A Guide to Automotive Careers
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We've all seen shows like Pimp My Ride, Overhaulin' and American Hot Rod seduce us with their big engines and fast cars. But there's nothing like the joy of fixing a car with your own two hands. It's just a bonus if it happens to be a fast car with a big engine.
Although these are just television shows, there is a real need for mechanics and automotive technicians. The number of cars in the U.S. continues to rise and the number of skilled workers needed to keep them on the road also continues to increase rapidly. These professionals perform routine maintenance, repair vehicles and anything else it takes to keep America's wheels in motion.
There are several careers within the automotive repair and service industry:
Automotive Technicians maintain and repair vehicles. These technicians perform routine services and repairs. This can be anything from oil changes and tune-ups to radiator and engine replacements.
Diesel Technicians service the big trucks and powerful eighteen-wheelers. The transportation industry relies heavily upon these trucks to get materials where they need to go, just as these diesels rely on their mechanics to keep them truckin'.
Specialists are experts in a particular area, such as brakes, transmissions, or electronics. It is not uncommon to specialize in more than one area, but each are of expertise requires its own certification.
Collision Professionals repair auto bodies, paint cars and restore vehicles after wrecks. This sector also includes to high-end custom work. In other words, you could pimp someone's ride.
Alternative Fuels Vehicle Technicians specialize in the maintenance and repair of hybrid cars and other new vehicles that use alternative fuel sources, such as ethanol. This field will grow exponentially as the demand for and production of alternative fuel vehicles continues to grow.
With vehicles and components continually becoming more sophisticated, you need more than motor oil running through your veins to land a job working on cars. In today's computerized world, training and certification are the keys to making a living working on cars. There are many programs available from technical schools or secondary schools, like community colleges.
These programs combine hands-on learning with classroom work to give you the intensive career preparation you need. Many of these technical institutions offer concentrated training programs that last anywhere from six months to a year. However, programs at other post-secondary schools can last up to two years. These are both good options. Just make sure that the institution you choose has accreditation from the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. Only the best institutions secure and maintain this accreditation.
A typical program includes courses in: brakes, electronics, drive train/transmission, steering/suspension, heating and air conditioning, suspension/steering, drive line/chassis, engine diagnostics, fuel/exhaust systems and computer training with industry software. Upon completion of the program, most schools issue certificates, letting employers know that you are competent and ready to go to work.
It isn't uncommon to start out as an assistant or trainee, especially if you don't have training. However, as you learn skills and gain the trust and respect of those around you, you should move up within a few months. But to truly be a master of the craft, you need certification from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). To be certified, you must pass a written test and have two years experience, although completion of a trade school counts as one year. The best-of-the-best complete this certification process and become ASE Master Certified Mechanics.
Fixing something with your own two hands is a very rewarding experience. Doing it for a living gives you that satisfaction and helps someone else in need of automotive assistance. If nothing else, becoming a mechanic is a great way to get yourself into an auto shop and keep your car out of it.
Start by finding a school in your area!