Everyone loves a fancy car, but few people have what it takes to really understand how that car works. Being an auto mechanic may not be the most glamorous job, but it is an essential one that will remain essential for as long as cars are on the road. If you are thinking about a career in auto mechanics, take the time to learn the basics before you decide – you should familiarize yourself with some practical information about the requirements for auto mechanic school, the job description for an auto mechanic, and your potential salary range.

What Kind of Education do Auto Mechanics Need?

Though it may be possible to work your way into the field through an apprenticeship, most auto mechanic shops require some degree of vocational training. Many auto mechanic schools offer one-year certificates as well as two-year degree programs – they may also offer short-term certificate programs for specific skills. The best educations program for auto mechanics is one that combines classroom teaching with hands-on experience. As an auto mechanic you will need to be able to think on your feet to solve problems and you won’t be able to do this unless you have both theoretical and actual knowledge and experience.

What is the Salary Range for Auto Mechanics?

The average salary for an auto mechanic differs depending on what area of the country you live in and how much education you have. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for auto mechanics in 2012 was about $36,610. Auto mechanics in the top 10% of their field, however, earned over $60,000 that same year. The salary you make as an auto mechanic may also vary depending on your specialty. Auto body repairers and heavy equipment mechanics typically have the highest annual salaries followed by general auto mechanics, auto glass installers, and small engine mechanics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of automotive service technicians and mechanics is expected to grow by 5% between 2014 and 2024 – this is on par with the growth rate for most occupations.

What do Auto Mechanics Actually Do?

An auto mechanic can be expected to work on cars and trucks as well as some other vehicles. In addition to providing routine service like oil changes and tire rotations, a mechanic will need to be able to diagnose problems and provide a solution. Auto mechanics need to be skilled in a number of areas including brake systems, engine repair, electrical systems, steering, suspension, drive trains, and axels. If you hope to be successful as an auto mechanic you will need to have a firm understanding of how all of these systems work so you can address and resolve problems in a real world setting.

Preparing for a Career in Auto Mechanics

Now that you know a bit more about what a career as an auto mechanic could be like you should have a better idea whether it is the right fit for you. If you want to succeed as an auto mechanic, your journey really starts in high school – you should take as many math, science, electronics, and shop classes as you possibly can. After high school, look for a vocational school or community college that offers auto mechanic classes and start working on a certificate or a degree. If you want to specialize in a certain aspect of auto mechanics, you may want to add a short-term certificate program to your education as well. With your certificate or diploma in hand, you can then start applying for jobs.

As is true for any career, becoming an auto mechanic is not something that happens overnight. If you want to break into this field you will need to get some education as well as hands-on training in the field. You should also take the time to learn what you can expect from a career as an auto mechanic before you make it your life’s goal.