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Did you grow up tinkering on cars? Are you the first one your friends and family call on when something is in need of repair? You might make an excellent automotive technician.
In addition to having the right training, automotive technicians possess a certain set of skills that allow them to excel in their job. Great technicians are well-rounded and have both mechanical and interpersonal skills, as they spend time working under the hood and interacting with their customers.
If this is a career path you’re starting to consider, it can be helpful to know the skills you’ll need to be successful. Keep reading to learn all about how to become an auto technician and the top skills employers look for when hiring new talent.
Automotive technicians, also known as mechanics, diagnose, maintain, inspect and repair cars, trucks and other vehicles. They keep the vehicles we rely on every day up and running and are the ones we go to when they break down.
In order to become an auto technician, you will most likely need to complete a training program, like Universal Technical Institute’s 51-week Automotive Technology program, to learn the fundamentals of how today’s vehicles run.
In some cases, this knowledge can be gained through on-the-job experience, but a trade school like UTI is designed to provide you with a focused, hands-on education that can help you jump start your career in the industry. You may even be able to complete your program in less than a year.
Auto mechanic education requirements can vary based on the employer. According to Mark Malizzi, Service Director for Fred Beans Ford of Boyertown, having some kind of automotive training is essential to succeeding in this industry. He recommends taking a high school vocational program if it’s available to you, and then going on to complete a training program at a school like UTI.
Mark also greatly values specialized training. One of the benefits of attending UTI is the school’s relationship with leading manufacturers and the ability to take a manufacturer-specific advanced training program, like the Ford Accelerated Credential Training (FACT) program. “We highly recommend students to take the Ford FACT program because that gets them 80% trained before coming to our dealership. Plus, the Fred Beans organization is willing to pay part of their tuition back,” Mark shares.
According to Mark, technicians who take a specialized training program like Ford FACT are more valuable when applying for jobs. Oftentimes, they earn $2-3 more per hour right off the bat for their base pay! This is because it makes it easier for the employer to pick up where the student left off with their program and send them to the next level of Ford engineering and training. “In our world, the key really is to have the Ford FACT program training, because it links students to the manufacturer,” Mark says.
While everyone’s path is different, here are the steps that automotive technicians commonly take when starting their career:
Having an in-depth knowledge of the automotive industry in addition to soft skills such as communication and problem solving can separate a good technician from a great one. Demonstrating how you possess the following qualities in the interview process can set you apart from other applicants and really spark the interest of an employer:
First and foremost, automotive technicians must be able to adapt. This industry is constantly changing, and it’s important for technicians to evolve right alongside it. While it can be easy to get stuck in your ways, the best technicians are flexible and ready to take on any new challenge that comes their way.
“We have a program that continues to constantly change. Because of that, our technicians have to be people who can learn something new and adapt in a quick manner,” Mark shares.
Most technicians will tell you that they are never ‘bored’ in their day-to-day work. This is a fast-paced career, and no two days on the job are alike. Whether you’re meeting with a customer, working on a repair or diagnosing a vehicle, you will have to adapt to your surroundings and be willing to wear multiple hats at times.
When a customer brings in their car for a repair, they are often stressed and overwhelmed. A great technician acknowledges this and is able to find the source of the problem quickly and efficiently. Once they’ve diagnosed the vehicle, they use their mechanical and electrical skills to complete the repair and get the vehicle back up and running.
Auto technicians are knowledgeable about the wide variety of issues that can occur in vehicles and how to solve them. Whether it’s a problem with the brakes, electrical system or ignition, they are able to determine the issue, execute the repair and communicate with the customer throughout the process.
Being able to communicate effectively with others will be key to your success as an automotive technician. While much of your time on the job will be spent working on vehicles, you will also interact with your customers on a daily basis. Your customers will rely on you to keep them in the loop throughout the repair process, and in many cases, you will have to re-train the customer on how to use new technology in the car properly.
According to Mark, “Having people skills, a good personality, a professional appearance and being respectful really go a long way in the industry right now.” Being a technician in today’s world is about so much more than identifying problems and replacing parts—you must also be able to communicate with all different kinds of people in order to meet the needs of your customers.
Along with having people skills, great technicians understand the importance of showing professionalism. Your customers will see you as the face of the dealership or repair shop, so it’s important to put your best foot forward. This means dressing in the appropriate attire, being respectful, showing integrity and embodying your company’s values.
Mark shares that as an employer, professionalism is one of the main things he looks for when hiring. Applicants who come to their interview in nice clothes, bring their printed resume and are able to communicate with him are much more likely to get the job than someone who isn’t professional—no matter how great of a technician they are. By taking these steps, you automatically become more valuable to employers.
As with any career, problems will inevitably arise in your day-to-day work as a technician. This requires the ability to problem-solve and think on your feet. Whether a repair is taking longer than expected or a customer is unhappy with their vehicle, it’s the job of a technician to come up with a solution that is best for the customer and the company.
Changes in technology have transformed the automotive industry. Today’s technicians do so much more than turn wrenches—they work on complex vehicles using high-tech diagnostic equipment. Because of this shift in technology, technicians who are trained to work with the latest tools and equipment are in high demand.
Employers look for technicians who are tech-savvy and motivated to stay up-to-date with the industry as it evolves. Showing that you’re eager to learn and are willing to take advantage of any additional training opportunities will benefit both the employer and your personal career development.
Successful technicians have an incredible work ethic. They know that their customers are depending on them, so they aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and put in the hard work required to get the job done. Their passion for the industry is what drives them to succeed, and they give their all to every repair they work on.
If you’re getting ready for an upcoming automotive technician interview, keep these qualities in mind. Employers want to hear about tangible ways you’ve demonstrated these skills, so if you have specific experiences where you’ve shown your ability to problem solve, for example, be sure to share them.
Most importantly, always make sure you’re conveying professionalism. Wear the right attire, shake the employer’s hand, show respect, answer their questions to the best of your ability and thank them for taking the time to meet with you. This can help you to make a positive first impression on the employer, making you much more likely to be considered for the job.
Last but certainly not least, remember to be confident! Trust that your skills, experience and hard work will pay off when you apply for jobs and meet with employers. Best of luck!
Want additional resources? Be sure to check out our auto technician interview tips and resume examples and template.
From vehicle electronic technology to diagnostics and drivability, UTI’s 51-week Automotive Technology program is designed to equip you with the skills the industry says matters most. To learn more, visit our program page and request information today.
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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2) For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended this program, and to review the applicable Gainful Employment disclosure, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
6) UTI graduates' achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
7) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.
10) Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.
12) Based on data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections (2016-2026), www.bls.gov, viewed October 24, 2017. The projected number of annual job openings, by job classification is: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, 75,900; Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, 28,300; Automotive Body and Related Repairers, 17,200. Job openings include openings due to growth and net replacements.
15) Manufacturer-paid advanced training programs are conducted by UTI’s Custom Training Group on behalf of manufacturers who determine acceptance criteria and conditions. These programs are not part of UTI’s accreditation.
Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved to operate by the Private Business and Vocational Schools Division of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.