The stereotypical image of a mechanic is a guy in a grease-stained coverall who gets down on the garage floor under your car. He’s a jack-of-all trades, not a specialist, and he got most of his education on the job. He probably doesn’t make a lot of money.
Except that’s not the case.
The nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an independent organization that conducts nationally accredited testing and certification, reports significant changes in the automotive service and repair industry.
Not Your Granddad’s Sedan
For starters, cars have evolved dramatically. In just one generation, changes in vehicle size and performance, with a greater focus on emissions standards, mean state-of-the-art technologies that didn’t exist a few years ago have become standard features.
Direct injection engines, forced induction engines, variable valve timing and onboard engine computers are just a few of those features, and more are on the horizon: hybrid engines, alternative fuels, Internet access and voice-recognition controls are also the wave of the future.
Needless to say, you don’t fix these things with a set of screwdrivers.
The Education Never Stops
Today, an automotive service technician needs to be well versed in math and science and have cutting-edge computer skills, as well as the traditional mechanical expertise. That means at least two years of post-secondary education and a career that requires continual training.
It also means an industry with opportunities for specialization and career advancement: From line technician to store owner, there is work specializing in such areas as parts, service, distribution, bodywork, collision, estimating and motorsports. There are also jobs in machining, rebuilding, manufacturing, marketing, sales, instruction and business management. Some jobs are local; some can be national in scope.
A Booming Business
Job growth is also promising. More than 360,000 industry professionals are already ASE-certified, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the size of the automotive repair and maintenance industry will increase 30% by 2020, generating more than 200,000 more positions.
That will place “auto technician” among the country’s top 20 jobs, with relatively high median earnings.
An automotive service technician’s job has been a gateway for many to other careers, but remaining in the service bay can be just as rewarding. Those competent in diagnostics, craftsmanship and drivability solutions can and do earn top dollar.
So, the next time your vehicle needs attention, don’t look for the guy in the greasy shirt. Your automotive technician’s uniform will be relatively clean, and he’ll probably be the guy walking around with a computer in his hand.
You and your vehicle will be well looked after by someone who is educated, competent and ready to get you back on the road as quickly as possible. It’s the kind of service you can’t drive away from.