Auto Mechanic Schools and Programs
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed November 27, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
- Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Occupation Employment Trends by State, Career InfoNet, accessed November 27, 2016, https://www.careerinfonet.org/carout3.asp?optstatus=001000000&id=1&nodeid=2&soccode=493023&stfips=01&jobfam=49&menuMode=&order=Percent
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed November 27, 2016: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm; Automotive Body and Glass Repairers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-body-and-glass-repairers.htm; Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/diesel-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm; Small Engine Mechanics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/small-engine-mechanics.htm; Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heavy-vehicle-and-mobile-equipment-service-technicians.htm;
- School pages, accessed November 27, 2016: Automotive Technician Training, Ashworth College, https://www.ashworthcollege.edu/career-diplomas/automotive-technician-training/; Automotive Training Programs, Gateway Technical College, https://www.gtc.edu/programs/automotive-training-programs; Associates Degree Automotive Service Technology, Ferris State University, http://ferris.edu/aas-associates-degree-minor-automotive-service-technology.htm; Automotive Technology, Weber State University, http://www.weber.edu/automotive; Curriculum, Automotive Technology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, http://automotive.siu.edu/program-info/curriculum.php; Automotive Technology Management, Pennsylvania College of Technology, https://www.pct.edu/catalog/majors/BAU.shtml; Automotive Technology Certificate, Triton College, https://www.triton.edu/CollegeCatalog/automotive-technology-certificate.htm; Automotive Technology Certificates, El Camino College, http://www.compton.edu/Academics/CTE/autotech/certificates.aspx; Automotive Technology - Brake, Suspension and Steering Repair Certificate, Midlands Technical College, www4.midlandstech.edu/automotive/aBrakeSuspSteerRepair.htm; Automotive Marketing and Management Degree Program, Northwood University, http://www.northwood.edu/academics/programs/automotive-marketing-and-management.aspx; Master of Science in Automotive Engineering, Lawrence Technological University, https://www.ltu.edu/engineering/mechanical/master-science-automotive-engineering.asp; Master of Engineering in Automotive Engineering, http://isd.engin.umich.edu/degree-programs/automotive-engineering/index.htm; Automotive Engineering Ph.D. Curriculum, Clemson University, http://www.clemson.edu/cecas/departments/automotive-engineering/academic-programs/automotive-engineering-curriculum-phd.html;
- Test Series, National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, accessed November 27, 2016, http://www.ase.com/Tests/ASE-Certification-Tests/Test-Series.aspx
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed November 27, 2016: May 2015 National Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm; Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015, Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes493023.htm;
- Interview, Shayrgo Barazi, conducted November 10, 2016
- Interview, Nick DiVerde, conducted November 16, 2016
- Interview, OJ Lopez, conducted November 28, 2016
With such a large percentage of the population relying on their cars for both work and play, it's no surprise that well-trained auto mechanics are in demand all over the country. Projections released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show an expected increase of nearly 40,000 jobs nationwide between 2014 and 2024, with several states likely to see upwards of 15 percent job growth for mechanics in their local labor markets.
Thorough and precise training can go a long way toward helping you land one of those emerging jobs. Here's a table of the number of automotive degree programs available in each region of the U.S., according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data on campus-based and online auto mechanic schools and colleges:
|Region||No. of auto mechanic colleges and schools||No. of online auto mechanic colleges and schools|
|Far West (CA, OR, WA, NV, AK, HI)||125||0|
|Rocky Mountains (ID, MT, UT, WY, CO)||49||1|
|Southwest (AZ, NM, TX, OK)||108||2|
|Plains (MO, KS, IA, NE, MN, ND, SD)||99||0|
|Southeast (AR, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, KY, VA, WV)||246||2|
|Great Lakes (IL, IN, OH, MI, WI)||103||1|
|Mideast (PA, NY, NJ, DE, MD, D.C.)||69||0|
|New England (CT, MA, RI, VT, NH, ME)||25||0|
|Total (all 50 states)||824||6|
Entry-level automotive technology degrees
The amount of formal education required to find a job as an auto mechanic tends to vary from one shop or dealership to another, but it's generally the case that at least some training is expected from candidates applying to work under the hood. Here's a quick rundown of the entry-level automotive degree programs and other training that can get you qualified:
- Associate degrees - Associate degrees available on campus and online at auto mechanic schools and colleges are a solid compromise between classroom education and career training. Most automotive degree programs at the associate level take about two years of full-time study to complete and include instruction on a large percentage of vehicle systems, from steering and suspension to the instrument panel and powertrain. Two-year programs also typically contain some coursework in general education subjects, including business, science, history, math and communications.
- Bachelor's degrees - If you want make your training as complete as possible before hitting the workforce, or if you want to ensure that your education is flexible enough to allow for a possible career change after a few years, a bachelor's degree in automotive technology could be the option that you're looking for. The longer program time can also allow bachelor's students at auto mechanic colleges to be introduced to more advanced concepts, such as alternative fuel vehicles, automotive computer network systems and diesel engine emissions, among others.
- Non-degree study - If you don't have the available time or money to commit to one of the full-time automotive degree programs in your area, it's also possible to pick up the skills you need in a slightly less academic fashion with certificate and diploma plans. Several types of these plans exist, with some requiring as few as 9 or 12 credit hours and covering a single automotive system and others taking up to 4 semesters to complete and providing a whole-car training program without much need, if any, for general education coursework.
If a traditional training program won't work for you, don't overlook the handful of online auto mechanic schools and colleges in operation around the country. The absence of hands-on instruction in online programs may be tough for some students, but certain programs may have relationships with local garages or other similar facilities that can give you the opportunity to put the knowledge you gain into practice.
Advanced-degree automotive technology programs
The number of auto mechanic jobs that require advanced education is admittedly somewhat slim, but graduate degrees can give you a leg up on the administrative side of things if you're looking to go into business for yourself. Here's how continuing your education with advanced degrees and master-level certifications can impact your career:
- Master's degree programs - At the graduate level, automotive degree programs tend to lean more toward the administrative or engineering side of the industry than the direct-application repair and service market. If you want to transition into managing your own shop or ascending the ranks in a manufacturer's service division, an MBA or other graduate business degree can combine well with your work experience to help you get there. If your time under the hood has given you an itch to learn more about the complex web of natural forces that make motor transportation possible, it may take just a few science and math prerequisites to qualify for a master's in auto engineering.
- Doctoral degree programs - Automotive engineering programs can also be found for post-graduate students, although at this level you're starting to get pretty far away from the knowledge and skills that auto mechanics need to do their jobs. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees are typically designed for students who want to conduct independent research, teach auto engineering to upper-division university students or work as industry and public-sector consultants.
- Graduate certificates and third-party certifications - Much of the continuing education necessary to keep auto techs on the cutting edge of their profession can be found at the advanced certificate level — particularly the Master Automobile Technician credential administered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Many manufacturers also have their own brand-specific certifications that they look for when staffing the service bays at their dealerships, and specializations such as diesel engines, hybrid powertrains, mass transit vehicle systems and advanced engine performance can also be learned through non-degree courses after your initial graduation.
Many of the master's degrees relevant to auto mechanics looking to advance their careers can also be earned online — often more readily than the more hands-on entry-level automotive degree programs. If you're unsure whether or not online study is for you, many online schools and colleges offer a digital distance education readiness test that can give you an idea of what it takes to earn a degree in the virtual classroom.
Q&A with experts
Why would you encourage someone to consider an auto mechanic degree?
There is a large demand for motivated, sharp-minded, and well trained technicians in the automotive field. This means that, to the right person, a lucrative career is possible with the right amount of determination. Completing an auto technician vocational program can go a long way if you're interested in working with cars. Beyond that, there is potential for some serious income should you decide to pursue a career with a major franchised dealer or even opt to open your own shop in the future.
How important is it for mechanics to pursue ASE certification?
We consider ASE certification to be a requirement for professional technicians. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence is the industry standard for testing and certifying automotive professionals. This validation of a tech's training and expertise is a key to getting hired and then moving up in their career.
Are there advantages to starting out in a comprehensive, whole-car program rather than learning each vehicle system one at a time?
With advancing technology, it's critical for technicians to understand the fundamentals of vehicle components and systems, including computerized systems, to help with problem solving and diagnostics. However, systems do not operate in isolation; it's also important to understand how they all work together to keep the vehicle running properly and ensure safety measures are applied.
What's some advice you would give to a student just starting out on the path toward a career as an auto mechanic?
Considering the increasing level of complexity in vehicles, I recommend staying up to date on automotive communication protocols, software, and electronics. Those technicians who stay on the forefront of automotive technology will find the greatest level of success.
What are the most common educational paths for aspiring auto techs?
While it's tempting to jump into a 1-year vocational program, they tend to be more costly than obtaining an associate degree in automotive technology and provide little flexibility if the student wants to pursue higher education later on in their career. At least with the associate's degree you'll have the option of returning to school in the future and utilizing the credits obtained from your associate degree.
Types of automotive technology careers
Depending on their additional training and experience, graduates of traditional and online auto mechanic colleges and schools may be able to find work in a variety of different positions. Here's some employment and salary data for various positions in the field, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Common misconceptions about automotive technology degrees
Even though just about everyone has some idea of what an auto mechanic is and does, there are still a few popular misconceptions about the job and the training it takes to get hired. Here are a few of the more common mistaken ideas, along with some facts that set them straight:
Misconception: Mechanics never needed a degree before and they don't need one now.
- Fact: Increased computerization and advancements in diagnostic technology have led to a new, high-tech age in the automotive service industry, and the scope of duties that an auto tech might perform is broader than ever. One of our experts offered some choice words on the subject: "[Today's] auto technicians hate being referred to as 'mechanics'," Shayrgo Barazi told us, "considering the number of different hats they have to wear to get the job done. They could work on something purely mechanical for one job — but then work on a complex electrical problem the next."
Misconception: Auto repair is such a hands-on career that it can't be taught online.
- Fact: Traditional, in-person automotive degree programs still far outnumber those available in the virtual classroom, but some institutions have devised methods that can make distance education a possibility for students who need it. For example, some online auto mechanic schools use 3-D simulations to provide students with a fully virtual auto shop, while others might have agreements with local repair shops or campus facilities that allow students to visit on their own time and practice their skills.
Misconception: The salary curve for auto techs is flat, no matter how much education you have.
- Fact: There's a general guideline in the career world that the right education at the right time can give a boost to your earnings and advancement potential, and it's no less true for auto techs than it is in other occupations. For example, the top 25 percent of earners in the auto repair industry take home nearly twice as much per year as those in the bottom 25 percent — $50,980 vs. $27,740 in 2015, respectively, according to BLS numbers — and such differences in pay can often be explained by a combination of experience and education.
How can I enroll in an online automotive technology degree program?
If you're excited to get started on your path to an auto technician career, the next step is to reach out to a few schools of your choice and find out exactly what you need to do to enroll. Browse through the campus-based and online auto mechanic schools and colleges in our listings below and get in touch for admissions advice that's tailored to your situation.