How to Become a Mechanic
As long as there are machines, there will be a need for mechanics. Anything with an engine will eventually need a mechanic.
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The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Mechanic

If you love getting your hands dirty and being active, working as a mechanic can be a great career choice. Mechanics don’t just work on cars. Anything with an engine will eventually need a mechanic. A wide range of workplaces and opportunities are available once you’ve been trained as a mechanic.

There are benefits to working as a mechanic. Many mechanics find work with a company. Others take the entrepreneurial route and open up their own shop. Wages for mechanics are also above the national average, regardless of the type of mechanic work performed.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in this field? This article explains what steps to take to train and have a successful career as a mechanic. We’ll also review the salaries for different types of mechanics and what areas have the most job opportunities.

How to Become a Mechanic

While everyone’s path will be a little different, these four steps are the basics when training for a career as a mechanic.

Evaluate Your Interests and Aptitudes

Why do you want to become a mechanic? For some people, that question is easy to answer. Others aren't quite able to articulate their reasons. It’s always good to know what your motivation is for pursuing a particular career so that you can be realistic about what it entails.

If you enjoy working with technology, electronics, or otherwise working with your hands, becoming a mechanic might be the right choice. Curiosity, attention to detail, and the ability to solve problems are also key attributes that mechanics should have. You will need a familiarity with various tools and equipment and the physical strength to lift and move heavy parts.

Make the Most of High School

If you are still in high school, you have an excellent opportunity to get started by taking courses that will help you learn how to become a mechanic. Take as many courses as you can in mathematics, computers, and electronics–these will all prepare you for your training later on.

Depending on your school, there may be specific automotive repair courses available. Other schools may have vocational or co-op programs that allow you to gain part of your high school diploma through work experience.

Most employers will want to see that you have a minimum of a high school diploma or a GED. The majority will also want you to have some additional technical training.

Community College or Technical School

Taking a program at a technical school or community college is a great way to learn what you need to know as a mechanic and increase your employability. A good program will cover all of the fundamentals of mechanics. A great program will also teach you communication skills and help you prepare for job searching.

Here are some things you can expect to learn in an Automotive Technician or Automotive Technology program.

  • Brakes, Steering, and Suspension
  • Engine Diagnosis and Ignition Systems
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
  • Transmissions
  • Hybrid and Electrical Vehicle Systems
  • Cylinder Block Rebuilding
  • Drivetrains
  • Valve Train and Head Rebuilding
  • Engine Overhaul
  • Applied Welding
  • Shop and Parts Management
  • Electrical Systems

Most college and technical school programs are between six months and two years in length.

Get Certified

Some states require a certification or license in order to work as a mechanic although this is not consistent across the country. Check with your state department to inquire about specific regulations for mechanics in your area.

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers certification in 57 areas. For example, to get certified as a Master Automobile Technician, you would need to complete eight specific courses related to automobiles and light trucks. To stay certified you need to retest every five years.

Types of Mechanics

While the majority of mechanics work in automotive repair, there are several other options to consider. Let’s take a look at the different opportunities available for mechanics.

Automotive Mechanic

Automotive mechanics work on vehicles like cars and light trucks. Salaries range from $25,000 to $71,000 with the average automotive mechanic earning $46,000 per year. Demand for this career is highest in Alaska, South Carolina, and Maine.

Bus and Truck Mechanic

These mechanics work on buses, heavy trucks, and diesel engines. The average bus and truck mechanic makes $52,000 a year, with the salary ranging from $32,000-$76,000. Wyoming, North Dakota, and Arkansas have the highest demand for bus and truck mechanics. Training programs in this field are labeled Diesel Mechanic or Truck and Transport Mechanic.

Aircraft Mechanic

Diagnosing and repairing aircraft engines and systems is a key role for aircraft mechanics. This is the highest paying mechanic career. Salaries range from $38,000 to $103,000 and the average aircraft mechanic earns $69,000 a year. The states with the most demand for this career are Alaska, Oklahoma, and Hawaii. To train for this career, look for a program called Aviation Maintenance Technology or Aviation Electronics Technology.

Farm Equipment Mechanic

This type of mechanic works on farm machinery and may include vehicles such as tractors, dairy equipment, irrigation systems, and harvesters. The average farm equipment mechanic earns $45,000 per year, with salaries ranging from $28,000 to $64,000. Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota have the greatest demand for this career.

To become a farm equipment mechanic, look for programs called Agricultural Power and Equipment Technician or Agriculture Equipment Service Technician.

Heavy Equipment Mechanic

These mechanics work with pneumatic, mechanical, and hydraulic equipment such as bulldozers, cranes, conveyors, and graders. After aircraft mechanics, this is the second-highest paying career. The average heavy equipment mechanic earns $57,000 a year and the range is between $36,000-$81,000.

Demand for these mechanics is the highest in Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota. Training programs for this field are often referred to as Heavy Equipment Technician or Heavy Vehicle Technology.

Motorboat Mechanic

This type of mechanic works on the electrical and mechanical equipment of all types of boat engines. The salary ranges from $27,000 to $66,000. The average motorboat mechanic earns $45,000 a year. The states with the most demand are Rhode Island, Maryland, and Alaska. If you want to train as a motorboat mechanic, look for a program called Marine Repair Technician or Marine Technology.

Motorcycle Mechanic

A motorcycle mechanic works with motorcycles, mopeds, dirt bikes, and scooters. They tend to be the lowest-paid type of mechanic, with the average person earning $40,000 a year and the salary ranging from $25,000-$60,000. Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming are the states with the highest demand. To train as a motorcycle mechanic, you will want to look for a program called Motorcycle Technician or Motorcycle Repair Mechanics.

Final Thoughts

As long as there are machines, there will be a need for mechanics. Learning how to become a mechanic doesn’t need to be complicated. Following the steps outlined above will get you on track to pursuing a career in whatever type of mechanics interests you. Once you’ve got the right training under your belt, you’re ready to enter the workforce and begin your career!

Note: Salary and job demand information are taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.