Automobiles have become increasingly sophisticated, incorporating technology such as hybrid or diesel engines, antilock brakes, computer microprocessors, multimedia entertainment systems and wireless Internet. In 2012, Rich Orban, manager of the General Motors Service Technical College, warned that the industry is bracing for a shortage of mechanics, reported “USA Today.” The growth in the need for auto mechanics will exceed the supply, especially for highly qualified mechanics.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs for auto mechanics will increase by 17 percent through 2020, compared to 14 percent for all occupations. That translates into an additional 124,800 jobs by 2020, or a total workforce of 848,200. Growth factors include an increase in the number of vehicles, the longer life of newer cars and the use of advanced technologies, such as hybrid fuel systems. The consolidation of auto manufacturers may offset this increase somewhat by reducing the need for mechanics for so many brands. But additional jobs will become available when older mechanics retire.
The BLS predicts very good prospects for skilled mechanics into 2020, because the need for skilled workers will exceed the demand. Those with training in advanced auto technology, such as computer systems, will have the best prospects, and training will also improve the chances of entry-level job-hunters. For example, Rudy Serrato, chairman of the automobile department at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, places nearly 100 percent of his graduates, reports “USA Today.” In addition, mechanics enjoy job security, because the work can’t be outsourced overseas.
Causes of the Shortage
Auto repair has become highly technical, but young people still have an old-fashioned image of the job as wrench work, reports “USA Today.” Auto technology requires a high level of math and science skills, which some high school graduates lack. The job demands the use of computers, and a master mechanic’s work borders on engineering, according to Frank Diertl of Mercedes-Benz engineering services. Although fascinated by electronics, many young people aren’t particularly interested in automobiles. In fact, fewer teens are getting driver’s licenses than in the past. To make matters worse, many high schools have cut auto repair programs to save money.
High school graduates with classes in electronics, computers and auto repair sometimes qualify for entry-level jobs as mechanics. But employers prefer workers with a postsecondary certificate or associate degree in auto technology. A certificate takes six months to one year to obtain, while an associate degree normally takes two years. Experienced technicians can qualify for certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Credentials are available in eight specialties, including engine repair, brakes and suspension and steering. Each certificate requires on-the-job experience and passing an exam. Those who pass all the exams earn certification as master automobile technicians.
As of 2012, the average auto mechanic’s pay was $39,060 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The highest-paid 10 percent earned $60,070 per year or more. According to Rudy Serrato of L.A. Trade Tech, highly trained mechanics who can diagnose problems receive the top pay.
2016 Salary Information for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
Automotive service technicians and mechanics earned a median annual salary of $38,470 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, automotive service technicians and mechanics earned a 25th percentile salary of $28,140, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $52,120, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 749,900 people were employed in the U.S. as automotive service technicians and mechanics.