How to become an automotive technician

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If you were the kind of teenager who was beyond excited about your first car, even though it was a clunker, you might have a future in automotive repair. In a job market where more and more people are worried about losing their careers to robots or overseas competition, automotive repair is a steadfast option. After all, Americans will be driving cars and trucks well into the future and those vehicles will always need maintenance and repair. So if you liked to spend your summers with your head under the hood of a car and grease stains on your jeans, why not turn that passion into a career?

Educational requirements
Unlike a desk job, being an automotive technician requires you to work with your hands, which means the training is intense and practical rather than theoretical. You might spend some of your time with your nose in a book, but more often than not you'll be tinkering with actual vehicles. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most automotive repair careers require a high school diploma, post-secondary training programs and, for specialized technicians, a license or certification.

"Technicians with certifications earn more money."

Beginning technicians will generally start out in repair shops or dealerships working as lubrication specialists or trainee technicians. After one or two years of experience, they'll be qualified to get a certification – and that means higher pay and more job opportunities. The most common certification is one from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Technicians who work with coolants are required to be certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and there are specialty certifications for specific vehicle systems. Aside from these technical qualifications, aspiring technicians should know that the job also requires ample interpersonal and customer service skills.

 New technicians should be careful when working with slippery oil. New technicians should be careful when working with slippery oil.

On the job
Unlike previous generations, it seems like many people nowadays don't know much about what goes on inside their car. When they pop the hood open, it looks like a bunch of intimidating plastic compartments. When something goes awry, most car owners don't even try to fix it themselves. They'd rather have a professional look at it. Because of that, automotive technicians are seen as wizards who can speak to ailing vehicles, diagnose the problem from the sound of a few clicks and rattles and solve the problem with a bit of grease and a wrench.

Obviously, the actual job is a little more complicated than that – but it can be fun to think about it that way. In reality, however, being able to repair a car takes a lot of patience, knowledge and practice. And a good technician has a keen eye for safety. When you're dealing with oil slicks, grease spots and 2-ton trucks, safety is vitally important. You might not wear a lot of safety equipment, other than a good pair of slip-resistant shoes, but the cautionary procedures you habitualize will make the working environment safe for everyone. Professional mechanics have their OSHA guidelines memorized.

Becoming an automotive technician is a great choice for people who like to see the results of their work. Everyday, a mechanic is able to take a broken machine, apply his skill, experience and knowledge, and create a working product. Then he gets to experience the joy on his customer's face as he hands back the keys to a car that purrs like brand new. It's a rewarding career that will always be in high demand.

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