Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Summary

automotive service technicians and mechanics image
Automotive service technicians and mechanics use a variety of tools throughout their day.
Quick Facts: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
2015 Median Pay $37,850 per year
$18.20 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Postsecondary nondegree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 739,900
Job Outlook, 2014-24 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 39,100

What Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics Do

Automotive service technicians and mechanics, often called service technicians or service techs, inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.

Work Environment

Most automotive service technicians and mechanics work in well-ventilated and well-lit repair shops. Although technicians often identify and fix automotive problems with computers, they commonly work with greasy parts and tools, sometimes in uncomfortable positions.

How to Become an Automotive Service Technician or Mechanic

Employers prefer that automotive service technicians and mechanics complete a formal education program at a postsecondary institution. Industry certification is usually required once the person is employed.

Pay

The median annual wage for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $37,850 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities for qualified jobseekers should be good.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for automotive service technicians and mechanics.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of automotive service technicians and mechanics with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about automotive service technicians and mechanics by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics Do About this section

Automotive service technicians and mechanics
Automotive service technicians and mechanics perform oil changes on vehicles.

Automotive service technicians and mechanics, often called service technicians or service techs, inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.

Duties

Automotive service technicians and mechanics typically do the following:

  • Identify problems, often by using computerized diagnostic equipment
  • Plan work procedures, using charts, technical manuals, and experience
  • Test parts and systems to ensure that they work properly
  • Follow checklists to ensure that all critical parts are examined
  • Perform basic care and maintenance, including changing oil, checking fluid levels, and rotating tires
  • Repair or replace worn parts, such as brake pads, wheel bearings, and sensors
  • Perform repairs to manufacturer and customer specifications
  • Explain automotive problems and repairs to clients

Although service technicians work on traditional mechanical systems, such as engines, transmissions, and drivebelts, they must also be familiar with a growing number of electronic systems. Braking, transmission, and steering systems, for example, are controlled primarily by computers and electronic components.

Other integrated electronic systems, such as accident-avoidance sensors, are becoming common as well. In addition, a growing number of technicians are required to work on vehicles that consume alternative fuels, such as ethanol and electricity.

Service technicians use many different tools, including computerized diagnostic tools and power tools such as pneumatic wrenches, lathes, welding torches, and jacks and hoists. These tools usually are owned by their employers.

Service technicians also use many common hand tools, such as wrenches, pliers, and sockets and ratchets. Service technicians generally own these tools themselves. In fact, experienced workers often have thousands of dollars invested in their personal tool collection. For example, some invest in their own set of pneumatic tools—such as impact wrenches—powered by compressed air.

The following are examples of types of service technicians:

Automotive air-conditioning technicians install and repair air-conditioners and parts, such as compressors, condensers, and controls. These workers must be trained and certified in handling refrigerants.

Brake technicians diagnose brake system problems, adjust brakes, replace brake rotors and pads, and make other repairs on brake systems. Some technicians specialize in both brake and front-end work. (See “Front-end technicians.”) 

Drivability technicians, also known as diagnostic technicians, use their extensive knowledge of engine management and fuel, electrical, ignition, and emissions systems to diagnose issues that prevent engines from performing efficiently. They often use the onboard diagnostic system of a car and electronic testing equipment such as scan tools and multimeters to find the malfunction.

Front-end technicians diagnose ride, handling, and tire wear problems. To correct these problems, they frequently use special alignment equipment and wheel-balancing machines.

Transmission technicians and rebuilders work on gear trains, couplings, hydraulic pumps, and other parts of transmissions. An extensive knowledge of computer controls and the ability to diagnose electrical and hydraulic problems are needed to work on these complex components.

For information about technicians who work on large trucks and buses, see the profile on diesel service technicians and mechanics.

For information about technicians who work on farm equipment, construction vehicles, and railcars, see the profile on heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians.

For information about technicians who repair and service motorcycles, motorboats, and small all-terrain vehicles, see the profile on small engine mechanics.

Work Environment About this section

Automotive service technicians and mechanics
Automotive service technicians and mechanics keep records of diagnostic tests and repairs.

Automotive service technicians and mechanics held about 739,900 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most automotive service technicians and mechanics were as follows:

Automobile dealers 30%
Automotive mechanical and electrical repair and maintenance 28
Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores 9

About 1 in 10 automotive service technicians and mechanics were self-employed in 2014.

Service technicians stand for most of the day, and they typically work in well-ventilated and well-lit repair shops. Although technicians often identify and fix automotive problems with computers, they commonly work with greasy parts and tools, sometimes in uncomfortable positions.

Work Schedules

Most service technicians work full time, and many work evenings or weekends. Overtime is common.

Injuries and Illnesses

Automotive service technicians and mechanics have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Service technicians must frequently work with heavy parts and tools. As a result, workplace injuries, such as small cuts, sprains, and bruises, are common.

How to Become an Automotive Service Technician or Mechanic About this section

Automotive service technicians and mechanics
Automotive service technicians and mechanics learn from more experienced workers.

Employers prefer that automotive service technicians and mechanics complete a formal training program at a postsecondary institution. Industry certification is usually required once the person is employed.

Education

High school courses in automotive repair, electronics, computers, and mathematics provide a good background for prospective service technicians. However, high school graduates typically need further training to become fully qualified.

Completing a vocational or other postsecondary education program in automotive service technology is considered the best preparation for entry-level positions. Programs usually last 6 months to a year and provide intensive career preparation through classroom instruction and hands-on practice. Short-term certificate programs in a particular subject, such as brake maintenance or engine performance, are also available.

Some service technicians get an associate’s degree. Courses usually include mathematics, electronics, and automotive repair. Some programs add classes in customer service and other necessary skills.

Various automobile manufacturers and dealers sponsor associate’s degree programs. Students in these programs typically spend alternating periods attending classes full time and working full time in service shops under the guidance of an experienced technician.

Training

Service technicians who have graduated from postsecondary programs in automotive service technology generally require little on-the-job training.

Those who have not completed postsecondary education, however, generally start as trainee technicians, technicians’ helpers, or lubrication workers. They gradually acquire more knowledge and experience by working with experienced mechanics and technicians.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all technicians who buy or work with refrigerants to be certified in proper refrigerant handling. No formal test preparation is required, but many trade schools, unions, and employer associations offer training programs designed for the EPA exam.

Certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is the standard credential for service technicians. Certification demonstrates competence and usually brings higher pay. Many employers require their service technicians to become certified.

ASE certification is available in nine different automobile specialty areas: automatic transmission/transaxle, brakes, light vehicle diesel engines, electrical/electronic systems, engine performance, engine repair, heating and air-conditioning, manual drive train and axles, and suspension and steering.

To become certified, technicians must have at least 2 years of experience (or relevant schooling and 1 year of experience) and pass an exam. Technicians who achieve certification in all of the foregoing areas (light vehicle diesel engine certification is not required) may earn ASE Master Technician status.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Service technicians must discuss automotive problems—along with options to fix them—with their customers. Because workers may depend on repeat clients for business, they must be courteous, good listeners, and ready to answer customers’ questions.

Detail oriented. Service technicians must be aware of small details when inspecting or repairing vehicle systems, because mechanical and electronic malfunctions are often due to misalignments or other easy-to-miss causes.

Dexterity. Service technicians perform many tasks that require steady hands and good hand-eye coordination, such as assembling or attaching components and subassemblies.

Mechanical skills. Service technicians must be familiar with engine components and systems and know how they interact with each other. They often must take apart major parts for repairs and be able to put them back together properly.

Organizational skills. Service technicians must keep workspaces clean and organized in order to maintain safety and ensure accountability of parts.

Physical strength. Service technicians must sometimes lift and maneuver heavy parts such as engines and body panels.

Troubleshooting skills. Service technicians must be able to use diagnostic equipment on engine systems and components in order to identify and fix problems in increasingly complicated mechanical and electronic systems. They must be familiar with electronic control systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them.

Pay About this section

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Median annual wages, May 2015

Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers

$40,160

Automotive service technicians and mechanics

$37,850

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $37,850 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,330.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for automotive service technicians and mechanics in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Automobile dealers $42,360
Automotive mechanical and electrical repair and maintenance 35,600
Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores 31,890

Many experienced technicians working for automobile dealers and independent repair shops receive a commission related to the labor cost charged to the customer. Under this system, which is commonly known as “flat rate” or “flag rate,” weekly earnings depend on the amount of work completed. Some repair shops may pay technicians on an hourly basis instead.

Most service technicians work full time, and many work evenings or weekends. Overtime is common.

Job Outlook About this section

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers

6%

Automotive service technicians and mechanics

5%

 

Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

The number of vehicles in use continues to rise, and more entry-level service technicians will be needed to perform basic maintenance and repair, such as replacing brake pads and changing oil. New technologies, however, such as electric vehicles, may limit future demand for automotive service technicians and mechanics because they will be more reliable and thus require less maintenance and repair.

Job Prospects

With some employers reporting difficulty finding workers with the right skills and education, job opportunities for qualified applicants should be very good, whether they obtained their knowledge through education or experience. Of these workers, those who have completed formal postsecondary training programs or achieved ASE certification should enjoy the best job prospects.

Those without formal automotive training or certification are likely to face strong competition for entry-level jobs.

Many job openings will be in automobile dealerships and independent repair shops, where most service technicians currently work.

Employment projections data for automotive service technicians and mechanics, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Automotive service technicians and mechanics

49-3023 739,900 779,000 5 39,100 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of automotive service technicians and mechanics.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Automotive body and glass repairers

Automotive Body and Glass Repairers

Automotive body and glass repairers restore, refinish, and replace vehicle bodies and frames, windshields, and window glass.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,880
Diesel service technicians and mechanics

Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics

Diesel service technicians and mechanics inspect, repair, and overhaul buses and trucks, or maintain and repair any type of diesel engine.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,520
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians

Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles and machinery used in construction, farming, rail transportation, and other industries.

High school diploma or equivalent $47,120
Small engine mechanics

Small Engine Mechanics

Small engine mechanics inspect, service, and repair motorized power equipment. Mechanics often specialize in one type of equipment, such as motorcycles, motorboats, or outdoor power equipment.

See How to Become One $34,650

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more details about work opportunities, contact local automobile dealers and repair shops or local offices of the state employment service. The state employment service also may have information about training programs.

For information about careers, education, and training programs, visit

Automotive Youth Educational Systems

National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation

For information about certification, visit

National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence

O*NET

Automotive Master Mechanics

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Automotive Specialty Technicians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm (visited July 23, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.