How To Become An Auto Mechanic

Do you want to work on cars for a living? Discover the steps you need to take to start a career as an auto mechanic.

A career as an auto mechanic is quite a satisfying one. You are not stuck in a small office cubicle all day. Instead, you are able to move around freely. As an auto mechanic, you can also take pride in helping your family members, friends, and community. There are always automobiles that need attention, so you do not have to worry about a shortage of projects. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 703,800 auto mechanics working in the United States in 2020.

To become an auto mechanic, you must study. However, the exact study process you use is up to you. There are multiple ways to get into the car repair industry. One of the best ways is to pursue a formal education in auto repair. Degrees and certificates in auto repair are widely available, but each one has certain requirements. There are also monetary and time investments to consider.

Auto Mechanic Apprenticeships

In most cases, you must have a GED or high school diploma to become an auto mechanic. If your high school offered an auto repair course and you completed it, you have already started your career off well. Any potential employer is likely to appreciate your early enthusiasm for the field. However, a high school level course is not necessary. 

A good first step after high school is securing an apprenticeship under a trained auto mechanic. Auto repair is a hands-on industry. You can learn many skills by performing entry-level tasks as part of your paid apprenticeship. To get such a position, apply at local auto repair shops near your home.

Official Auto Repair Training Courses and Schools

Before, during, or after your apprenticeship, you can enroll in a formal auto repair course. Some online courses are available, but they are not as in-depth as in-person classes. The best way to learn auto repair is to do it in person by attending classes. You can opt to sign up for an auto repair course at your local college or attend a trade school. Another option is to enroll in a school specifically for car mechanics. Topics taught in each course vary, but the standard skills typically taught in most courses include emissions control and methods for repairing:

  • Transmissions (Manual and Automatic)

  • Brakes

  • Suspensions

  • Steering Mechanisms

  • Air Conditioning

  • Electrical Systems

  • Integrated Electronics

Advantages of College-Level Auto Repair Courses

If you are already working as an entry-level mechanic, you might wonder what the advantages are of completing a college-level auto repair course instead of improving your career through work experience alone. One advantage is a degree allows you to qualify for a wider range of jobs and obtain a higher pay rate quickly. Taking a course in auto repair also ensures there are no gaps in your auto repair knowledge.

Another reason to enroll in an official course is to lay the groundwork for future training. A basic training course is often a prerequisite for more specialized auto repair courses. As a specialist in a specific area of auto repair, the demand for your skills may increase.

Completing an auto repair course in person can also help you hone secondary skills. For example, to be a successful auto mechanic you must often work well with a team of other mechanics. You must also know how to interact with customers in ways that make them want to return to you for all of their repair needs. You can develop those and similar skills while completing your coursework. 

Getting Auto Mechanic Certification

In some states, such as Michigan, you must obtain a certificate to repair automobiles for a living. As in Michigan, some states also require you to obtain a trainee permit prior to getting official certification. Even in states where certification is optional, it is typically recommended. Official certification makes you appear more dedicated to future employers and more competent to future clients. There are two types of certification processes:

  • Many states provide state certificate exams for perspective auto mechanics. Exam registration fees and certificate fees vary by state.

  • You can pursue certification through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Most states accept ASE certification as a substitute for passing state exams, but always check the rules in your state ahead of time. 

Top Mechanic Courses and Average Course Costs

There is no single amount you must pay to take a course in auto mechanics. Every institution charges different fees. However, estimates for the courses themselves are as follows:

  • Certificate course costs range from approximately $5,000 to $20,000

  • Online courses are the least expensive, typically costing less than $1,000 each. However, they are less extensive and do not provide hands-on learning.

  • Associate degree programs typically cost approximately $10,000 to $25,000, depending on the college you attend.

When considering the course costs, you must look at what the schools offer as part of their courses. For example, you may receive tools relating to automobile repair, which you can sometimes keep after your courses are completed. Therefore, you might get the hidden benefit of having less tools to buy once you become an auto mechanic. Here are some of the top sources for auto mechanic courses in the U.S., as of 2021:

How Much You Can Earn As An Auto Mechanic

You may wonder how much money you can make as an auto mechanic. On average, the highest paid auto mechanics in the United States earned approximately $56,000 in 2019. Entry-level mechanics earned approximately $31,000. How much you personally can earn when you are starting out as an auto mechanic depends largely on your geographic location, the educational path you choose, and your access to apprenticeships in your area. Your ultimate earnings are up to you. You can work as part of a team or eventually open your own auto repair business, as your career progresses. If you do opt to own your own business, you can control your income based on how much you work and the types of repairs you choose to perform. Specializing in specific aspects of auto repair, such as repairing electronic systems, may increase your long-term income.