California had more than 23.2 million registered passenger vehicles on the road in 2013, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles reports, and it's a safe bet that California's large fleet of automobile mechanics and service technicians keep the majority of those cars and trucks running smoothly.
Auto mechanics perform many different functions of service and repair, including:
- Routine car and truck maintenance, such as changing oil and other vital fluids and installing and rotating tires
- Repairing and replacing worn-out parts, such as brake pads, belts and hoses
- Identifying problems with various mechanical systems, typically using highly technical computer diagnostic equipment
- Major overhauls to engine and transmission systems
California's auto mechanics often specialize in one particular area of service or repair as they gain experience with a particular automotive system. Specialty mechanical fields include working on drive trains, transmissions, suspension, engines and automotive air conditioning systems. While many mechanics working in California learn the craft by working at repair and service shops, others choose to attend automotive technology programs in California to learn the trade.
Auto Mechanic Schools in California
In the old days, mechanics got by on pure mechanical aptitude since automotive systems in passenger vehicles were relatively straightforward. Today's vehicles, however, are much more sophisticated and include many different computer-controlled systems.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers often prefer to hire mechanics who have completed formal training in automotive technology. Students who graduate from automotive technology programs in California are better prepared to land entry-level jobs in the field, the BLS notes. Auto mechanic schools usually take between six months to a year to complete and provide students with the essential skills and knowledge needed to begin working in automotive service and repair.
Programs vary by institution. For instance, students who study at vocational schools typically receive a certificate of completion or a diploma, while students who attend automotive technology programs at California community colleges typically are awarded Associate's of science degrees.
Coursework includes study in the following areas:
- Braking systems
- Suspension and steering
- Emission systems
- Engine performance
- Transmissions and transaxles
- General automotive technology
- Electrical, battery and charging systems
Community colleges usually require completion of college-level English and math courses for Associate degree programs, as well. When students complete their education at auto mechanic schools in California, many choose to earn ASE certification from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, considered a benchmark for core competency in the field of automotive service and repair.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations for California Auto Mechanics
According to the BLS, there were 56,000 auto mechanics and service technicians working in California in May of 2013, which is the largest number of mechanics working in any state in the U.S. The Greater Los Angeles-Long Beach metropolitan area was the largest employment center in the state with more than 13,000 mechanics, the BLS reports.
California's mechanics earned median wages of $19.23 per hour, according to the BLS. However, wages for mechanics working in the San Francisco-San Mateo metropolitan region were the highest in the country at more than $26 an hour. Other top-paying metro regions of the state include San Jose and Sunnyvale ($24.36), Santa Ana and Irvine ($24.20) and Oakland, Fremont and Hayward ($24.02). Mechanics who possess years of experience and hold different ASE certifications usually earn significantly more money per hour, though.
With such a large fleet of vehicles on the road, job prospects for auto mechanics in California are expected to remain strong -- especially for mechanics who have completed formal training programs and possess ASE certification, the BLS reports. Competition for jobs is expected to be strongest in entry-level positions, with the majority of new job openings to be found at automotive dealerships and independent repair shops.
Read more about Auto Mechanic programs in California:
- "Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm#tab-2
- "Automotive Technician," San Bernadino Valley College, www.valleycollege.edu/academic-career-programs/degrees-certificates/automotive-tech/automotive-tech-cert
- "May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: California", U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm#49-0000
- "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes493023.htm
- "State of California Department of Motor Vehicles Statistics for Publication January through December," California Department of Motor Vehicles, http://dmv.ca.gov/about/profile/official.pdf