Virginia had a population of 8.26 million in 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, and there were almost 7.8 million registered vehicles in the state in 2013, as well.
The state's fleet of automobile mechanics and auto service technicians is responsible for keeping all those cars and trucks in peak operating condition. The field of automotive repair looks nothing like it did when brothers Gomer and Goober Pyle fixed cars at Wally's Filling Station in "The Andy Griffith Show." Today's automobile mechanics are highly trained specialists who can complete simple tasks like changing fuses and installing new windshield wipers, as well as using expensive computer equipment to diagnose and troubleshoot problems.
Auto mechanics and service technicians perform a wide range of repair and service duties, including:
- Routine maintenance for cars and trucks -- changing oil, radiator fluid and rotating tires
- Replacing wear items, such as fan belts, hoses and brake pads
- Installing new starters, master cylinders, radiators, fuel lines, exhausts and shocks and struts
- Complex mechanical work, such as rebuilding engines and transmissions
A common route for mechanics to enter the repair industry is to attend an auto mechanic school to learn not only the basics of the trade, but new trends in automotive repair as well.
Auto Mechanic Schools in Virginia
Many Virginia vocational schools and community colleges offer training in automotive repair. Programs vary in length depending on if they culminate in a diploma, certificate or an Associate's of Applied Science degree. Programs typically take one to two years to complete.
The majority of auto mechanic schools in Virginia have been evaluated and accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. By attending a NATEF-accredited school, you can be assured that the curriculum and instructors are among the best in the field. With nearly 70 NATEF-accredited schools in the state, it's also a safe bet that there's one close to your home, but schools can be found in Fredericksburg, Alexandria, Norfolk, Fairfax, Richmond, Hampton and many other cities in the state.
Coursework at auto mechanic schools in Virginia usually focuses on these key areas, among others:
- Engine repair
- Automobile transmissions and transaxles
- Steering and suspension systems
- Heating and air conditioning
- Electrical and electronic systems
Students who complete formal training in automotive repair should consider earning certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, widely recognized as a benchmark for core competencies in automotive service repair.
Virginia Auto Mechanic Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 19,330 auto mechanics and service technicians working in Virginia in May of 2013. Median hourly wages were $20.55, up considerably from the national median hourly wage for mechanics of $17.65.
With 3,760 mechanics and technicians working in 2013, the greater Richmond area was the single-largest geographical employment center in the state. However, the BLS notes, there were more than 9,500 mechanics and service technicians employed in the Washington, D.C.-Alexandria-Arlington metropolitan region at hourly wages of nearly $23 an hour.
Mechanics with years of hard-won shop experience -- and ASE certifications -- can command higher wages. The top 10 percent of mechanics in the Richmond area cleared more than $65,000 annually, while their counterparts working in the nation's capital took home more than 73,000 per year.
Advancements in automotive technology mean cars are on the road longer, and as a result employment of auto mechanics is projected to grow by 9 percent from 2012 through 2022, the BLS says. Although that number is slightly shy of national job growth for all occupations combined, it still represents 60,400 new jobs in the field of service and repair. Job prospects should be strongest for candidates who have completed formal automotive repair programs and possess ASE certifications, the BLS notes. For many dealerships and independent repair shops, those aspects of training and certification are prerequisites for employment.
Virginia Motor Vehicle Statistics, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, www.dmv.virginia.gov/webdoc/pdf/tss03.pdf
Automotive Mechanics Technology/Technician, Virginia's Community Colleges, http://courses.vccs.edu/programs/47.0604-AutomobileAutomotiveMechanicsTechnologyTechnician
Virginia Accredited Schools, National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, www.natef.org/NATEF-and-You/Students-Parents/Find-Accredited-Schools.aspx?State=VA&t=1&e=1