You may be interested in becoming an automotive mechanic – a fine career with a good salary that requires you to be an expert in automotive vehicle maintenance, repair and understanding – that does not require you to have a college degree.
There is a great deal of pressure placed on people to attend a college institution after completion of high school. It may seem like the only entry point to a good career is by doing a four-year degree in a field relating to that job path, but that isn't the case.
For example, as mentioned, becoming an automotive mechanic does not require you to attain a degree from a college, yet still allows you to practice in a much-desired occupation with immediate entrance into the working world, without need to take out extortionate student loans!
Over the course of the following article, we are going to look at what the job of an automotive mechanic entails; the skills that one requires to excel in the role; how you go about becoming qualified to do the job professionally; the salary and other benefits attached to the role; and similar occupations that may also appeal to you.
What Does an Automotive Mechanic Do?
The job of an automotive mechanic is very varied – you could be doing something different every single day – but the focus is of course on the repair, maintenance and testing of automotive vehicles.
Automotive vehicle's is an umbrella term for all kinds of cars, vans and small trucks.
Automotive mechanics work with all of a vehicle's parts and systems, from the brakes and air conditioning to the belts, hoses and steering. In smaller garages or companies, a mechanic must be familiar with all of these systems to diagnose customers' problems, but at larger garages, technicians may specialize in particular areas.
Mechanics must be able to use a range of tools – jacks, screwdrivers, electronic diagnostic equipment, etc. – and have strong problem-solving skills to find and repair problems.
Undoubtedly the largest part of a mechanics role is the maintenance and repair elements, but there is plenty more to the job. Along the way for example, you’ll need to communicate with customers, order supplies and estimate job costs, so you’ll need to be versatile.
Skills Needed to Be an Automotive Mechanic
To succeed as an automotive mechanic, you may not need a traditional college degree, but you will still need some sharp skills. Above all perhaps, and while it is not necessarily a skill but is vitally important, is being very enthusiastic about automotive vehicles such as cars. If you find working on cars fun, you could be onto a winner – it's just a matter of applying this hobby in a professional manner and expanding your skills further. You may have all of the skills necessary, but without the passion for the subject matter, it's unlikely you will excel.
Here is a look at some of the other more traditional skills required to make for a great mechanic.
A good mechanic can quickly identify and suggest a remedy for a vehicular problem – time can be limited when it comes to addressing issues, so it's important that you're able to rapidly deduce a problem.
Now, more than ever perhaps, it is essential for a mechanic to have a strong technical aptitude – you should be able to quickly adapt to using new machinery and technology, which will be used to assist you in diagnosing and addressing problems with automotive vehicles.
You'll need to have a good command of your vocabulary and be able to “translate” complex technical terms into plain English – not all of your customers will be knowledgeable about vehicles!
Working as a mechanic, things can change fast, and not always in a good way. If there is a problem while working, it will stand to you if you're decisive – a good decision maker. Savvy leadership skills will be important in advancing in your career as a mechanic.
How to Become an Automotive Mechanic
So, you’ve got the passion for cars and the skill to excel as a mechanic, how do you become one?
Well, the first thing you’re going to need is your high school diploma. Get through school, and then your options begin to open up. To practice work as a mechanic, you’re going to want certification for the role.
Certification is not a necessity, but to get ahead in the role, you’re going to want to attain it. Getting certified means completing a specialised mechanic course. These courses generally take around a year and a half to complete.
It’s a targeted programme that strips away all of the distractions and filler, and teaches you what you need to know to be a mechanic: how to assess and repair a vehicle, so that you can perform your job well.
Be sure to look into whatever course you set your sights on – some focus more on automotive technology, while others are focused more on practical elements. Find the course that is right for you so that you have the best and most informative experience.
Courses will generally focus on mathematics, computers, electronics and of course, automotive repair. There are also oftentimes additional classes available on some programs in customer service, English and other skills that will help you stand-out in the role.
Perhaps even more important than certification starting out as a mechanic is experience. There is no better way to get a feel for the role than working in or alongside it. You can go about doing this by searching for jobs as an assistant, helper or trainee.
To find these jobs, look at the traditional routes like job listings and online, as well as applying directly to vehicle outlets and dealerships in your area.
By paying close attention to lead mechanics, you will begin understanding more and more about the day-to-day in the role and develop your own talents through observation. You’ll also improve your troubleshooting and problem-identifying skills through experience, an invaluable skill to have in the role.
As the number of vehicles in use around the world continues to rise, there will be a need for more entry-level mechanics to do maintenance and repair, such as brake pad replacements and oil changes.
This means that at the moment, the job outlook for mechanics is good – the market is expected to grow by 5.3% between 2014 and 2024 – especially for those who show a willingness to get ahead in their careers by earning certification.
Salary and Other Benefits of Being an Automotive Mechanic
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for automotive mechanics was $38,470 as of May 2016 (the median wage is the wage at which half the workers in occupation earn more than, and half earn less, giving an indication of the average salary in the profession).
In the role, the lowest 10% of automotive mechanics earned less than $21,470, with the highest 10% earning more than $64,070.
Many mechanics working for automobile dealers and independent repair shops receive a commission relating to the labor cost charged to the customer. Under this system, workers earn a “flat rate” salary – which will depend on the amount of work completed. Other repair shops may choose to pay their mechanics on an hourly basis.
Once you’re qualified, there are plenty of ways to increase your salary and make yourself more valuable to dealerships. One of these is getting manufacturer-specific certification or a certificate from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).
In terms of benefits that come with being an automotive mechanic, there are different perks that come with larger automobile companies and shops such as dental and health insurance, but these vary from outlet to outlet.
Automotive mechanics often have access to “unofficial” benefits, such as using shop space for personal vehicle repairs after hours, purchasing parts for personal use at a discount, and avoiding labor costs associated with vehicle repair. As a mechanic, you’ll have both access to all the tools you could possibly want, and also the skills to utilize them.
Being a mechanic, especially a certified one, gives you a set of skills that are transferable to nearly any place on the planet – the ability to fix vehicles is almost universal, meaning your skills would be desirable if you decided you wanted to travel to different parts of the world.
Perhaps there are many elements of being an automotive mechanic that really appeal to you but you’re not fully tempted to pursue it as a career – don’t worry because there are other occupations with similarities that also don’t require a degree such as that of an aircraft mechanic and a power plant operator.
Aircraft Mechanics share a lot of traits with automotive mechanics – you need to be a meticulous person with a technical approach to your work; you need to be good when it comes to maintenance and repair; and you’ll need to be able to identify problems where necessary. The biggest difference, and it’s pretty obvious, is that aircraft mechanics deal with aviation as opposed to vehicles – that means aeroplanes, helicopters, jets, etc.
Working as a Power Plant Operator takes you away from vehicles, but requires a technical and meticulous approach, as well as decisive decisions and good communication skills, like a mechanic. It’s a role that requires extensive on-job training, but offers a fine salary and is a career that is accessible without a degree.
If you love automotive vehicles and have the skill-set to back up your passion, then a career as a mechanic could be spot-on for you. It can be a rewarding craft that arms you with skills that can be applied in jobs across the world, and you don't even have to get a college degree.
Perhaps the education system isn't for you or you do not want to be bogged down with debts from student loans and don't want to go to college – well, don't fear, as there are jobs out there. Careers like that of an automotive mechanic are proof that you do not necessarily need to go to college to get a really good job.