Diesel Mechanic Qualifications & Requirements

2/27/2020

If you love big machinery and are looking for a hands-on career, becoming a diesel technician may be the right 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 alive and well, and exciting changes are taking place due to advancements in technology.

Want to know how to become a diesel mechanic? Keep reading to learn about the career of a diesel technician, including the diesel mechanic qualifications and education requirements 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, where you can gain a foundation of knowledge employers value.1

While some skills can be learned through on-the-job experience, attending a trade school like UTI can teach students skills necessary for the industry in a shorter amount of time and help prepare them to earn important credentials. Graduates of UTI’s diesel program can substitute their training for one of the two years of work experience required to take the test 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.”

In addition to completing their core program, Mitch encourages students to enroll in a Manufacturer-Specific Advanced Training (MSAT) program while at UTI to take their education to the next level. “I will hire a core (graduate), but I really look for (graduates) who have invested in an advanced training program,” he says. Students who take the FordCummins46 or Peterbilt15 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 diesel 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 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:

  • Earn their high school diploma or GED.
  • If available to them, enroll in a vocational high school program.
  • Complete a diesel training program and MSAT program to make themselves more valuable to employers.
  • Become ASE-certified (today’s original equipment manufacturers look for ASE-certified technicians).
  • Work as an apprentice or entry-level technician to gain industry experience.
  • As time goes on, they may be able to advance to another role, such as diesel service writer, mobile diesel technician or power gen technician.

Diesel Mechanic Skills

Wondering what other diesel mechanic requirements there are? 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, 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 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 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, technicians can make themselves more marketable.

Problem Solving

The ability to persevere through challenges is one of the most significant diesel mechanic requirements. 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, technicians will inevitably hit bumps in the road from time to time. However, diesel technicians need to be problem-solvers and have the ability to think on their feet.

Whether it’s 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 suits both the customer and the 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 someone makes 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 promising 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 people put in just eight hours and do the bare minimum, they will see minimum results. However, if they work hard and their skill set continues to grow, so can their career, he says!

Benefits of Diesel Engine Qualifications

Fulfilling the diesel mechanic qualifications mentioned above can demonstrate dedication to employers. It may also:  

  • Prove trustworthiness to customers: Customers prefer mechanics who can prove they’re qualified. They may ask how long they’ve been in the field, what certifications they have and if they specialize in anything before choosing to give them their business. 
  • Sharpen knowledge: As techs earn diesel mechanic qualifications, they gain knowledge that can contribute to the field in a meaningful way, and with continued hard work and experience, may be able to pursue more advanced diesel mechanic roles.  
  • Potentially impact salary: Putting in the work required to become a qualified mechanic includes earning professional credentials like ASE certification, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), obtaining ASE certification often brings higher wages. 

Diesel Engine Classes

Diesel engine classes that teach students from the ground up and include hands-on instructions can help prepare them for a diesel mechanic career.18 The diesel courses at UTI take it a step further. They were developed with input from industry manufacturers to help students develop skills relevant to the field. Topics covered in classes include: 

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

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 candidates carry 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 an exciting career path. 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.

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

FAQs

Are There Any Specialized Diesel Engine Classes or Training Programs Available?

Yes! UTI offers specialized diesel training programs that help students earn the diesel mechanic qualifications needed to pursue careers with industry leaders like Cummins and Daimler Truck North America.  

Is It Hard to Learn Diesel Mechanics? 

Learning diesel mechanics takes time and dedication, but after receiving the proper training, graduates can build on their foundation of skills that have prepared them to pursue entry-level positions, where they can continue learning. 

Do I Have to Attend School to Become a Diesel Mechanic? 

Technically, you can learn on the job after earning a high school diploma or GED. However, BLS reports that an increasing number of employers prefer candidates who’ve attended a formal training program. These candidates often require less time to bring up to speed because they understand diesel technology fundamentals. 

Earn Diesel Mechanic Qualifications at UTI

From truck brakes and chassis to diesel fuel systems, UTI’s 45-week Diesel Technology program is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to become a diesel technician.

If you’re looking to continue your education with specialized training, UTI offers several options for diesel. This includes the 12-week Cummins Engines program, where students train on the manufacturers' full line of diesel equipment.9 Depending on the campus, students can earn Cummins' qualifications that prepare them to pursue work at a Cummins distributor or authorized dealer after graduation! 

To learn more about training at UTI, request information today. We’ll connect you with an Admissions Representative who can answer your questions and help get you started.

UTI Campuses That Offer Diesel Mechanic Training

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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.
7 ) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.
9 ) Does not include time required to complete a qualifying prerequisite program such as UTI’s 45-week Diesel Technology program.
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.
46 ) Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.

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