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A Day in the Life of an Automotive Mechanic: Duties, Salaries & More

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A Day in the Life of an Automotive Mechanic: Duties, Salaries & More

Ever wondered what it’s like to be an auto mechanic?

Automotive mechanics, commonly referred to as auto technicians, work on cars day in and day out. This is a dynamic career, and it’s anything but mundane. Depending on the environment they work in and the types of vehicles that come through their door, mechanics can do anything from completing routine maintenance services to doing entire engine replacements on a typical day.

If you’re looking for a job that involves working with cool cars, meeting a variety of clients and mastering complex technology, this could be the career path for you.1 Keep reading to learn what automotive mechanics do, how much they earn, how to become one and more.

What Is an Automotive Mechanic?

Cars play an important role in our daily lives. They transport us to and from work, take us on road trips, race to provide entertainment and are vital tools in emergency situations. It’s safe to say we couldn’t live without them—which means we also couldn’t live without the technicians who work on them.

Automotive mechanics diagnose, maintain, inspect and repair cars, light trucks and other vehicles. They possess in-depth knowledge on how electrical and mechanical systems come together to make a vehicle run. Similar to the way a doctor must be familiar with the human body, an auto technician must understand all of the different parts of a vehicle and the functions they serve.

Today’s mechanics are found working in a variety of different environments, including dealerships, automotive parts stores, tire shops and repair shops, just to name a few. Some travel to customer job sites or even homes to complete repairs. Oftentimes, they are also responsible for researching and ordering parts, managing invoices and talking on the phone with customers.

The schedule of a mechanic can vary, but auto mechanics typically work full-time, five to six days per week. Each facility determines its own wages, whether it’s flat-rate or hourly. Some technicians receive a commission and some facilities offer overtime.

Specific wages are determined based on the workplace, which we’ll discuss more later in this article.

Automotive Mechanic Job Description

The job of a modern-day mechanic looks much different than in years past. Today’s technicians use traditional tools like wrenches, but they also must be familiar with the complicated mechanical and electronic systems found in many of the cars we see on the road.

So, what can you expect to find in an auto mechanic job description? While job responsibilities can vary depending on a technician’s chosen career path, some typical tasks found in an auto mechanic job description include:

  • Perform routine maintenance, such as oil changes, tire rotations, battery installations, transmission flushes and more
  • Diagnose and troubleshoot vehicles for a variety of problems
  • Advise customers and provide estimates
  • Execute repairs and test drive vehicles to ensure everything is working properly
  • Ensure vehicles meet state requirements for emissions and safety
  • Help to maintain inventory
  • Document the repair process and maintain important paperwork
  • Follow safety procedures
  • Complete continued training to stay relevant with technology and industry best practices

As you can see, being a mechanic is a multifaceted job. Mechanics must know the technical side of things in order to deliver safe and reliable vehicles to clients, but they must also have people skills in order to provide excellent customer service.

How to Become an Automotive Mechanic

So how exactly does one become an automotive mechanic?

Technicians must know how to use basic manual and power tools. It’s important for them to have a working knowledge of the parts, engines and mechanics so they can identify problems and develop solutions. In addition, they must also have strong communication skills, an understanding of basic office etiquette and, most importantly, a good work ethic.

In order to develop these skills, automotive technicians may choose to complete a formal training program such as Universal Technical Institute’s Automotive Technology program.

This 51-week program is designed to build your knowledge from the ground up by teaching you how to diagnose, maintain and repair domestic and foreign vehicles like an automotive professional.4 Automotive classes begin at regular intervals, so you can start when it's convenient for you.

UTI also offers a variety of automotive Manufacturer-Specific Advanced Training (MSAT) programs, which can be completed after your core program.15 These specialized programs teach you the specifics of leading brands in the industry, including Ford, BMW and Volvo, to name a few.

There is no standard license, certificate or degree required to work as an automotive technician. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employers prefer auto technicians who have completed a program at a postsecondary institution, such as a trade school like UTI. This provides a foundation of knowledge the technician can build upon.

Completing a vocational or other postsecondary education program in automotive technology is considered the best preparation for entry-level positions. Specific requirements vary from employer to employer, but generally speaking the more knowledge of the industry you have, the better. Networking and professionalism also go a long way in this industry.

ASE & Master Certifications

As an automotive technician, there are a variety of different certifications you can earn. These will only help to enhance your résumé and establish credibility in the industry.

Similar to the way medical professionals can be “board certified,” automotive techs can be certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). This is a nonprofit, independent organization that tests and certifies auto technicians. It exists to ensure proper education and skills within various specialties.

While automotive technicians can work without being ASE certified, having it distinguishes you from the competition and may even increase opportunities for higher pay. The ASE offers a wide variety of certification tests that cover almost every aspect of the automotive service and repair industry, from collision repair to transit bus certification tests.

Technicians can test for certification in a specific area or work toward passing the required eight tests (A1-A8) to achieve Master Automobile Technician status. The great thing about UTI’s Automotive Technology program is that graduates are well prepared to take ASE exams and can substitute their training for one of the two years of work experience required to become ASE certified.

To learn more, check out our guide on how to become ASE certified.

Automotive Program Graduate Story

Automotive Mechanic Salary & Outlook

According to the BLS, the number of vehicles in use is expected to continue to rise. Therefore, more entry-level service technicians will be needed to perform basic vehicle maintenance and repair, such as replacing brake pads and changing oil.

Job opportunities for qualified applicants should be very good, the BLS states. Many job openings will be in auto dealerships and independent repair shops, where a good majority of service technicians work.

So how much do auto mechanics make? The BLS reports that the median annual salary for automotive service technicians and mechanics in the United States was $42,090 in May 2019.25 This means that half of automotive technicians earned more and half earned less.

When it comes to income, it’s important to note that salary can vary based on several factors, including location, industry, level of experience and employer. To learn how automotive technician salaries vary by state, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Whether you’re looking to stay in a specific area or are open to working in a variety of locations, career services may be available to help you find a position. For example, UTI offers Employment Assistance to help connect students and graduates to available jobs across the country.

All in all, becoming an automotive technician is a great career path with exciting opportunities for advancement. If you love working with your hands, enjoy learning about evolving technology and take pride in helping others, this could be the perfect career choice for you.

Ready to Start Your Training?

With UTI’s Automotive Technology program, you can complete your training in 51 weeks — less than a year!7 To learn more, visit our program page and request information to get in touch with an Admissions Representative.

In the meantime, feel free to check out these helpful resources:

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