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Vendor Newsmaker Q&A Lauren Gaglardi, Beelineweb

Friday, December 7, 2018 - 09:00
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Q: How can I become a high performance mechanic?

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First, you could choose to complete a general automotive program and try to land an entry-level position in a high performance or race shop.This can be a good option if you’re not 100 percent sure that high performance is for you, or if you're not ready to commit to one specific niche area.

Another possibility to explore is a specialized high performance automotive technology program. This choice can allow you to get a head start working with high performance racing technologies.

While race cars and high-end automobiles generally operate on the same principles as other vehicles, the specific parts are often more complex, more delicate, and much more expensive. This is one of the reasons that a specialized education can help you get started at one of these exclusive shops.

Q: How much is tuition?

A: Tuition can range from as little as about $2,500 to well over $30,000. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all programs are created equal, and opting for the least expensive program isn't necessarily the best choice.

Some programs include professional tool kits (which are not usually supplied by employers) and other necessary supplies as part of the cost. Some schools may also cover materials and examination fees associated with ASE or other certifications. In addition, certain schools have a strong reputation in the industry, which can help you upon graduation.

An important step in choosing a program should include considering what you are getting for your money.

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Will I be learning in an up-to-date facility and working with industry-current equipment and technology?
  • What credential(s) will I be graduating with?
  • Is the program accredited by an industry-respected organization?
  • Will I be prepared for industry certification?
  • Are licensing and examination fees included?
  • Are books and supplies included?

Also, it’s important to note that your costs could be reduced by exploring the opportunity for grants and scholarships. Most schools can provide you with information and assistance in this area.

Q: How long will training take?

A: Depending on the route you choose to take, the length of time can vary. You can likely expect to be in school for anywhere from approximately six months to two years – depending on whether you want to work toward a certificate, diploma or associate degree.

Generally, two-year programs can help you gain some or all of the experience required to take ASE certification examinations, meaning you could be a certified automotive technician in about two years.

Q: How can I find automotive service technician schools in my area?

A: Our simple search tool is a great place to start researching the available programs and schools in your area:

Q: Will I need certification?

While it isn’t legally required, ASE certification is considered an industry-standard method of measuring a technician’s knowledge and abilities. Like many professions, possessing certification can often lead to increased career opportunities as well as higher earning potential.

There is a wide range of exams to choose from, allowing you to pursue general and/or specialized certification. Specific areas of certification include brakes, engine repair, suspension and steering, automatic transmissions and more. In addition, ASE-Certified Master Automobile Technician status can be achieved by completing eight required exams.

Q: What is the average salary?

A: While there is a wide range of variables that can influence pay, here’s a look at national estimates from 2017 to help you get an idea of what this profession can offer:

The average salary comes in at $42,660. The top 10 percent earned $65,430 or more annually.

Pay also depends on numerous other factors, which can include:

  • Geographic location – If you live in an area with a higher cost of living, you can expect wages to reflect that.
  • Demand – If there is an abundance of available mechanic jobs where you live, you can look forward to receiving a higher salary.
  • Education – Securing formal training can help you command a higher wage from the start.
  • Certification – Like most industries, certification can demonstrate your level of skill to potential employers and can often allow shops to bill at a higher hourly rate for your work.
  • Experience – Just as certification can increase wage potential, experience can offer the same boost.
  • Specialization – Depending on whether you possess general or specialized skills, your earning potential could vary. Often, being an expert in a particular vehicle component or system can come with a higher salary (depending on the area of specialization you choose).

In addition, there are different ways of being compensated in this field. Although some are paid in hourly wages, many are paid a salary or are on a flat rate system instead.

Q: What does it mean to be paid a flat rate?

A: Flat rate pay is similar to what is referred to as “piece work” since it is based on the jobs carried out rather than the actual time that is taken to perform the job. Auto shops use software or reference books to find the pre-determined time a job is expected to take for the specific year, make and model of a vehicle. Since shops generally charge an hourly shop rate to customers, the mechanic is typically paid a percentage of the time it is expected to take, multiplied by the hourly shop rate.

Q: What is the job outlook?

Overall, this industry is growing, with an expected increase in employment of 6 percent between 2016 and 2026. As can be expected, auto mechanics with formal training and certification will be in a better position for securing employment.

Q: Where can I work?

A: Mechanics can find work in a wide range of settings, such as:

  • Repair shops
  • Dealerships
  • Auto parts retail stores
  • Gas stations
  • High performance shops
  • Private and government shops
  • Rental car companies
  • Racing teams

Dealerships typically contain an auto shop to carry out warranty work and provide specialty service for their brand of vehicles. For those with an interest in a specific make, this can provide an ideal option, allowing the opportunity to gain concentrated knowledge of a manufacturer’s distinct systems, procedures and parts.

General automotive shops service all types of passenger vehicles and can be a good place to gain broad experience.

Large shops are also likely to have more resources, such as additional tools and equipment, as well as a larger pool of talent to learn from.

Smaller shops are often considered an ideal choice for beginning an auto mechanic career since small businesses tend to require individuals to take on many responsibilities, which can mean seeing a project through from start to finish. This type of setting can allow new mechanics to work on a wide range of vehicles. It can also provide the opportunity to learn how to handle a number of different repairs and procedures.

Some shops tailor themselves to servicing a specific vehicle component or system, such as transmissions, mufflers, or tires. Pursuing work in a shop of this nature could be perfect for someone looking to gain experience in a particular area.

In addition, some shops specialize in niche areas of the automotive market. This can include race cars, muscle cars, imports and 4x4s. Typically, these types of shops work with aftermarket and performance products that require specialized knowledge.

Q. What are the typical work hours?

A: Most automotive shops, especially dealerships, are open during normal business hours, which makes for a typical 40-hour workweek. However, an increasing number of shops are open on weekends and evenings, which could translate into longer shifts and/or weekend shifts.

Also, some mechanics work longer than 40 hours per week due to different pay schedules, such as the flat rate pay system mentioned above.

With the entrepreneurial route, there is also the potential of working the longer hours often associated with being a small business owner.

Q: What are the job’s benefits?

A: Auto professionals tend to meet a lot of new people and have the opportunity to carry out a multitude of different jobs throughout their workday.

An integral aspect of this occupation includes diagnosing and troubleshooting mechanical issues, and problem solving can be fun and challenging.

With experience and/or further education, many technicians advance their careers to the management level or even pursue the option of becoming a shop owner or instructor.

Unless they work in a one-person shop, mechanics usually work in a team-based environment. This means having the experience and knowledge of others to draw from.

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