics with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to succeed in this dynamic field. 

Step 1: Complete High School Education or Equivalent

  • Foundation: A high school diploma or GED is the foundational step. Courses in mathematics, physics, and, importantly, vocational education in automotive repair can provide a headstart.
  • Statistics: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most entry-level automotive mechanics start with this basic educational background. Link to BLS data on educational requirements

Step 2: Pursue Postsecondary Automotive Training Program

  • Technical Education: Enrolling in a postsecondary automotive training program, such as those offered by technical schools or community colleges, is crucial. These programs typically cover automotive repair, electronics, suspension, and steering.
  • Certification: Many of these programs lead to a certificate or an associate degree, which is increasingly preferred by employers.

Step 3: Gain Hands-On Experience

  • Apprenticeships/Internships: Hands-on experience is key in this industry. Apprenticeships or internships, possibly through the training institute, provide practical skills and workplace etiquette.
  • Entry-Level Positions: Starting in an entry-level position like a technician’s assistant or a lubricant worker can also provide valuable on-the-job training.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

  • ASE Certification: The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification is highly regarded in the auto mechanic industry. Specializations in areas like brakes, engine repair, or electrical systems boost employability.
  • Continuing Education: ASE requires mechanics to retest every five years to keep their certification current, ensuring they stay up-to-date with evolving automotive technologies.

How to Advance in Your Career as an Automotive Mechanic

With experience, mechanics can advance to supervisory roles, open their own repair shops, or transition into related fields like automotive service management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, experienced mechanics with advanced certifications and skills in the latest automotive technologies, like electric and hybrid vehicles, are in high demand.

Develop Specialized Skills

  • Specialization: Developing skills in specialized areas such as hybrid vehicle technology, high-performance engines, or diesel mechanics can open up more lucrative and niche job opportunities.
  • Ongoing Learning: Continuous learning through workshops, seminars, and additional certifications is important due to the rapid advancements in automotive technology.

Build a Professional Network

  • Networking: Joining professional associations and attending industry events can help in building a network, staying abreast of industry trends, and finding job opportunities.

What Kinds of Job Conditions Do Auto Mechanics Face?

Following our exploration of the roles and responsibilities of automotive mechanics, it’s important to address the work environment and conditions these professionals encounter daily. The job of an auto mechanic is not just about technical know-how; it also involves adapting to various physical and operational settings.

Physical Demands and Work Environment

  1. Physical Work: Auto mechanics often engage in physically demanding tasks. This includes lifting heavy parts, working in awkward positions, and standing for extended periods. As per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), mechanics must follow safety protocols to minimize the risk of injuries.
  2. Workshop Environment: Mechanics typically work in well-ventilated and illuminated garages or workshops. However, they are also exposed to noise, dust, fumes, and chemicals, requiring adherence to safety standards and the use of protective gear.
  3. Hands-On Interaction: Daily tasks involve hands-on work with tools and machinery, demanding fine motor skills and attention to detail.

Adapting to Weather Conditions

Mechanics may work in outdoor spaces or conditions affected by weather. This can include working in hot, cold, or wet conditions, making it necessary to be adaptable and prepared for various environmental factors.

Work Schedule and Flexibility

The typical work schedule for auto mechanics can vary. Many work full-time, and it’s not uncommon to have overtime, weekend shifts, or emergency call-outs. Flexibility and the ability to work under different schedules are key traits for success in this profession.

Emphasis on Safety and Ergonomics

Safety is paramount in a mechanic’s job. As highlighted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), ergonomic tools and equipment are essential to prevent strain and injury. Regular training on safety practices and the correct use of tools is an integral part of the job.

Technological Adaptation

With the automotive industry rapidly advancing, mechanics face the need to constantly update their knowledge, especially with the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles. This requires an openness to learning and adapting to new technologies and methods.

Job and Career Opportunities for Automotive Mechanics

The field of automotive mechanics offers a diverse range of job and career opportunities, reflecting the evolving landscape of the automotive industry. From traditional repair shops to cutting-edge technology in electric and autonomous vehicles, the scope for career advancement is vast and continuously growing. Here’s a look at these opportunities from an SME perspective:

Traditional Automotive Repair and Maintenance

  • Roles: These include roles in independent repair shops, automotive dealership service departments, and garages.
  • Growth: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow 2 percent from 2022 to 2032, driven by the increasing number of vehicles on the road. 

Specialization in Advanced Automotive Technology

  • Emerging Fields: Specializing in areas like hybrid and electric vehicles, high-performance engines, or diesel technology opens up more niche and higher-paying job opportunities.
  • Demand: With the automotive industry’s shift towards electric vehicles, there is a growing demand for mechanics with expertise in these areas.

Service Advisor or Managerial Roles

  • Advancement: Experienced mechanics can advance to supervisory positions such as service managers or shop supervisors, overseeing operations and team management.
  • Skills: These positions require not only technical knowledge but also strong leadership and customer service skills.

Automotive Parts and Sales

  • Opportunities: Mechanics with a thorough understanding of automotive parts can transition into sales roles, providing expert advice in parts departments or automotive businesses.

Automotive Instruction and Training

  • Teaching Roles: Experienced mechanics can become instructors at vocational schools or community colleges, sharing their knowledge and expertise with new generations of mechanics.
  • Certifications: Instructors often hold advanced certifications and have extensive practical experience in the field.

Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship

  • Business Ownership: For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, opening an independent repair shop or a specialized service center is a viable career path.
  • Flexibility: This option provides autonomy and the ability to specialize in specific types of repairs or vehicles.

Automotive Engineering and Design

  • Advanced Careers: Mechanics with an interest in design and engineering can pursue further education and transition into automotive engineering roles, contributing to the design and improvement of automotive systems and technologies.

Pursue Your Degree at The New England Institute of Technology

NEIT has been rated among the best institutions to receive a degree in automotive mechanics and technology. We offer four automotive associate degree programs: Automotive Technology and Advanced Automotive Technology, Automotive Technology with High Performance, and Advanced Automotive Technology with High Performance.

Though all our programs cover the same core topics, the Advanced Automotive Technology degrees include more in-depth study.

These curriculums revolve around the theory of operation and service techniques attached to the systems and system components of today’s automobiles. Students will also receive training in engine construction and design, engine repair, electricity, electronics, suspension, steering, brakes, transmissions, fuel systems, ignition systems, and emission controls.

Advanced training in air conditioning, drive trains, and transaxles are offered as well. We also provide a final engine performance course, which covers computerized engine controls, fuel injection systems, tailpipe emissions diagnosis, and ABS braking systems.

NEIT uses the latest industry standards, up-to-date diagnostic equipment, and an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)-approved curriculum in its training program. Our campus is home to several technical training and research centers, including the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium. We also offer internships and practical experience to provide students with a more seamless transition into the workforce.

We participate in the Mopar Career Automotive Program (CAP) LOCAL curriculum, designed and developed by Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA) Performance Institute. The curriculum includes a variety of self-study web-based and instructor-led courses. The first phase of the program introduces the basics of automotive technology, from new vehicle prep, FCA online systems, and the use of diagnostic scan tools. The second phase covers more complex topics to prepare students for entry-to-industry-level positions across the field. NEIT’s Automotive Technology program is Master-Certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).

Apply to our automotive program and graduate in less than 2 years.