Were you the kid who loved to collect Hot Wheels or the teen who endlessly tinkered on your second-hand car? If you have a passion for vehicles, a knack for problem-solving, and a desire to work with your hands, you might make a wonderful mechanic.
Many people get their first introduction to such a career in high school auto shop class. With the complexity of modern vehicles, however, aspiring mechanics nowadays benefit from post-secondary education. Whether you wish to service and repair small sports cars or large rigs, attending a mechanic trade school can be a crucial step to launching your career.
What is a Mechanic Trade School?
A mechanic trade school is an institution of higher learning that provides students with classroom and hands-on training to develop a solid foundation for their future career. Many of the places offering mechanic education are commonly referred to as vocational or technical institutes. Numerous junior colleges also offer mechanics among their trade programs.
Students vary in their reasons for attending a mechanic trade school. Some are high school graduates with little to no experience in the auto industry. They may look for comprehensive programs designed to introduce the field and teach the basics, possibly with an eye toward specializing down the line. Others may be working mechanics taking classes in a specific area to enhance their knowledge and improve career prospects.
Attending a mechanic trade school can do more for your career than just providing job-related skills. Smart students take advantage of school services:
- Resume writing
- Studying for certification exams
- Finding employment
What to Expect at a Trade School for Mechanics
Trade schools for mechanics prepare students to perform services on cars and other types of vehicles. From oil changes to fluid flushes, they learn how to maintain vehicles in order to keep them running safely and efficiently. Students also become adept at figuring out the cause of the problem when a vehicle is not operating correctly. After diagnosing the issue, they use their skills to fix it.
Being a mechanic (also known as a service technician) involves understanding both how vehicles work and what physical measures are necessary for maintenance and repair. Thus, mechanic trade schools involve both classroom instruction and hands-on learning.
Types of Mechanic Classes or Topics
Specific courses that you take at a trade school for mechanics differ by place and by interest. However, the following are some topics often found in the curriculum at many post-secondary institutions:
- Preventative maintenance and routine services
- Automotive heating and cooling systems
- Electrical systems and wiring
- Suspension and steering systems
- Manual and automatic transmissions
- Engine configurations, diagnosis, performance, and repair
- Brake systems
- Battery maintenance
- Computerized engine control systems
- Body work
- Green technology
Types of Mechanic Degrees
A diploma from a mechanic trade school typically takes somewhere between a few months to up to a year to complete. Earning one can be a great way to acquire practical skills that can help you get a foot in the door with relevant employers. From there, entry-level employees often receive further on-the-job training to advance their career with the organization.
Popular diploma options include:
- Auto repair technician
- High performance technician (vehicles with high performance engines)
- Diesel technician
- Alternative fuels technician (electric and hybrid cars)
- Collision repair and refinish technician
With a mixture of classroom learning and hands-on experience, earning an associate degree provides a solid background for prospective mechanics. Completion takes two years, and you leave with a good foundation in auto repairs, operations, and systems.
Here are some common associate degrees you can earn from a mechanics trade school:
- Associate of Applied Science in Automotive Technology
- Associate of Applied Science in Auto Collision Repair
- Associate of Applied Science in Auto Body Repair and Painting
- Associate of Applied Science in Auto Service Management
- Associate of Occupational Studies in Diesel Technology
If your career aspirations include leadership positions or owning your own shop, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Automotive Technology can be a smart move. This four-year degree not only prepares students to maintain and fix cars. It delves into other relevant areas, such as business operations, customer relations, sales, and ethics. Individuals who pursue this degree oftentimes first complete a training program at a mechanic trade school or other two-year-or-less institution.
Note that the number of places offering a Bachelor’s Degree in Automotive Technology is small. Interested students should research their options.
How Much Does Mechanic Trade School Cost?
Costs for mechanic trade school vary by institution and program pursued. Programs generally take anywhere from six months to two years to complete and range from $1,000 to $20,000. When examining options, be sure to look at exactly what is included in tuition costs. Some schools work things like uniforms, safety gear, books, basic tools, and certification exam fees into the program’s price. Others expect students to handle these expenses separately from what they pay the school.
What Can You Do After Mechanic Trade School?
Places where graduates of mechanic trade schools often find work include:
- Car dealerships
- Independent auto repair, collision, and maintenance shops
- Stores selling tires and automotive parts
- Local government (servicing and repairing community vehicles such as police cars)
- School districts and private school bus contractors
Education mechanics can put their skills and knowledge to use in a variety of occupations. Here are a few to consider. All figures cited are per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
- Median Salary: $46,880.
- Career Outlook: +1% (2020-2030)
These professionals inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks. They perform routine services such as oil changes and tire rotations to keep vehicles running smoothly. When a car experiences problems operating correctly, service techs use diagnostic equipment and their own body of knowledge to figure out what is wrong and how to rectify the situation.
- Median Salary: $47,020
- Career Outlook: +3% (2020-2030)
Cars require various services after an accident. Such fixes may include replacing damaged body parts or windshields, realigning frames to repair structural damage, and restoring the vehicle’s appearance through hammering out dents and repainting surfaces. Automotive body and glass repairers perform such actions to make the car operational, safe, and better looking.
- Median Salary: $48,690
- Career Outlook: +4% (2020-2030)
Diesel engines power buses, trucks, bulldozers, cranes, commercial boats, and other heavy vehicles. Diesel service techs and mechanics inspect, maintain, and repair things that operate using a diesel engine.
- Median Salary: $62,680
- Career Outlook: -5% (2020-2030)
Insurance companies and independent adjusting firms depend on auto damage appraisers to inspect vehicles involved in accidents and estimate the cost of repairs. This information then gets used to determine further action, such as whether to fix the car or to call it totalled.
Employers may require (or prefer) that mechanics working for them hold certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). This industry association offers more than 50 different certification tests targeting various aspects of the automotive repair and service industry.
Because achieving a distinction requires specified work experience and passing the corresponding exam, it helps employers feel secure that those who they hire possess a high level of competency. Touting that their technicians are ASE-certified assists companies in gaining customers and receiving their trust. Maintaining ASE certification requires retesting every five years to keep up with industry developments and standards.
For a job candidate, ASE certification offers tangible proof of knowledge. The credential often translates into greater career opportunities and better pay. Faculty and administrators at mechanic trade schools can help their students understand the certification process and prepare appropriately.
Want to go even further? Become a Master Technician. The ASE bestows this title to someone who earns certification in all required testing areas for a given “series.”
- Pass tests A1-A8, for example, to be a Master Automobile Technician, or…
- Pass the T-series exams to become a Master Medium/Heavy Truck Technician
Mechanic Salary and Career Information by State
Americans depend heavily on their cars to get around. Likewise, the nation relies on buses, trucks, and other large vehicles to transport people and goods. Thus, all parts of the country need the services of trained mechanics.
It still is a good idea, though, to think about where you might want to land a job after training at a mechanic trade school. Geographical region plays a significant role in terms of opportunities and pay. Some states employ more mechanics than others, possibly due to the size of their population. Similarly, the going rate for mechanics differs by location.
Take, for instance, the most popular outcome for someone coming out of a mechanic trade school – automotive services technician and mechanic. As of May 2021, the BLS listed the following as the states with the highest employment level of mechanics and service techs:
The top-paying states include:
- District of Columbia ($60,580, annual median wage 2021)
- Alaska ($59,800)
- California ($54,190)
- Washington ($53,720)
- Massachusetts ($53,340)
Think scholarship opportunities only exist for students attending four-year institutions? Think again! A variety of organizations award money to individuals to pursue training at trade schools and junior colleges. And the best part about receiving a scholarship is that you do not need to pay back the money.
Here are some quick scholarship tips:
- Read eligibility requirements carefully so as not to waste time applying for scholarships for which you are not a match.
- Put your best self forward for those for which you do meet the criteria.
- A thoughtful essay or a thorough list of past accomplishments may give you an edge over other candidates.
- And always remember that neatness and applying on time count!
Here are three scholarships for students interested in mechanics may want to check out are:
Lockheed Martin Vocational Scholarship Program - This large corporation awards up to $5,000 to as many as 150 recipients each year. Applicants need to be U.S. citizens who are enrolled or are planning to enroll in a vocational technical school, trade school, or two-year community college or state college to pursue an associate degree or other industry-recognized credential in mechanic and repair technologies or another discipline on the list of acceptable fields of study. Candidates should be prepared to fill out an online application, secure a transcript, give information on their work experience and other activities, and provide contact information for a reference. Women, racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, and members of other traditionally underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply.
Jim and Dianna Murphy Scholarship - Graduates of Oregon high schools who want to pursue a career in the commercial trucking industry or in diesel technologies can apply for this monetary opportunity. Application requirements include a form, transcript, financial need analysis, and essay. Award amounts vary. The competition is handled by The Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC), an office of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC).
APWU Vocational Scholarship Program - If you are the child or grandchild of someone who belonged to the American Postal Workers Union, look into this scholarship. Five high school seniors interested in programs of study leading to trade, technical, industrial, or vocational occupations will receive up to $3,000 each toward their education. A heavily weighted factor is demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the importance of unions in a required essay on one of three given prompt topics.
For additional possibilities, search our scholarship database. Its filters can help target scholarships based on criteria you select, such as career aspirations, gender, ethnicity, or state of residence. With more than 5,000 awards available, you’re bound to find many for which you’re a great candidate.
How to Get Started on a Mechanic Degree
Think attending a mechanic trade school might be a good career move? Here are six steps to take to get closer earning your mechanic degree:
If you haven’t already, graduate and get your high school diploma.
Take any auto shop courses offered. Doing a good job in math and computer classes also will serve you well since service techs find themselves dealing with numbers, measurements, and technology.
Examine higher education options thoroughly. Programs range significantly in time necessary to complete and cost. Remember, in general, that the more education under your belt, the more choices you’ll have in your career.
Look for mechanic trade schools near you. If there aren’t any, consider online studies. Though some students really want the on-campus experience, many others enjoy the convenience that remote learning affords.
At every educational level, money is bound to be a chief concern. Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to see what type of grants, loans, work study programs, and other sources of help may be available based on your need and circumstances.
Lastly, get acquainted with the ASE certification process. Earning distinctions through this industry association opens doors. Consider working towards becoming a Master Technician to advance your career even further.
What is a mechanic trade school?
- A mechanic trade school is an institution of higher learning that provides students with classroom and hands-on training to develop a solid foundation for their future career. Many of the places offering mechanic education are commonly referred to as vocational or technical institutes. Numerous junior colleges also offer mechanics among their trade programs.
What education do you need to become a mechanic?
- With the complexity of modern vehicles, aspiring mechanics nowadays benefit from post-secondary education. Many attend mechanic trade schools to earn either a diploma or an associate degree.
Can students at mechanic trade schools get financial aid?
- Yes. Students in vocational programs typically go through the same general process as peers seeking four-year degrees. Usually, this starts with completing the FAFSA to assess need. Seek guidance from the financial aid department at your institution of interest. And remember that numerous scholarship opportunities exist for students pursuing trades.
What do you do at a mechanic trade school?
- Being a mechanic (also known as a service technician) involves understanding both how vehicles work and what physical measures are necessary for maintenance and repair. Thus, mechanic trade schools involve both classroom instruction and hands-on learning. Students take classes in which they read, listen to lectures, do homework, and get tested on what they’ve learned. They also spend time in the campus lab practicing their skills on actual vehicles and parts.
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