Diesel Mechanic Careers: A Comprehensive Guide

6/5/2023

A diesel mechanic career can be an exciting path to pursue, as it allows for hands-on problem-solving and countless opportunities to learn something new.

But is it a good choice? We think so! Keep reading to find out why and whether the job duties, educational path and career outlook are the right fit for you.

What Does a Diesel Mechanic Do?

A diesel mechanic career can be a good fit for individuals who enjoy thinking outside the box, love learning, are comfortable with technology, enjoy math, are adaptable and have good people skills.

Diesel mechanics, also called diesel technicians, inspect, repair and maintain buses, trucks, and any vehicle or equipment with a diesel engine. They may also be responsible for the following:

  • Consulting with customers.
  • Reading work orders to determine what is needed.
  • Reading technical charts and manuals to map out work procedures.
  • Interpreting diagnostic test results.
  • Inspecting steering mechanisms, brake systems, engines, transmissions and other important vehicle components and systems.
  • Repairing mechanical and electrical components.
  • Performing routine maintenance such as oil changes and tire rotations.
  • Test driving vehicles to ensure proper operation.

From trucking and transportation to construction and agriculture, some of the largest industries in the world depend on diesel technicians. Therefore, diesel mechanics' responsibilities can also vary depending on the type of industry they’re in. We consider this one of the many benefits of becoming a diesel technician.

Benefits of Diesel Mechanic Careers

Because several industries rely on diesel mechanics to keep them running, mechanics have a unique opportunity to transfer their skills across sectors and try new things throughout their careers.

Diesel mechanics may also find gratification in knowing they play a critical role in our world. They have a specialized skill set that is crucial to:

  • Safe roadways.
  • Repairing agricultural equipment that maintains our food supply.
  • Ensuring materials and goods can be transported.
  • Maintaining the power grid.

Diesel Mechanic Career Education Requirements

Most employers require at least a high school diploma or GED. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that an increasing number of employers prefer candidates with postsecondary education. Those who attend a trade school first can pursue the field with a strong core knowledge that employers can develop further.

The diesel mechanic school at Universal Technical Institute (UTI) was developed with the help of industry leaders to help students develop the skills many employers value in entry-level candidates.1 Course topics include:

  • Diesel Engines Service & Repair.
  • Diesel Truck Manual Transmissions.
  • Diesel Truck Brake Systems & Chassis.
  • Diesel Truck Steering & Suspension Systems.
  • Automotive Climate Control Systems and Repair.
  • Diesel Hydraulic Systems.
  • Vehicle Electronic Systems and Technology.
  • Diesel Truck Transport Refrigeration.
  • Diesel Truck Preventative Maintenance.

We teach our curriculum using a blended-learning model that reflects training in the professional world, further preparing students to enter the field.

A student trains on diesel engine repair in a UTI lab in Long Beach, California.

Students spend their time in online instruction and practicing in labs equipped with industry-standard tools, technologies and equipment.

Diesel Mechanic Career Path Duration

The amount of time it takes to become a diesel mechanic depends on the path taken to do so.

As mentioned above, some diesel mechanics enter the field after graduating high school or obtaining a GED. These candidates often require on-the-job training that begins at square one, while candidates who have attended a trade school first can pursue the field with foundational knowledge for employers to build upon.

Shane Rodgers of Penske Truck Leasing shared, “When hiring diesel technicians at Penske Truck Leasing, we know UTI graduates come to work ready, well prepared and a step ahead. UTI graduates also come to work with an advanced level of know-how that enables them to quickly become valuable team members.”1

UTI’s diesel mechanic school is 45 weeks long and helps prepare students to pursue entry-level careers in diesel technology once they graduate.7

Some eligible students can extend their education by attending one of UTI’s Manufacturer-Specific Advanced Training (MSAT) programs, where they can earn brand-specific training and credentials with industry leaders like Cummins,46 Daimler and Peterbilt.15

UTI graduates can also lean on UTI’s Career Services department — a team of specialists who have relationships with employers across the nation to locate potential career opportunities for aspiring mechanics.1

Diesel Mechanic Levels and Career Outlook

Diesel mechanics can work in a variety of industries, and the BLS predicts over 24,000 estimated average annual job openings in the United States for bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists between 2022 and 2032.43  But what type of diesel mechanic jobs do these include?

While most technicians start out working as entry-level technicians or in other entry-level roles, as with any industry, over time, you may be able to advance in your career with experience and hard work.77 Let’s discuss some common entry-level and advanced diesel technician jobs and their descriptions. Entry-level roles include:

  • Diesel technicians often work in repair shops to inspect, repair and maintain diesel-engine vehicles like buses and trucks.
  • Agriculture technicians typically work on a farm or in dealerships, servicing and repairing service equipment like tractors and planters.
  • Heavy equipment repair technicians service large diesel-powered equipment, such as cranes and bulldozers. They commonly work for construction, railway or transportation companies.

Advanced diesel technician jobs and their duties include:

  • Fleet managers supervise a team of diesel technicians and oversee a fleet of diesel vehicles to facilitate proper use, maintenance and repair. They're often employed by the transportation industry and private companies.
  • Shop foremen oversee a repair shop’s operations. This can include managing a team of technicians, enforcing standards, establishing proper procedures and more.
  • Master technicians are diesel techs certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) — an organization that recognizes competent and experienced technicians. These techs can work for various industries but are often looked to when determining the best course of action.

Diesel Mechanic Salary

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists in the United States was $54,360 in May 2022.29 This means half of the diesel technicians earned more and half earned less. Keep in mind that salary depends on several factors, including experience, employer, demand and cost of living in the area.

A UTI Grad’s Story of Becoming a Diesel Technician

Sean Pennala always had an interest in the auto and diesel industries. His dad encouraged him to tinker with things from a very young age — setting his passion in motion.

After leaving the military, Pennala enrolled in UTI’s diesel mechanic school. While attending a career fair with one of his instructors, he met a recruiter from Rush Peterbilt, where he now works.1

Pennala says, “When most people talk about, ‘Oh I have to go to work the next day,’ I don’t look at it that way. My job is fun, so I go to my fun every day. I wake up in the morning, and I enjoy going to my work. I’ve learned a lot. I’m still learning.”6

Pennala also enjoys going back to the campus to visit his instructors and share his journey with their current students.

He shared, “UTI laid out the foundation that I needed for my career.”

Diesel Mechanic Career FAQ

What are the highest-paying diesel mechanic careers?

Per the BLS, diesel mechanics who work in the scheduled air transportation industry are among the highest paid.

What are the main responsibilities and tasks of a diesel mechanic? 

A diesel mechanic's main responsibilities include maintaining, inspecting and repairing diesel engines in vehicles like buses, trucks and construction equipment. Their daily tasks involve diagnosing issues, replacing broken parts and testing systems to ensure engines run properly.

What is a diesel technician vs. diesel mechanic

The terms are used interchangeably. Technically speaking, mechanics complete hands-on work like rotating tires and changing oil while technicians specialize in electrical systems. However, many employers prefer entry-level candidates who can do both.

UTI's diesel programs provide students with the mechanical knowledge needed to complete hands-on work, as well as the theoretical knowledge required to assess technical systems.18

Are diesel careers hard?

Learning diesel mechanics is not easy but certainly exciting for those who consider themselves lifelong learners. Diesel technicians have a skill set that requires specialized training in everything from electronic diagnosis to manual transmissions. They must be attentive, adaptable and willing.

Is becoming a diesel mechanic worth it?

Yes. Diesel mechanics play a crucial role in our society. They help maintain power supply, ensure freight can be shipped, contribute their skills to the construction and agriculture industries and more!

Ready to Attend a Diesel Mechanic Trade School?

Having the option to try new things, training for an industry that matters, and learning an exciting trade are just a few of the benefits that accompany pursuing a diesel mechanic career path.

Take the first step byrequesting more info. We’ll connect you with an Admissions Representative who can answer additional questions or help you enroll! 

In less than one year, you could be pursuing a career.7

Campuses That Offer Diesel Mechanic Career Training

If training for a diesel mechanic career path interests you, find a campus near you to get started!

Austin, Texas

Avondale, Arizona

Bloomfield, New Jersey

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

Exton, Pennsylvania

Houston, Texas

Lisle, Illinois

Long Beach, California

Miramar, Florida

Orlando, Florida

Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Sacramento, CA

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1 ) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2 ) For program outcome information and other disclosures, 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.
15 ) Manufacturer-paid advanced training programs are conducted by UTI on behalf of manufacturers who determine acceptance criteria and conditions. These programs are not part of UTI’s accreditation. Programs available at select locations.
18 ) UTI now offers all of its automotive, diesel, motorcycle and marine technician training in a blended-learning format consisting of online lecture courses along with in-person, hands-on lab training.
29 ) UTI’s Diesel Technology Program prepares graduates for entry-level positions using the provided training, primarily as diesel technicians. Estimated annual salary shown above is for Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists as published in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2023 Occupational Employment and Wages. Entry-level salaries are lower for UTI graduates. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary. UTI graduates’ achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on economic factors, personal credentials, work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer, and their compensation programs. Some UTI graduates get jobs within their field of study in positions other than as diesel truck technicians, including in industries such as heavy equipment repair, power generation, and agriculture. Salary information for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: The average annual entry-level salary range for persons employed as Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists (49-3031) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is $48,980 (Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development, May 2022 data https://lmi.dua.eol.mass.gov/lmi/OccupationalEmploymentAndWageAllIndustries/OEWResult?A=01&GA=000025&OG=493031&Dopt=TEXT). Salary information for North Carolina: The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the hourly median wage for skilled diesel technicians in North Carolina is $25.28 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2023 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists). The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not publish entry-level salary data. However, the 25th and 10th percentile of hourly earnings in North Carolina are $21.55 and $18.00, respectively.
43 ) For Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an annual average of 24,300 job openings between 2022 and 2032. Job openings include openings due to net employment changes and net replacements. See Table 1.10 Occupational separations and openings, projected 2022-32, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, viewed November 16, 2023. UTI and MIAT are educational institutions and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
46 ) Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.
77 ) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary. UTI prepares graduates for entry-level careers using the provided training. UTI graduates’ achievements may vary. Some UTI graduates get jobs within their field of study in positions other than those listed.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

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