Automotive Mechanic vs Automotive Technician: Career ROI

The electric vehicle market in the US is forecasted to hit $137.43 billion in 2028. These figures translate to high ROIs if you choose to become an automotive mechanic or an automotive technician. Both are also some of the highest-paying trade careers!

However, the question begs: which trade career should you pursue?

Automotive technicians and automotive mechanics are often interchangeably used in the industry. In fact, trade schools that offer low-cost automotive trade career degrees also often use the terms interchangeably when describing their training programs. While some professionals and skilled tradespersons do not concern themselves with the distinction, others may do so. 

Perhaps one of the commonly known differences between the two careers is that an auto mechanic employs a more hands-on, practical approach when dealing with car problems. In contrast, an auto technician utilizes computer-aided diagnostic devices that generate data-driven information. 

Auto mechanics are also expected to focus more on the mechanical components of the vehicle, whereas technicians often deal with the car’s computer and electronic systems and other advanced technologies. While varying in their core focus, both trade careers unlock numerous benefits for students and professionals!

Automotive Mechanic as a Trade Program

Automotive Mechanic as a Trade Program - Image

Postsecondary education or vocational programs in automotive servicing will equip you with the essential skills for entry-level positions as an automotive mechanic. These training programs, such as the Automotive Mechanic Training program at Austin Community College or the Automotive Mechanics Certificate program at Pima Community College, will provide you with essential knowledge of automotive maintenance and the industry, complemented with intensive hands-on learning experiences. They generally last for six months to a year.

Some of the essential topics are:

  • Basic automotive maintenance
  • Tools for diagnosing automotive problems
  • Work safety procedures
  • Responsible and professional work practices
  • Essential information about the automotive industry

Becoming an Automotive Mechanic 

Starting Salary$29,270 per year
Average Salary$49,690 per year
Duties* Diagnosing vehicle problems using scanners, multimeters and other devices
* Inspecting and testing automotive systems and components
* Performing basic automotive care and maintenance
* Replacing or repairing defective/worn components
* Conducting repairs in line with the manufacturer and client specifications
* Discussing vehicle conditions and solutions with customers
* Providing accurate estimates for maintenance/repair jobs
Projected Job Growth (2022-2032)2%
Largest Employer(s)Automobile dealers
Highest Paying Employer(s)Telecommunications

What It Takes to Become an Automotive Mechanic

To excel as an automotive mechanic, you must develop a set of hard skills acquired through training and education. These essential hard skills include:

  • Mechanical repair skills
  • Technical proficiency in both understanding automotive systems and using power/hand tools
  • Diagnostic skills for mechanical problems
  • Ability to perform and schedule preventative maintenance

In addition, the skills that you naturally develop throughout your life are also valuable for achieving success as an automotive mechanic. These soft skills are:

  • Adaptability to new technologies and automotive trends
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • Customer service skills
  • Teamwork

Advance Your Career as an Automotive Mechanic

If you want to further your career as an automotive mechanic, you can pursue formal education by enrolling in an Associate program, such as the Associate in Science in Automotive Technology at New England Institute of Technology. These programs essentially train you to become an automotive technician, allowing you to handle more specialized tasks.

In addition to automotive training, associate degree programs can also include other valuable courses such as customer service, entrepreneurship, and communication. Auto dealers and carmakers may also sponsor these programs wherein you’ll both attend classes and work in service shops under the mentorship of experienced tradespersons.

The certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence is available in nine different specialty fields:

  • Automatic transmission/transaxle
  • Brakes
  • Electrical/electronic systems
  • Engine performance
  • Engine Repair
  • Heating and air-conditioning
  • Light vehicle diesel engines
  • Manual drivetrain and axles
  • Suspension and steering

Furthermore, if you’ll be working with refrigerants, you’ll be required to have the EPA or US Environmental Protection Agency certification for proper refrigerant handling.

Why you should be an Automotive Mechanic:

  • You are passionate about vehicles and how they work.
  • You are mechanically inclined with a strong interest in fixing things.
  • You enjoy jobs that involve hands-on and off-the-desk labor.

Why you should NOT become an Automotive Mechanic:

  • You have physical limitations or disabilities that hinder you from performing your duties, like working in tight spaces or lifting heavy parts.
  • You find it hard to grasp mechanical concepts and systems.
  • You find repetitive tasks to be boring and monotonous.

Comparing Automotive Mechanics vs Automotive Technician

Automotive Mechanic vs Automotive Technician - fact

Automotive Technician as a Trade Program

If you aspire to be an automotive technician, you need at least a postsecondary non-degree education and training in vehicle diagnostics, repair, and servicing. Lasting for six to 12 months, depending on the program, you will learn:

  • Basic routine servicing and preventative maintenance
  • Vehicle inspections, repairs, and adjustments
  • Brake system diagnosis and repair
  • Engine components and subsystems repair/diagnosis
  • Understanding the different vehicle systems

Here are training programs you can consider:

Becoming an Automotive Technician

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics groups automotive technicians and automotive mechanics under one category.

Starting Salary$29,270 per year
Average Salary$49,690 per year
DutiesDiagnosing vehicle problems using specialized computers and equipment
Interpreting and assessing data-driven vehicle diagnostic results
Planning for vehicle repairs (usually for mechanics to perform)
Preparing accurate recommendations and quotes for maintenance/repair jobs
Maintaining detailed records of work done on vehicles
Explains recommended maintenance to vehicle owners
Projected Job Growth (2022-2032)2%
Largest Employer(s)Automobile dealers
Highest Paying Employer(s)Telecommunications

What It Takes to Become an Automotive Technician

The hard skills to excel as an automotive technician include the following:

  • Technical and tool proficiency, mechanical repair skills, and other hard skills required as an automotive mechanic
  • Computer literacy
  • Ability to interpret technical data and literature (e.g., manuals and service bulletins)
  • Mathematical skills

The soft skills required as an automotive technician include the following:

  • Adaptability to changes and trends
  • Willingness to acquire new skills or upgrade existing ones
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management
  • Teamwork

Advance Your Career as an Automotive Technician

Completing an Associate-degree program in automotive technology or a relevant field can significantly boost your career prospects, as you’ll have a more comprehensive understanding of automotive diagnostics, servicing, and industry standards. Such education also allows you to handle complex vehicle malfunctions with greater confidence using modern computer-aided technologies.

Many car manufacturers and dealers sponsor Associate-level programs for automotive technicians. For example, the Automotive Technology AAS at Bronx Community College (CUNY) has a major partnership with Nissan/Infinity, where you can experience salaried internships at various service centers.

When it comes to certifications, many employers prefer to hire service technicians with ASE certification. In order to sit for the certification exam, however, you must have a minimum of two years of experience (or a combination of formal education and experience) as a technician.

You can also earn the ASE Master Technician status if you achieve certification in all the ASE automotive specialty areas except for the light vehicle diesel engine certification.

In addition, you will also need to possess an EPA certification if your job entails handling refrigerants.

Why you should be an Automotive Technician:

  • You are interested in the integration of computer and electronic systems in vehicles.
  • You possess strong mathematical aptitude and data interpretation skills.
  • You are passionate about troubleshooting vehicle issues using the latest diagnostic technology.

Why you should NOT become an  Automotive Technician:

  • You prefer doing hands-on, physical work when dealing with vehicle issues rather than utilizing complex computer-aided diagnostic devices.
  • You find it hard to be meticulous when facing too much numerical data in diagnosing issues and executing repairs.
  • You find it too challenging to understand the mechanical and electrical aspects of vehicles, even if you love cars.
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Final Say

Schools often interchange the terms automotive mechanic and automotive technician when describing their training programs. To determine the more suitable program for you, look at the coursework and really know the difference.

Fill the workforce gap in the US car repair industry that is driven partly by the growing number of vehicle owners keeping their old cars. Enroll in the eight country’s best trade schools to become an automotive mechanic or technician—and enjoy a high ROI in either!