The Benefits of Automotive Technician Careers

Why Become an Auto Technician?

These days it’s not easy to find a high-quality, good-paying job that offers someone without a four-year college degree the ability to advance into management and even ownership positions in a company.

But today, automotive technicians at new-car and -truck dealerships have all of these opportunities.

The average compensation of an automotive service technician at a new-car dealership is over $61,000 per year (including health and retirement benefits). Top technicians can make over $100,000 per year, and managers can make even more.

And with a projected shortage of 370,000 auto service technicians through the year 2026, these jobs are in high demand at local dealerships in all regions of the country. Technician jobs are also available at America’s car and truck auctions, where millions of used vehicles are serviced before sale every year.

Jobs Everywhere, Training Everywhere

Local dealerships that service new cars and heavy trucks exist in virtually every community across America, from Miami to Anchorage and everywhere in between.

While some service jobs with on-the-job training are available at dealerships, more complex service work must be done by certified technicians. Prospective technicians are can find state-of-the-art training in dynamic, two-year programs at community colleges or technical schools. Training and certification can also be achieved at some high schools.

After an apprenticeship or training at a community college or technical school, technicians can receive ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certifications, the standard automotive industry certifications.

More than 610 training programs exist in facilities across America in every state.

Service Tech Jobs are High-Tech Jobs

Years ago, “technician” took the place of “mechanic” in the automotive vocabulary, as cars and trucks—and the skills needed to service them—became increasingly complex.

Today’s new cars and trucks take this to a whole new level. They are intricate systems combining computers, mechanical and software elements with precision cast parts.

This means much of today’s service work involves the use of computers and high tech diagnostic equipment. Working on these machines involves problem-solving and can be both challenging and rewarding.

“I spend almost half my time on a computer. We have a lot of software running, a lot of electrical in the vehicles. There are multiple networks running, so it’s not just nuts and bolts anymore, it’s understanding how all of the systems and components work together.”
– Todd Parker, Master Technician, Colorado

Advancement Opportunities

It’s not uncommon for automotive technicians to advance significantly within a dealership over the course of their careers. Common ways to advance are through increasing certifications to perform more complicated work—starting as a level 1 technician doing maintenance work and advancing eventually to become a level 4 master technician certified to service virtually all systems in the vehicle.

On a separate career track, some technicians transition to the customer service side and become service-writers, working with customers to identify their needs and schedule service and maintenance.

Still, others progress into management, some moving into the parts department of a dealership, others managing entire service operations. Service operations at some dealerships can involve managing dozens of technicians and hundreds of service and maintenance orders each day.

Still, others become owners of local dealerships. Mike Jackson, chairman of America’s largest dealership group, AutoNation (which operates more than 230 dealerships nationwide), started his career as a service technician in Cherry Hill, New Jersey!

How to Get Started as an Automotive Service Technician

Achieving the highest level of technical expertise is a process; there are no shortcuts. But while formal training programs can be important, on-the-job experience and general mechanical interest and ability are critical. Computer skills are increasingly valuable as well.

A good place to start is an entry-level position in the service department or body shop of an auto or truck dealership or an auction, even without any training. The dealership will often oversee and pay for your training and certification on the vehicle brands they sell and service. (Many manufacturers have their own training programs and criteria, available only to dealership-sponsored students.)

Once you’re in the door, a continuous interest in advancing to the next level and acquiring the skills to do that will help you achieve success; well-run dealerships will constantly make you aware of your progress and help you move up.

While some organizations—most notably ASE, or the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence—have established testing and certification procedures, there is no industry-wide standard. The same is true for recognized levels of skill and knowledge.

In many shops, techs must supply their own tools although, increasingly, some dealerships provide some tools as incentives to recruit and retain talented technicians.

Experienced, well-trained technicians will always be in demand and able to earn top-dollar, so if you enjoy the work, putting in the time and effort to complete training and certification will virtually always pay off.