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The Difference Between an Automotive Engineer & an Auto Mechanic

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Though they work in the same industry, automotive engineers and auto mechanics have very different responsibilities. Auto engineers design auto components and ways of refining existing components. Auto mechanics will service a car for normal wear and tear, including changing oil and balancing tires. The requirements, responsibilities and salaries of these positions differ significantly.

Automotive Engineers

Automotive engineers usually study mechanical engineering, concentrating in automotive design. They design prototypes of car parts, find cost-effective materials for building products and identify ways of improving fuel-system performance. These engineers meticulously analyze issues to create devices that solve different problems or meet specific needs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mechanical engineers made an annual median salary of $78,160, as of May 2010.

Auto Mechanics

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Service technicians or auto mechanics are often hired without a college degree. This position entails performing basic maintenance on automobiles, including changing worn parts like brakes and rotors, checking tire pressure and inspecting vehicles in compliance with state law. Before servicing a car, mechanics must explain to customers what they found and what needs to be repaired. The BLS reported an average yearly income of $35,790 for this profession, as of May 2010.

Difference in Job Duties

Although the two careers greatly differ, they complement each other. Auto engineers design parts or refinements to meet specific needs or solve problems. Mechanics spend the bulk of their days using existing methods to repair or maintain vehicles.

Core Similarities

Both positions are completely centered around improving automobiles. Mechanics and auto engineers both seek solutions to vehicular problems to provide safe cars to drive. And both respond to feedback on problems by analyzing issues and identifying solutions to fix the problem.

Choosing Between Career Paths

Auto engineers need keen research and critical-thinking abilities to find solutions and create helpful designs. Mechanics need to work with their hands to implement processes created by auto engineers.


Based in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, Megan Torrance left her position as the general manager for five Subway restaurants to focus on her passion for writing. Torrance specializes in creating content for career-oriented, motivated individuals and small business owners. Her work has been published on such sites as Chron, GlobalPost and eHow.

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