Improvements in automotive technology mean cars and trucks are more sophisticated than ever, and that also means there's an increased demand for mechanics who specialize in diagnosing and repairing late-model vehicles, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Auto shops typically need entry-level technicians to perform basic repairs, but the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence points out that it can be hard for shop owners to find enough competent and highly skilled mechanics who are up to date with today's complicated vehicle technologies and computerized diagnostic equipment.
National demand for mechanics is expected to increase by over 60,000 jobs between 2012 and 2022, according to BLS data. However, demand should be much greater for mechanics who have training in specialty repair work and have completed postsecondary training programs in advanced automotive technology.
Automotive Service Excellence Certification
Mechanics can be trained on - and certified in -- any number of automotive repair specialties or on specific systems or types of vehicles. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) holds exams in more than 40 specializations that test service technicians' job skills and related knowledge. Examples of certification categories include the following:
- Advanced engine performance
- Medium and heavy truck technician
- Collision repair
- Truck equipment
- Cylinder head specialist
- Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) engines
ASE's automobile series includes certification in several aspects of vehicle systems repair, including brakes, heating and cooling, suspension and steering, and drive train and axles. Mechanics may also focus on earning a certification in diesel engines, electrical systems, maintenance inspection, or painting and refinishing.
Service technicians generally need ASE certification, as it reflects that they've acquired a certain level of skill in particular specialties. Having that certification can even boost compensation. To earn the Master Automobile Technician designation, technicians must pass eight core exams that cover each of the major vehicle systems.
Automotive Service Excellence Examinations
The ASE certification exam can require ample preparation; the organization cautions that only two out of three test-takers pass the exam on their first attempt. And there's work to be done after passing an exam. To retain certification in any given area, mechanics must pass the test again every five years to ensure they are in step with the latest advancements in automotive technologies. All tests are computerized.
In addition to testing, the ASE requires proof that mechanics have spent time in the field or have received relevant training. The years of work experience required varies by exam. Formal training, such as completion of an automotive repair training program at a technical college, can be substituted for time spent turning wrenches in a shop.
Earning ASE Certification Matters
Long gone are the days when a full set of Snap-on wrenches were the primary tools of the trade. Late-model vehicles are jam-packed with electronics and computer-controlled equipment that operate everything from entertainment and navigation systems to heating, cooling and braking. Today's mechanics usually work with a range of high-tech instrumentation that analyzes and diagnoses problems with vehicles before they even turn a single bolt or nut.
Additionally, the evolution of emerging technologies, found in electric cars and alternative-fuel vehicles, places even more pressure on repair shops and dealership service departments to staff skilled mechanics proficient in repair and maintenance of these vehicles.
Mechanics who can support these increasingly demanding technical needs - and who have the certification to prove they've acquired the requisite skills - are likely to find success in their chosen field.
- About ASE, National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, http://www.ase.com/About-ASE.aspx
- Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
- "Serious shortage of skilled auto mechanics looming," USA Today, Chris Woodyard, August 30, 2012, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/autos/story/2012-08-28/shortage-of-auto-mechanics-looms/57414464/1
- Statistics, Automotive Service Excellence, http://www.ase.com/About-ASE/Statistics.aspx