Americans love to travel — there were more than 272 million registered vehicles on America's streets and highways in 2017, including more than 193 million light-duty vehicles like passenger cars and trucks.
That's a lot of vehicles to keep on the road, which ensures a steady need for skilled auto mechanics and service technicians. If you're thinking about becoming a part of the automotive service industry, training from accredited auto mechanic degree programs can help you learn the skills you need to qualify for entry-level positions at independent repair shops or automotive dealership service centers.
Online auto mechanic programs may also be available, for students who need some extra flexibility. Read on for more info on the best U.S. schools for auto mechanic degrees and some detail about the types of jobs available for graduates with various levels of training, as well as helpful resources for scholarships, career outlooks and more.
Best Colleges for Auto Mechanic Degree Programs
We used data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to generate a snapshot of the 10 most affordable, flexible and success-driven colleges for auto mechanic degree and certificate programs. Read on to learn more about the accredited two-year colleges that made the list, or tap the button below for insight into our methodology.
If you're hoping to get your automotive mechanic training without dealing with student debt for several years after graduation, Central Community College is here to help. This east-central Nebraska school reported that more than 77 percent of graduates repaid their student loans within three years — the highest such number on our list.
Auto mechanic programs at CCC: Students here can choose from a wide range of training options, including certificate programs in engine performance, engine repair and more that require less than 15 credit hours of study to complete. The 32-credit diploma program allows you to use electives to design your own auto mechanic curriculum, and the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree plan provides comprehensive training across multiple vehicle systems.
Savannah Technical College serves around 3,800 learners each semester across its five campuses and learning centers throughout inland coastal Georgia. Manageable student debt was a bright spot here as well, with students reporting an average debt load of less than $3,400 upon graduation. The student-faculty ratio at STC is a comfortable 16:1.
Auto mechanic programs at STC: The list of certificate programs available at STC feature options such as automotive climate control, electrical and electronic systems, chassis technology and transmission/transaxle. Two diploma plans are available — a 40-credit plan in automotive fundamentals and a more robust 55-credit automotive technology program — as well as a thorough associate degree plan that can be completed in five terms of full-time study.
California students hoping to work toward their auto mechanic certification with a large peer group of fellow students might find what they're looking for at Santa Rosa Junior College. This institution located roughly 60 miles north of San Francisco featured the second-largest number of auto mechanic students of any school that made our top ten.
Auto mechanic programs at SRJC: Aspiring diesel techs can get the training they need in a variety of ways at SRJC. The Associate of Science (A.S.) program in diesel equipment technology covers the finer points of a range of diesel systems in a 48-credit study plan, and individual skills certificates can be earned in systems like diesel chassis, diesel powertrain and diesel preventative maintenance.
Founded in 1969 as a training facility for firefighters and law enforcement, San Diego Miramar College has grown into a comprehensive institution that serves nearly 16,000 students each semester. In-state tuition costs here are among the lowest in the country, and the open admissions policy can help ensure your eligibility for enrollment.
Auto mechanic programs at Miramar: Students here can choose among several programs that award certificates of achievement or an A.S. degree in automotive technology. The four certificate programs cover systems like automotive chassis, electrical, engine performance and transmissions. Students may also choose to pursue manufacturer-oriented training paths like Honda Professional Automotive Career Training (Honda PACT) and Toyota T-TEN.
Integrity, academic excellence and student success are the core values at Southern Crescent Technical College, which was created in 2010 after the merger of two established regional institutions. The graduation rate here was one of the highest among schools that made our list, and just two other schools in our top ten reported a lower average amount of student debt per graduate.
Auto mechanic programs at SCTC: The range of auto mechanic degree and certificate programs at this north-central Georgia institution includes several options for students looking to learn the skills of quality auto body work. Certificates can be earned in automotive refinishing, automotive collision repair and automotive chassis technology, which are available alongside two diploma plans and a degree in general automotive technology.
Students hoping to make use of the flexibility of the virtual classroom in pursuit of their auto mechanic degrees may be in luck at Georgia Northwestern Technical College. More than 54 percent of students at this institution near the northern Alabama border took at least some of their courses via distance education, and nearly 70 degree and certificate programs are offered at least partially online.
Auto mechanic programs at GNTC: The automotive technology diploma plan at GNTC begins with eight credit hours of basic skills courses in communications and mathematics and fills out the rest of its 55-credit curriculum with occupational study. An associate degree program adds seven extra hours of general education coursework to the automotive mechanic occupational core.
Aims Community College topped our list in two categories: the number of students pursuing auto mechanic degrees and certifications and the amount of money spent per student on instructional and academic support expenses. More than 300 students graduated from Aims auto programs in 2017, and the roughly $4,200 spent on each student ranked in the 95th percentile nationally.
Auto mechanic programs at Aims: Three associate-level auto mechanic degree programs and 20 certificate plans are available at this Colorado school. Students interested in automotive collision repair, diesel technology or high-level general automotive service can choose to pursue full A.A.S. programs, and the list of certificate plans includes training in some relatively uncommon sub-fields like automotive upholstery, damage appraisal estimating and a three-semester Automotive Youth Educational Systems (AYES) program.
Established in 1972 as the result of a regional college merger, Albany Technical College reports that more than two-thirds of enrolled students take at least some of their credits in the virtual classroom. Online courses within auto mechanic programs may be available, and on-campus flexibility options include the ability to take certain courses during evening or weekend hours.
Auto mechanic programs at ATC: Students have a range of options to choose from in ATC's automotive technology program. The 55-credit automotive technology diploma plan provides the most comprehensive training available at this southwestern Georgia institution, and certificates can also be earned in automotive climate control, chassis, transmission/transaxle, engine repair and engine performance technology.
Student success was one of the high points in our analysis of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. This institution of around 3,000 learners reports a first-year student retention rate in the 90th percentile of all schools we surveyed nationwide, and the graduation rate here was the highest in our top ten. Nearly 74 percent of WITC graduates paid off their student loans within three years.
Auto mechanic programs at WITC: Two levels of auto mechanic training are available at this northwestern Wisconsin school. Students hoping to hit the workforce quickly can opt for the automotive service technician diploma, which requires a year of full-time study to complete. Those looking for more comprehensive training can pursue the two-year automotive technician diploma.
MiraCosta College can claim a rare distinction among two-year schools in the U.S.: fully 100 percent of students who enrolled at this San Diego area institution in 2017 finished the first year of their programs and returned for the second year. No other school on our list had such a high retention rate.
Auto mechanic programs at MiraCosta: The Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in automotive technology at MiraCosta works to fully prepare students for various state licenses and auto mechanic certifications, including the industry-standard ASE certification exams. Certificates can be earned in subjects like emissions and HVAC, California smog check technology, alignment, brakes and suspension, drive train and automotive electronics.
Auto Mechanic Programs and Common Career Paths
Students who complete certificate or associate degree programs in automotive technology are well-positioned to gain entry-level employment in the field of automotive service and repair. Programs vary in length from six months to two years for A.S. or A.A.S. degrees. Students who work at auto dealerships or larger repair centers can often get employee sponsorships to pay for their education. Graduates of associate degree programs typically require little on-the-job-training, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes.
Below are a few of the most common career paths for students who complete automotive technology degree programs:
Auto Mechanic Program Accreditation
Accreditation is an important part of education at the college level. When a school has earned accreditation, you can be confident that its instructional content has met or exceeded the national standard of quality that employers and higher education admissions departments expect from their candidates.
Auto mechanic programs in the U.S. are accredited primarily by the ASE Education Foundation, an office of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). You can see the details of ASE's process on their auto mechanic program accreditation page.
Auto Mechanic Program Specializations
- Auto body technology. Students focus on how to repair vehicles' frames and exterior elements such as body panels and glass.
- Diesel technology. Diesel engines and the vehicles that use them require a different set of skills for repair and maintenance than standard gasoline cars and trucks.
- Vehicle emissions technology. Auto mechanic programs in certain states may offer an emissions inspection certification program that can lead to official inspector certification within the state.
Auto Mechanic Certification and Licensure
As well as providing a framework for accrediting hands-on and online auto mechanic programs, ASE also offers professional certification tracks that can help working auto mechanics demonstrate their expertise to customers and potential employers.
The certification process consists of first achieving eight core certifications for your chosen vehicle type, each covering a separate vehicle system. Once your core is complete, you can sit for the ASE Masters Certification test and go on to earn further specialized certifications thereafter.
Career Outlook for Automotive Technology Majors
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 770,000 auto mechanics and service technicians working nationwide in 2018. Employment is expected to drop by 1 percent, or more than 6,400 jobs across the U.S., by 2028.
Job opportunities are typically found at automotive dealerships and independent repair shops. Qualified candidates who have certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence face the best job prospects.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Automotive Body and Related Repairers||$46,460||142,060||4.1%|
|Automotive Glass Installers and Repairers||$36,370||19,640||4.1%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Automotive Technology
Students who enroll in automotive technology degree programs can apply for federal financial aid, or pursue many different dedicated scholarships. The Automotive Hall of Fame provides a scholarship for first-year and upper-level undergraduate students. The Global Automotive Aftermarket Symposium and University of the Aftermarket Foundation provide a comprehensive list of scholarships from aftermarket parts dealers and related organizations. And many trade organizations, such as Women in Autocare, provide hefty annual scholarships for students.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale:
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Median debt of completers, College Scorecard, 2017
- 3-year loan repayment rate, College Scorecard, 2017
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Full-time retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2016-17 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017