Test car drivers take new car models out on the roads and test tracks to make sure that all of the car's systems are working properly and are safe and reliable before they finally land in a dealer's showroom and are offered for sale to the public. You don’t need a master’s degree to become a test car driver, but it helps if you have a love for cars and excellent mechanical know-how. Test car drivers typically work for major auto manufacturers, drive at high speeds for several hours a day, and traverse obstacle courses that require expert driving ability and quick reflexes. Test car driving, however, can be a hard field to break in to.
Get a valid driver’s license and at least a high school diploma. Take and pass a driver’s education program and become knowledgeable about car safety and the rules of the road. Although a college degree is not required to become a test car driver, you should have a strong grasp of the English language and have above-average mathematical and technical ability.
Enroll in a car mechanic’s course at your local college. Start tinkering with your own car and explore all there is to know about the engine, the interior and chassis components and how they work. Get a job as an apprentice with a reputable auto mechanic and work alongside her to get your hands dirty. While you’re at it, take a course in go-karting to improve your driving skills and techniques.
Earn an associate's degree in mechanical or automotive engineering. Although it’s not required to become a test car driver, it can give you an edge by showing car manufacturers that you’re highly qualified for the job. A degree that includes manufacturing and automotive design courses will also give you a distinct advantage.
Take speech or writing classes to polish up your oral and written communications skills. A test car driver must be able to communicate test data and the results of his observations about a car to company team members in a professional and technically proficient manner.
Look into Ford Motor Company’s certification program--the Electronic Driver Certification Tracking System (EDCERTS)--which tests drivers at four different tracks, skills and speeds. You can check out certification and job opportunities at Ford by accessing its website at ford.com.
Contact major auto manufacturers individually to find out if they’re hiring test drivers or to see if you can get your foot in the door in a lower-level job first. Check out employment opportunities at BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, and Toyota and complete their online applications.
A clean driving record is a must to become a test car driver. Contact SAE International (http://automobile.sae.org; or 877-606-7323) to get information about careers in the car testing industry.
Test car drivers need a lot of stamina to spend long hours behind the wheel of a car. Work conditions can require a test driver to drive at very high speeds in difficult terrain or in inclement weather.