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Growth in the Need for Auto Mechanics

by W D Adkins

The automobile is changing. In the summer of 2013, the Tessla Model S all-electric car was outselling traditional brands like Porsche, Fiat, Volvo and Lincoln in the important California luxury car market. High-tech systems, electric motors and hybrid gas-electric engines are transforming the job of the auto mechanic. The future promises to be exciting and challenging for those who develop the necessary skills.

Career Prospects

You can expect a 17-percent increase in the number of jobs for automobile mechanics between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As population grows, the number of cars on the road is also growing. Plus, today’s autos are lasting longer, so there’s more demand for maintenance and repair work. The best opportunities are for highly trained people. Employers have difficulty finding mechanics trained to handle the complex computerized systems, hybrid engines and other high-tech features of modern cars, reports the BLS.

The Modern Mechanic

Even with today’s high-tech cars, mechanics still have to change the oil, do tuneups, rotate tires and do all the other things to keep autos properly maintained. Damaged or worn out parts must be repaired or replaced. In addition, mechanics now use sophisticated test and diagnostic equipment to identify problems with computerized systems and complicated electronic components. Some mechanics specialize and work mainly on specific systems, such as brakes, electronics or engines.

Training and Certification

The BLS says employers are looking for auto mechanics with formal training and certification. Learning the fundamentals typically requires 6 months to a year. Many vocational schools and community colleges offer a 2-year program leading to an associate degree. Another option is a mechanic training program sponsored by an automobile manufacturer. These programs also take approximately 2 years and combine periods of classroom education and time spent learning on the job under the guidance of experienced mechanics. Once a student finishes training, he can be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Certification is available for specialists in drivetrain systems, electronics, brakes, transmissions and several other areas of automotive servicing.

Employers and Earnings

The largest employers of auto mechanics are auto repair and maintenance businesses, followed by car dealerships. Parts and tire retailers come next. Local governments and gas stations are also important sources of jobs for mechanics. As of 2012, the median annual salary for auto mechanics was $36,610. Those in the bottom 25 percent earned less than $27,150. The best-paid 25 percent made more than $48,230.

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