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How Long Does It Take to Become a Professional Automotive Technician?

UTI Profile Image Universal Technical Institute Oct 15, 2018 ·
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Let’s face it. We’re all programmed to believe that the only way to find career success is through a four-year college degree. It’s so engrained in our belief system that we don’t even question it.

High school seniors are often asked where they plan on going to college. If the answer is anything less than a four-year university, there’s a good chance people will look at you like you have worms growing out of your ears.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with going to a four-year school if that’s the right decision for you. But here’s the thing. No matter how odd it may sound to people who are stuck in a traditional way of thinking, that isn’t the right path for everyone.

In fact, there’s a growing trend where disrupters are walking away from tradition in favor of the trades. After all, there’s a real shortage of skilled tradespeople in today’s workforce—the very people we need to keep this country running.

Those disrupters are replacing the four-year university path with trade schools and technical training, where there is an opportunity to prepare for an in-demand career as an automobile technician or mechanic in about a year.

Automobiles sitting in a garage.

Don’t Confuse Trade School for a Last Resort. It’s Not.

Newer automobiles are extremely complex. The electronics are complex and today’s vehicles can have over 70 computers onboard—all capable of talking to each other in a matter of milliseconds while using sensor arrays and monitoring systems located all over the vehicle.

Does repairing that kind of technology sound like something dropouts are stuck doing? Not at all. Today’s automotive technicians and mechanics are highly respected professionals who need to be able to repair those complex systems on top of conducting traditional repairs like carburetors and spark plugs.

This evolving technology requires special diagnostic equipment and highly intelligent people who like to work with both their heads and their hands to be successful.

To become an entry-level automotive technician doesn’t require a four-year degree, and you typically aren’t stuck with an unpaid internship waiting for you before you can graduate.

Here’s an interesting fact. Instead of those unpaid internships, there’s something called Tuition Reimbursement Programs that are available to qualified graduates. Employers are hungry for qualified entry-level technicians, and without enough people to fill the growing number of job openings, select employers are willing to repay tuition or tool costs after graduation.

A Week-by-Week Snapshot of Universal Technical Institute’s 17 course, 51-week Automotive Program

UTI’s Automotive program consists of 17 three-week courses carried out over a 51-week period. But it’s important to know one thing before you keep reading. You do not have to be an expert before you attend Universal Technical Institute. That’s why we’re here. We have a variety of students with diverse backgrounds. Some have been wrenching since they can walk, but others have never picked up a wrench. And there are a variety of people in between. All can find success. You just need a willingness to learn new things, and the bravery to dive in and do it.

Instructor and students looking at an engine block.

Okay, now for the class breakdown:

Weeks 1-3: INTRODUCTION TO ENGINES   

The engines course will most likely be the first course you experience if you attend Universal Technical Institute. You’ll learn about safety, engine configurations, and engine components, and you’ll get a chance to dismantle the many components that make up an actual engine, reassemble the engine, and learn about the operation of lubrication and cooling systems that prevent damage to all those moving parts.

Weeks 4-6: INTRODUCTION TO POWERTRAINS

The powertrains course will help you learn how manufacturers transfer all that power to the wheels. You’ll learn about the different driveline configurations that include front wheel drive, rear wheel drive and four-wheel drive. You’ll also get introduced to the manual transmission, driveshafts, and rear axle components like helical gear sets.

Then you’ll discuss automatic transmissions, torque converters, and how planetary gear sets function and also learn how to disassemble, service and rebuild an auto transmission.

Weeks 7-9: INTRODUCTION TO AUTOMOTIVE PHYSICAL SCIENCE: UNDERCAR SYSTEMS

The undercar course introduces you to the systems and components needed to safely stop and steer a vehicle around corners. You’ll be introduced to tires, suspension theory, and the different configurations employed on vehicles, along with the tools and equipment necessary to safely service and repair them. Steering systems and the theory behind their operation are a part of this section, as is the operation of brakes and how they’re properly serviced and repaired.

Weeks 10-12: AUTOMOTIVE PHYSICAL SCIENCE PRINCIPLES: ELECTRICAL FUNDAMENTALS

In our electrical fundamentals course, you’ll learn how to build and safely test working electrical circuits with a Digital Volt Ohm Meter (DVOM). You’ll look over a vehicle’s electrical system and the battery (along with the chemistry behind it), and you’ll discuss charging systems and alternators. You’ll talk about the special tools used to test these systems safely as well.

Weeks 13-15: ELECTRICAL APPLICATIONS

With the electrical applications course, you’ll learn about electrical waveforms, along with the difference between analog and digital signals. You’ll also learn how to read and use scan tools (or oscilloscopes) to diagnose the components that use them. You’ll also go over the input, processing and output devices that a modern vehicle uses to control engine operation.

Weeks 16-18: TECHNOLOGY PRINCIPLES AND CONSUMER COMMUNICATION OF AUTOMOTIVE HVAC

With this course, you’ll cover the Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, and you’ll learn about the air conditioning system safety and the laws governing its use. Students will also use A/C recycling machines to test and inspect the system for leaks as well as depressurize and re-pressurize the system safely.

Weeks 19-21: MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS   

The first week of this course introduces you to different types of final drive or rear axle such as the integral and removable styles and Limited Slip Differentials. Your second week will be spent learning about and servicing, diagnosing and repairing 4WD transfer boxes, clutch systems and longitudinal transmissions. Your last week of the course will teach you about servicing, diagnosing and repairing transverse transmissions and performance transmissions.

Weeks 22-24: AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSIONS

The automatic transmissions course will expand on the powertrains course and introduce you to some of the more complex types of automatic transmissions along with those that use computers to control them. You will go over Hydraulic systems, torque converters, and the valve body and transmission sensors. Disassemble a transmission. Learn how to test and diagnose the operation of components as the reassembly process begins. And service and diagnose the operation of your completely rebuilt transmission.

Weeks 25-27: BRAKING SYSTEMS     

The Braking Systems course will enhance your knowledge even further by teaching you about the complexities of power braking, anti-lock braking, traction and stability control systems and how to safely service and diagnose them.

Learn about brake system inspection and testing, warning systems and diagnosis. Work with the brake system hydraulics, system bleeding procedures, master cylinder and power braking system operation. Learn about servicing and diagnosing anti-lock braking and traction control systems, and how they reduce both wheel skid under braking and wheel spin on acceleration.

Weeks 28-30: STEERING AND SUSPENSION SYSTEMS

The steering and suspension course expands on what you learned in the undercar course and introduces you to the differing types of steering mechanism and suspension systems used in a modern vehicle, including those that use air and computers for control. How to check for correct steering and suspension alignment will also be covered.

Weeks 31-33: INTRODUCTION TO DRIVEABILITY

This course introduces students to the main systems used in a vehicle's engine management system, like fuel delivery and ignition, and how to diagnose those components used within them when things go wrong.

Weeks 34-36: APPLICATIONS OF DRIVEABILITY

Having learned about the basic engine management systems incorporated in vehicles, you will now be introduced to some of the more complex systems used in today’s vehicles, including multi point and direct injection, variable camshaft timing and lift, supercharging and turbocharging. Emission control systems and the rules that govern them will also be explained.

Weeks 37-39: POWER AND PERFORMANCE I: ENGINE BUILD

In Power and Performance, you will gain knowledge of basic engine rebuilding procedures when given an exacting set of specifications, this is known as blueprinting. Small block domestic performance engines are disassembled, measured and reassembled with emphasis on high performance engine building techniques and practices. Students learn basic cylinder head design and the operation of a flow bench in improving cylinder head flow characteristics.

Weeks 40-42: POWER AND PERFORMANCE II: BOLT-ON PERFORMANCE

Students gain knowledge in the operation of dynamometer testing with emphasis on tuning and component selection for optimum performance. Chassis dynamometers are utilized to garner a better understanding for students in regards to engine vs. rear wheel horsepower.

High performance induction, ignition and power train theories are explained with emphasis on using formulas to calculate correct header and carburetor size. Utilization of dynamometer data helps students understand what changes to an engine’s induction, exhaust and fueling system do in regard to the performance capability of the internal combustion engine.

Weeks 43-45: POWER AND PERFORMANCE III: COMPUTER PERFORMANCE TUNING

In this section, students learn how vehicle modifications and performance-oriented equipment can change the engine computer’s ability to function at its peak. Students will also use aftermarket software to change the calibration of the vehicle’s powertrain control module (PCM) to better manage performance enhancements and modifications.

Weeks 46-48: ADVANCED ELECTRICAL APPLICATIONS

In this course students will learn the basic principles of electronic devices used to support the vehicle as a whole, including the engine management systems. They will also learn about electronic test equipment and service tools that will help them diagnose computer management components, circuits and systems.

Weeks 49-51: ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY/HYBRID AND SERVICE ADVISING

Here, students learn theory, diagnosis and repair information necessary to safely and effectively service hybrid vehicles and alternative fuels systems and technology. Students will also go over the principles of service advising and how they fit into service operations.

This portion of the course covers the written and verbal communication standards typical of a professional dealership environment in providing customer service, questioning techniques, efficient diagnosis of customer concerns, report completion, organization and co-worker/ management interaction skills.

Student working on a Ford truck.

Graduation

Congratulations, now that you’ve successfully completed all 51 weeks, you’ve made it! While thinking about all the things you have learned during the program, it becomes clear that this wasn’t just about cars, it was about being a professional in this field. Now it’s time to find that next job of your dreams.

YOU COULD START YOUR EXCITING NEW CAREER AS A MECHANIC TECHNICIAN TODAY.

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