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How to Become a Diesel Technician: The Qualifications & Skills Employers Want

UTI Profile Image Universal Technical Institute Feb 26, 2020 ·
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Have you ever considered pursuing a career in the diesel industry?

If you love big machinery and are looking for a career in a growing field with great income potential, becoming a diesel technician may be the perfect fit. Whether you’re a recent high school graduate or are looking to make a career change, now is a great time to start your training. This industry is booming, and exciting changes are taking place due to advancements in technology.

Keep reading to learn all about the career of a diesel technician, including how to become one and the qualifications and skills today’s employers look for. 

How to Become a Diesel Mechanic

Diesel technicians, also known as diesel mechanics, diagnose, troubleshoot and repair vehicles with diesel engines, including trucks, buses and construction equipment. On any given day, they may diagnose malfunctions, check batteries, inspect systems and parts and adjust wheels. 

In order to become a diesel technician, you will most likely need to complete a training program, like Universal Technical Institute’s 45-week Diesel Technology program, in order to gain a foundation of knowledge you can build on in your career.

While some skills can be learned through on-the-job experience, attending a trade school like UTI can teach you skills for the industry in a shorter amount of time and prepare you to complete ASE examinations. Graduates of UTI’s diesel program can even substitute their training for one of the two years of work experience required to become ASE certified.

Diesel Mechanic Education Requirements

Specific diesel mechanic requirements vary from employer to employer. According to Mitch Platt, Regional Service Technician Recruiter for Rush Enterprises, having some kind of diesel education is key in this industry. “If you have the opportunity to go to school, take it,” he says. “I encourage students to invest a year in schooling to get a good foothold and understanding of what the industry has in store for them.”

In addition to completing their core program, Mitch encourages his students to apply for a manufacturer-specific program to take their education to the next level. “I will hire a core student, but I really look for students who have invested in an advanced training program,” he says. Students who take the Ford, Cummins, Peterbilt or International programs (or a combination of these) really catch his attention.

Today, education is even more critical than in years past because of how fast technology is evolving. In the near future, we will most likely see self-driving technology, adaptive cruise control, self-braking and other exciting features continue to evolve and become more widely adopted.  

Despite these changes in technology, however, the need for technicians remains. “The key to all of this is that there will still need to be people who can work on this equipment,” Mitch says. While there might not be a driver in the seat, we still need technicians to work on these vehicles.

When hiring, Mitch looks for people who might have been exposed to the industry. He looks for applicants who are self-starters and have learned to change oil, put brakes on cars and do other small repairs on their own. To him, this is a sign that the person is motivated and truly passionate about the industry.

Mitch also greatly values those who have work experience—even if it might not be in the diesel industry. Students who work while in school and have a good attendance record show that they are dedicated and know what it’s like to be depended on and manage a busy schedule, which goes a long way.

Diesel Mechanic Qualifications

While every technician’s journey is unique, diesel professionals commonly take the following steps when getting their start in the industry:

  1. Earn your high school diploma or GED
  2. If available to you, enroll in a vocational high school program
  3. Complete a diesel training program and manufacturer-specific training program to make yourself more valuable to employers
  4. Test to become ASE certified (today’s original equipment manufacturers look for ASE-certified technicians)
  5. Work as an apprentice or entry-level technician to gain industry experience
  6. As time goes on, you may be able to advance to another role, such as diesel service writer, mobile diesel technician or power gen technician

Diesel Mechanic Skills

Diesel technicians must possess a certain set of skills to perform their job well. In addition to knowing the ins and outs of how diesel-powered vehicles run, the most successful technicians have the following traits: 

Attention to Detail

Being detail-oriented is an essential trait of any technician, especially in the diesel industry. Diesel technicians work with large, powerful pieces of equipment that can be very dangerous if they aren’t handled carefully. For this reason, it’s important for technicians to follow all safety procedures to a T.

In addition to safety, paying attention to detail allows technicians to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. This is a fast-paced industry, and there is little to no room for errors. Technicians must be incredibly focused on the details in order to produce quality work and meet the needs of their customers.

Communication Skills

A common misconception about technicians is that they spend all of their time working on vehicles. While a significant amount of their time is spent doing hands-on work, diesel technicians also must communicate with customers, parts suppliers, vendors and other technicians.

Being able to communicate and build relationships with all different types of people is critical to the success of a technician. In many cases, they will be the one explaining the repair to the customer and answering any questions they have throughout the process. They are often seen as the face of the dealership or repair shop, so it’s important for them to represent the company well and provide exceptional customer service.

Technical Knowledge

The diesel industry has come a long way in the last decade, and the role of a technician today looks much different than it did several years ago due to technological advancements. For this reason, it’s important for technicians to stay ahead of the curve by learning to work on modern-day vehicles using the latest tools and equipment.

Having an understanding of volts and ohms, aftertreatment systems and how to use a multimeter are just some of the core concepts today’s technicians are expected to know. By gaining electrical knowledge through school or additional training, you can make yourself more marketable and may even receive higher starting pay.

Problem-Solving

The work of a diesel technician can be challenging. On any given day, you might have to meet with customers, run diagnostic tests and take inventory of the shop, all while finishing up a repair. As with any career path, you will inevitably hit bumps in the road from time to time. However, the best diesel technicians are problem-solvers and have the ability to think on their feet.

Whether you’re dealing with an unhappy customer, a repair is running behind schedule or the wrong part was delivered from a vendor, it’s the technician’s job to find a solution that is best for both the customer and shop. This might seem overwhelming, but for those who love this industry and like to be challenged, this career can be incredibly fulfilling.  

Driven to Succeed

Last but certainly not least, this career is what you make of it. According to Mitch, one of the most rewarding aspects of what he does is being able to see his technicians excel in the field and create incredible futures for themselves. The technicians who are driven to succeed are the ones who move their way through the system and advance to new roles, becoming better each day.

Mitch shares that if you just put in just eight hours and do the bare minimum, you will see minimum results. However, if you work hard and continue to grow your skill set, the sky’s the limit. Hard work pays off in this industry—he has seen some technicians go on to earn six-figure incomes!

Tips for Standing out in a Job Interview

Employers look for certain things when they interview candidates. As an aspiring technician, it can be helpful to know what these things are!

Mitch looks for three main qualities: attendance, attitude and aptitude—which he refers to as ‘Triple A.’

  • Attendance: Having good attendance is the most important thing to Mitch. This might sound simple, but if a student doesn’t show up to school or is always late, they will do the same thing at their job. “You can have a 4.0, but if your attendance isn’t over 95%, I’m not interested,” he shares. Whether you’re in school or have a job currently, be sure to make your attendance a priority and always be prompt.
  • Attitude: Mitch always pays attention to the way a candidate carries themselves. He looks for someone who makes eye contact, is attentive and able to make conversation with him, as this is a good indication of what it will be like to work with the person.
  • Aptitude: Someone’s ability to be a good technician can’t be measured by their grades alone. This is why Mitch focuses on aptitude—or someone’s natural ability to do the hands-on work. When going into an interview, always be prepared to discuss specific projects you’ve worked on. Have you done repairs on your own vehicle or your parents’ vehicles? Discussing your real-life experience can give an employer an idea of your aptitude.

 Overall, becoming a diesel technician can be a rewarding career path with exciting opportunities for advancement. Whether you’re in the midst of your job search or are thinking about enrolling in a program to learn the fundamentals of the industry, keep these tips in mind. By focusing on gaining these skills, you’ll be sure to impress potential employers!

Looking for more resources? Check out our diesel technician interview tips and resume examples and template.

Train to Become a Diesel Mechanic at UTI

From truck brakes and chassis to diesel fuel systems, UTI’s 45-week Diesel Technology program is designed to provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as a diesel technician. To learn more, visit our program page and request information

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