Cars, trucks and buses keep America running in myriad ways, and mechanics serve the fundamental role of keeping cars, trucks and buses running. There are several educational avenues to becoming an auto mechanic, depending on where and in what capacity you want to work. High school auto-shop classes may be sufficient for small garages or entry-level positions, but more advanced work typically requires specific certifications and often prefers focused training.
While auto-shop classes are less common than they once were, due in part to the complexity of working on modern cars, many high schools still offer classes in automotive maintenance and repair. Some high schools offer programs facilitated by Automotive Youth Education Systems, which partners the schools with area automotive service businesses. These programs give students both classroom training in automotive technology and hands-on, paid experience working on customer cars. According to AYES, this training fully prepares students to work as entry-level mechanics.
Finding the Next Gear
Auto mechanics who want to advance beyond entry-level work must typically become certified. Certification for automotive professionals is handled by the National Institute for Automotive Excellence, which offers more than 40 kinds of certification. Each certification is earned by passing a written test. Certifications range from general "Auto Maintenance and Light Repair Certification" to narrow certifications that focus on specific systems, like brakes and transmissions, or specific kinds of vehicles, like buses and trucks. Many employers require mechanics and technicians to be ASE-certified.
While ASE certification does not require mechanics to take any specific classes, formal training can provide the knowledge necessary to pass the tests. In fact, many community colleges and technical institutes offer programs designed specifically to help students pass certification tests. These programs typically last about a year and involve classroom and hands-on training in topics such as power trains, automotive electronics, climate control, fuel and ignition systems, emissions and diagnostic systems.
In addition to general training, many technical universities offer manufacturer-specific training programs. These can make it easier to find employment at a dealership. Students in these programs typically work exclusively on new vehicles provided by the manufacturers. The manufacturers also provide training resources to ensure that students are familiar with the manufacturers' latest technologies. A notable advantage of manufacturer-sponsored training programs is that offer real-world experience by employing students, with pay, at local dealerships.