The Mechanic's Path to ASE Certification
When you’re looking for a doctor, you might seek out a clinician who is “board certified.” This stamp of approval by the American Board of Medical Specialties gives consumers confidence the doctor has all the proper education and skills to provide quality care within that specialty. This certification is not the same as a license, as in, it’s not necessary to practice medicine but it’s a big selling point for patients and a prestigious distinction for doctors.
The automotive industry may not have a board, but it does have the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), a non-profit, independent organization tasked with testing and certifying automotive mechanics and technicians. It exists for the same purpose as the medical board: to ensure proper education and skills within various specialties.
While you can work as a mechanic without ASE certification, having it distinguishes you from others and improves your employability.
WHAT IS ASE CERTIFICATION?
ASE certification exists to improve and maintain the quality of vehicle repair and service. It sets the bar for the entire industry and keeps individual technicians accountable to a set of standards. It’s not a regulatory body but it does vouch for reputation, specialty and quality within the automotive industry. Those who hold ASE certifications must recertify every five years.
ASE works in a few different ways. First, technicians are certified, not the service facilities they work in. Everyone within a service facility can be certified but the shop itself cannot be. Second, students can work toward certification before graduation. Finally, ASE has a unique process for accrediting automotive training programs, aside from the certification program. UTI holds this prestigious accreditation.
HOW TO BECOME ASE CERTIFIED
All Universal Technical Institute instructors hold ASE certification, making them a go-to resource as you consider earning yours. Because of the rigorous and comprehensive curriculum at UTI, graduates are well prepared to undergo the ASE certification requirements, and it’s often one of the first steps graduates take as they enter the automotive industry.
To become certified, you must:
- Gain hands-on work experience. You’ll need two years of on-the-job training. As a UTI graduate you will automatically receive one-year of that two-year (Yes, this means all UTI grads have a head start achieving an ASE repair technician certification.) Read more about the rules here, and submit the form for work experience here.
- Pass a written test. There are between 40 and 50 different ASE tests available — everything from electronic diesel engine diagnosis to school bus certification. Find the specialty you want. Then pop the hood and get studying. These certification tests aren’t easy. In fact, only two-thirds of test takers pass on their first try. Let this motivate you to study hard, not discourage you from taking the tests altogether.
Say, you’re new to the automotive industry and have pursued a career in auto repair. You might take one of these tests, all part of the Automobile and Light Truck Certification (A1-A9).
Within this category are nine tests offered, each with between 40 and 50 multiple-choice questions.
- A1 – Engine Repair
- A2 – Automatic Transmission/Transaxle
- A3 – Manual Drivetrain & Axles
- A4 – Suspension & Steering
- A5 – Brakes
- A6 – Electrical/Electronic Systems
- A7 – Heating & Air Conditioning
- A8 – Engine Performance
- A9 – Light Vehicle Diesel Engines
Maybe you went to school to work in automotive because you’re not the “book-studying, test-taking” type. You should know the tests are created by committees of automotive professionals, technicians and aftermarket manufacturers, not by academics who’ve never laid hands on a car before. This means the questions are relevant and process-based. They’re about practical issues you might run into on a daily basis. They’re also screened by multiple people, meaning poorly written or confusing questions are unlikely to squeak by.
ASE offers study guides, as well as official ASE practice tests to help. It even provides a series of sample questions you can answer within the testing platform, so you’ll know exactly what to expect on test day. You can take the exam at an ASE test center, or UTI students can take them on campus. Once you’re ready, register for the test by creating a myASE account.
BENEFITS OF BECOMING ASE-CERTIFIED
About 300,000 automotive mechanics and technicians hold ASE certification, and for good reason — becoming ASE certified has a long list of benefits. Among them:
- Shows customers you know your craft. Cars today are complex machines. When customers come in and ask questions, they want clear, concise answers from an expert. An ASE certification is a subtle way to say “I’m an expert” without sounding arrogant.
- Shows your employer you’re serious. An ASE certification shows employers you’re committed to what you do. Because this is an optional certification, working toward it shows you are interested in perfecting your craft and pursuing excellence in your field.
- Broadens your knowledge. To pass the ASE test, you’ll have to know your stuff backward and forward. Studying will reinforce your trouble areas and make you extra confident in the areas you already know well.
- Increases your earning potential. Salary and wage increases are based on both performance and education level. Keep your skills up and your promotion opportunities are likely to follow.
- There’s demand for ASE-Certified mechanics. Since ASE is an independent organization, certification is a universal and impartial way to grade potential job candidates. An auto repair facility might only extend offers to certified mechanics, in which case, you have a leg up on other non-certified applicants.
Completing ASE certification requirements is a solid career decision as you advance your career post-graduation within the automotive industry.