As is the case with many trades and professions that require technical expertise and skills, auto mechanics frequently learn their jobs in specific levels of training. A journeyman automotive technician is an intermediate-level automotive repair specialist.
The primary duty of an auto mechanic is the diagnosis and repair of automotive problems. The mechanic analyzes how different operating systems work, and he or she pinpoints trouble spots. Mechanics prepare repair estimates. They discuss symptoms of trouble with customers; then they use their knowledge and skills to address the issues.
Auto Mechanic vs. Auto Technician
Some people use these terms interchangeably, and in fact, it’s generally correct to do so. At one time, mechanics were the people who took your vehicle apart and made repairs. When computer technology was new to the automobile world, technicians were considered diagnosticians. All cars manufactured today are equipped with some level of advanced technology. To meet customers’ needs, modern mechanics are schooled in what are considered traditional repairs as well as in computer diagnostics.
At one time, a hobbyist who tinkered with cars on the weekend was able to learn much of what anyone needed to know to be an auto mechanic. Today’s vehicles are much more complex, and specialized training is typically required.
Vocational-technical schools, trade schools and colleges throughout the country offer certificate, diploma, associate’s degree and even bachelor’s degree programs in auto repair. Look for a school that employs Master Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)-trained instructors. The National Institute for Automotive Excellence is recognized industry-wide for its high standards.
An aspiring mechanic needs to complete this program or receive on-the job training and get promoted from apprentice to journeyman based on demonstrated skills and knowledge. A background in troubleshooting and repairing mechanical systems is desirable.
A thorough knowledge and understanding of electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic and combustion engine systems are necessary. Good judgment helps the mechanic advise the customer if car problems are worth the price of replacement parts and labor costs. The ability to efficiently find parts and negotiate prices is required.
Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification is not required to become a journeyman automotive technician, nor is it necessarily a condition for hire. However, the credential is nationally recognized and may boost job opportunities and pay. There are 17 different test series open to auto mechanics, including advanced engine performance, alternate fuels, electronic diesel engine diagnosis, transit bus, truck equipment and school bus certifications. Technicians who pass multiple tests can earn “master” status in the series. Tests must be re-taken every five years to maintain certification status.
Salary and Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks data on civilian occupations. According to 2018 figures, the median salary for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $40,710 per year, or $19.57 per hour. Median salary means that half in the profession earned more, while half earned less.
Pay and benefits vary according to a number of factors, including employer and geographic location. The jobs website Glassdoor lists the salary for a journeyman diesel mechanic as $46,021, on average, with a range between $31,000 and $61,000.
Salaries for an auto mechanic apprenticeship typically range from $12 to $15.75 per hour. Though this pay rate may seem low, you have to remember that you’re getting paid while you learn. An auto mechanic apprenticeship can last from three to four years. Once you complete your training, you’ll qualify for job opportunities that allow you to earn significantly more.
According to the BLS, the job growth rate for automotive mechanics will be about 6 percent through 2026. That’s average growth compared to all other jobs.