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FAQs About Auto Mechanic School

Replacing tires, putting on new rotors, fixing coolant leaks. Some individuals learn to do these things on their own or through on-the-job training, while others choose to complete an auto mechanic school program. The choice is up to you, but there are benefits to formal training.

1. What training do you need to become an auto mechanic?

A formal education is not necessary to enter the auto mechanic field. However, vocational degree programs, including the ones in auto mechanics, can be an advantage in many other ways. Not only can they lay the foundation for additional education, they can also potentially lead to greater pay -- the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has long reported that those with a college education earn more than those who just have a high school diploma.

2. How long do training programs usually last?

In general, students can typically complete automotive technician training within six months to a year, and compared to other vocational programs, that's a relatively short period of time -- particularly as it also sets you on a specific career path. Most short-term auto mechanic school programs lead to a diploma or certificate, but some schools offer associate degrees. Those usually take about two years to complete and include general education courses.

Another advantage of this career choice is that you have few requirements to meet to be eligible to enroll in a program. Usually, a high school diploma or GED is the basic requirement, though if possible, it can help to get started with classes in automotive repair, computers or electronics while in high school.

3. What is manufacturer-specific training?

After completing an automotive mechanic program, you may be able to do extra coursework specific to certain car manufacturers. These programs are also relatively short, typically requiring another 12 to 16 weeks of training. Depending on the school, you may find training about a range of manufacturers, such as:

  • Ford
  • General Motors
  • Honda
  • Toyota
  • Volva

Why pursue one of these programs? Aside from simply gaining more education, you may also have a head start on a career and it may help your chances for employment with one of these companies.

4. How do I find a good auto mechanic school?

One of the first steps should be to look for accredited institutions. The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) accredits many of the auto mechanic programs in the U.S. and describes the process this way: The Foundation "examines the structure, resources and quality of training programs and evaulates them against standards established by the industry."

In other words, an accredited program is one that has been verified as teaching the skills that students need to learn in order to be successful in the industry. In order to find accredited institutions, you can use the search page on the NATEF website, or compare auto mechanic schools in your area and verify accreditation with individual institutions.

5. What are some examples of programs?

You can begin finding a good auto mechanic school by doing research online. Look for schools that have programs clearly explained on their websites and have easily accessible information about their accreditation. As an example, these are just a few well-known schools in the U.S. that offer automotive technician programs:

  • Automotive Training Center: With locations in both Exton and Warminster, Pennsylvania, this school allows you to complete a diploma program while also learning how to diagnose, service and repair domestic and foreign vehicles. Both day and evening programs are available; the day program can be completed in 64 weeks whereas the evening program takes 84.
  • New England Institute of Technology: Located in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, this is one of the auto mechanic schools offering an associate degree. Students have the option of attending a program during the day or evening, learning about the build and servicing of various types of cars, light trucks and SUVs. Upon graduation, they can continue their education by competing a bachelor's degree either in Automotive Service Management or Business Management.
  • Penn Foster: This school offers a diploma program in automotive tech training online. Students complete 11 different course units, ranging from automotive fuels systems to auto computer systems, online and at their own pace.

6. Is automotive technician training available online?

As mentioned above, Penn Foster is one of the schools offering online education, but other schools do, too, like Ashworth College and Stratford Career Institute. Online auto mechanic schools such as these can be terrific for allowing you to work at your own pace and providing you with extra time to go over the material.

Depending on the program you choose, you may be sent your textbook and materials, need to be online for learning, or combine both online and textbook formats. Lab simulations with animated videos and videos of recorded instruction may be components of your online learning. As well, the tools and equipment that you need may be provided as part of the program, depending on the school.

7. Are there any additional licensing or certification requirements?

You do not need to be licensed to seek employment, but you may want to pursue certification through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). According to the BLS, ASE certification is available in eight different areas, including:

  • Automatic transmission/transaxle
  • Brakes
  • Electrical/electronic systems
  • Engine performance
  • Engine repair
  • Heating and air-conditioning
  • Manual drive train and axles
  • Suspension and steering

Those who pass all eight certifying exams are known as Master Automobile Technicians. Attaining that level is not a quick process -- to be eligible for an exam, you need to have at least two years of experience, or one year of experience and education in a relevant program. But there are big advantages to sticking with it: The BLS reports certain employers might require it, and it can also demonstrate competence and potentially lead to higher pay.

Sources:
1. Automotive Technology, Automotive Training Center http://www.autotraining.edu/automotive.html
2. NATEF: Improving Programs through Accreditation, National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, http://www.natef.org/About-NATEF.aspx
3. Automotive Technology Degree Program, New England Institute of Technology, http://www.neit.edu/Programs/Associate-Degree-Programs/Automotive-Transportation/Automotive?srch=auto%20mechanic
4. Automotive Master Mechanics, O*NET OnLine, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/49-3023.01
5. Automotive Specialty Technicians, O*NET OnLine, http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/49-3023.02
6. Automotive Technician Training Online School, Penn Foster, http://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/automotive-and-engine-repair/auto-repair-technician-career-diploma
7. Auto Mechanics Distance Learning Course Summary, Stratford Career Institute, http://www.scitraining.com/Auto_Mechanics
8. Catalog 2015-2016, Universal Technical Institute, http://www.uti.edu/programs/automotive#tabbed-nav=catalog
9. Industry Partners, Universal Technical Institute, http://www.uti.edu/partners/ford
10. Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm#tab-4
11. Education Still Pays, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, September 2014, http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/data-on-display/education-still-pays.htm
12. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes493023.htm

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