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How Long Does It Take to Become a Diesel Mechanic?

Feb 25, 2021 ·
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A career as a diesel mechanic can be a fulfilling one if you enjoy working with your hands and want to work on parts that power some of the country’s most powerful and important vehicles. Diesel mechanics, also called diesel technicians, diagnose and repair diesel components. These are typically found in large trucks, buses, and other vehicles and machinery that use diesel engines, like cranes and bulldozers.

If you’re wondering how long it takes to become a diesel mechanic at Universal Technical Institute (UTI), the answer depends on which program you study and how specialized you become.  How long is diesel mechanic school? If you’re a full-time diesel mechanic student, you may be able to earn a diesel mechanic degree in as few as 45 weeks.7 Students who take UTI’s combined Automotive/Diesel Technology program (which takes slightly longer to complete) may be able to earn an associate diesel mechanic degree, depending on the campus.

Additionally, those who further their education with specialized courses may take on around 12 additional weeks of study to become knowledgeable about diesel brands like Cummins, Freightliner and Peterbilt.15

If working as a diesel mechanic sounds interesting, read on for more about career opportunities and how to become a diesel technician.

Responsibilities of a Diesel Mechanic

In the field, diesel mechanics are responsible for diagnosing and repairing diesel engines and vehicles. Diesel mechanics work in shops or might be mobile mechanics, going directly to customers. Their roles and duties include:

  • Talking with clients about the problems they’re having with a diesel vehicle
  • Creating a work strategy
  • Inspecting vehicle parts to figure out problems
  • Repairing and replacing faulty parts
  • Performing diesel maintenance 

Diesel engines power the country’s biggest trucks, large vehicles and machinery, like farm equipment. They’re essential to keeping the country up and running, which is one of the reasons the work of a diesel mechanic is so important.

How Much Does a Diesel Mechanic Make?

The career field for diesel mechanics in the United States is promising. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists in the United States was $50,200 in May 2030.29

This means half of 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.

What Education Do You Need to Become a Diesel Mechanic?

To become a diesel mechanic, a high school diploma or GED is usually required. Some mechanics choose to learn skills on the job and work their way up, while others enroll in a formal training program.

Some benefits of enrolling in a formal training program, like UTI’s Diesel Technology program, include:

  • Learning skills to become a diesel technician in just 45 weeks
  • Earning certifications recognized by the industry
  • Having the opportunity to network with top employers looking to hire diesel techs
  • Completing diesel specialized training, which was created with leading manufacturers
  • Benefiting from UTI’s Career Services resources while you’re in school and after you graduate

What Are the Requirements to Attend Diesel Mechanic School?

To apply for the core Diesel Technology program at UTI, the following diesel mechanic admissions requirements must be met.

  • A prospective student must be at least 16 years old.
  • The prospective student must submit at least one of the following documents, which must be accepted by UTI:
    • High school diploma
    • State-issued GED or state-authorized equivalent exam
    • Evidence of having attended a Title IV-eligible program at a postsecondary institution under the Ability to Benefit (ATB) provision before July 1, 2012
    • Successful completion of a degree program at the postsecondary level
    • Successful completion of an officially recognized home-school program

Students who are applying from outside of the United States are required to submit foreign education documents that must be confirmed as valid proof of high school completion.

What to Expect When You Attend a Trade School

There are lots of differences between a trade school and a traditional college. One is that when you enter the diesel program, you’re in class with students who are passionate about and interested in the same thing you’re studying: diesel engines. There’s no need to take electives you’re never going to use, like many traditional colleges require. You can maximize your time by studying the exact subject you plan to work on.

A diesel student works on an engine in a UTI lab.

Trade school gives you plenty of hands-on experience in true-to-life labs. You’ll work on diesel equipment you’ll encounter in the real world. In trade school, you get the opportunity to practice and make mistakes so you can learn. UTI instructors have experience working in the diesel industry, so they’ll be able to tell you what to expect when you enter the field. At some colleges and universities, professors went straight from school then back to school to teach. At UTI, your instructors come directly from the field.

Trade school might feature a mix of instruction, too. Students might do online learning, sit in lectures and put what they’ve learned to work in the labs. This type of instruction is different from traditional colleges that might have lectures with hundreds of people in them, with no choice but to listen to a professor. If you’re a hands-on or visual learner, lecture-only classes at traditional colleges can be tough to get through.

Speaking of class sizes, that’s another difference between trade schools and traditional colleges. While traditional colleges might have large classes, trade schools deliberately have small class sizes, allowing students to receive one-on-one attention with instructors and get plenty of hands-on learning opportunities.

Another benefit of trade schools is that extracurricular events tend to be focused on what students are interested in, like cars and vehicles. At UTI, events like car shows and drag races give students a way to bond and have fun outside of the classroom.

What Can You Do With a Diesel Mechanic Degree or Certificate?

Once you complete a diesel mechanic degree or certificate, you can use it to credential your experience when applying for jobs in the diesel field.

Diesel mechanics consult with customers and strategize repairs. They plan work procedures, inspect vehicle parts, run diagnostic tests and repair broken diesel equipment. Diesel mechanics typically use both computers and hand tools to diagnose and repair diesel components.

According to the BLS, the largest employers of diesel mechanics in 2020 were:

  • Truck transportation
  • Automotive repair and maintenance
  • Local government, excluding schools and hospitals
  • Motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and supplies merchant wholesalers
  • Automotive equipment rental and leasing

Diesel mechanics often work in repair shops, but some work as mobile mechanics and repair vehicles at worksites or on the road. Some diesel mechanics go on to become shop managers or open their own diesel repair businesses.

Diesel Mechanic Course Schedule

At UTI, students take a variety of diesel courses, including:

  • Automotive Climate Control Systems and Repair: types of refrigerants and oils, as well as different systems vehicle manufacturers use
  • Diesel Engines Service & Repair: fundamentals of engine repair and operation
  • Diesel Hydraulic Systems: fundamentals of hydraulic theory and hydraulic system operation, troubleshooting, and repair
  • Diesel Truck Brake Systems & Chassis: brake foundation and theory, air-supply system fundamentals, types of brakes
  • Diesel Truck Manual Transmissions: theories and principles of diesel transmissions
  • Diesel Truck Preventative Maintenance: how to perform Department of Transportation (DOT) inspections based on Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines
  • Diesel Truck Steering & Suspension Systems: diagnosis and service of power steering pumps, front hub assemblies, steering linkage, wheels and tires, gear boxes, steering columns, rear suspension systems, and alignment
  • Diesel Truck Transport Refrigeration: fundamentals of industrial refrigeration and applications in the trucking industry
  • Vehicle Electronic Systems and Technology: science of electrical principles and electricity and how they’re related to automotive technology

Each course features hands-on components using state-of-the-industry tools and technology that graduates will encounter in the professional world. Tests and final assessments are provided to ensure students grasp the curriculum.

What You’ll Learn at Diesel Mechanic School

Students who attend UTI's Diesel Technology program can learn the skills they need to succeed in an entry-level position as a diesel mechanic.1 Students will master how to diagnose, repair and replace diesel engines for a variety of clients, using real diesel machinery in lab environments.

After students complete the core diesel training program, they can apply for manufacturer-specific diesel specialized training programs offered by manufacturers including Cummins, Daimler Trucks and Peterbilt. These specialized courses go deeper into each brand, teaching students manufacturer-specific topics like engines, fuel systems, brakes and chassis, climate control, hydraulic applications, electronic technology, refrigeration, and preventative maintenance.

Diesel Mechanic School Locations

UTI’s diesel mechanic schools are located throughout the country, making it easy for students to find a location close to where they live or where they want to work. Diesel mechanic school locations are:

Classes start every three weeks. You can view the diesel school calendar here.

Are There Scholarships Available for Diesel Mechanic School?

Yes. Sites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb offer thousands of scholarships for all types of students, including soon-to-be high school graduates, military veterans and minorities. It’s possible to apply for scholarships based on your volunteer work, your unique experiences and interests, and how you intend to use your diesel education.

UTI has also compiled a list of scholarships and grants for students.10 To apply for scholarships, read the directions thoroughly. Gather all required materials, and make sure you turn in your application and required documents in time to meet the due date. Get more tips on how to apply for scholarships for diesel mechanic school.

Information on Diesel Mechanic School

If you’d like to learn more about attending diesel mechanic school, contact UTI. Our Admissions Representatives can answer any questions you might have and send you free information to help you learn more.

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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.

10) Financial aid, scholarships and grants are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.

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.

29) UTI’s Diesel Technology program prepares graduates for entry-level positions using the provided training, primarily as diesel technicians. Estimated annual salary is for Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists as published in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2020 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 $32,360 to $94,400 (Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development, May 2020 data https://lmi.dua.eol.mass.gov/lmi/OccupationalEmploymentAndWageSpecificOccupations#). Salary information for North Carolina: The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the hourly median wage for skilled diesel technicians in North Carolina is $23.20 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2020 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 percentiles of hourly earnings in North Carolina are $19.41 and $16.18, respectively.

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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