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Great Starts for Gear Heads

shutterstock_54716128If you’ve decided that it’s time to take your passion for cars and turn it into a career as an automotive mechanic, now is a great time to make the transition. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, America’s demand for skilled mechanics is expected to grow approximately 9 percent through 2022, with good opportunities for those seeking employment in the field. If you are ready to make a career out of your hobby, here’s what you should know to go from amateur gearhead to professional mechanic:

Getting Educated

Some interest in cars and their inner workings is a good start, but gone are the days when simply tinkering around with a car in the garage could qualify you for mechanical work. Today’s cars are more than just mechanical – they incorporate complicated electrical, computer and data systems. Today’s automotive mechanic is really more of a technician, and technical universities such as Piedmont Technical College offer degrees that can develop skills in electrical engineering and computer programming that will make you more desirable to customers and employers. While most mechanics only need a high school diploma or GED to get started, taking technical courses can give you an edge in your job search and make you a better mechanic over all.

Additionally, many subsystems in cars require certification to legally work on. If you want to repair air conditioning systems in a car you need to be certified by the EPA, and some states require specific certification to become a smog repair technician. Certification can make a big difference in your paycheck; U.S News reports that the average salary for auto mechanics in 2012 was approximately $36,000, but some made as much as $60,000. Like many fields, it doesn’t pay to skimp on education.

If you’re not quite ready for complex automotive work, having a working knowledge of motorcycles and ATVs can make you more desirable to employers. Taking courses in Motorcycle or ATV repair can make you familiar with the complexities of replacing ATV parts or repairing major systems in motorcycles. If motorcycles and ATVs interest you, taking repair courses can earn you more clients and wore work, and that means a better paycheck.

What to Expect

Once you get started working as a mechanic, your day isn’t spent just repairing broken engines. Routine inspections make up a large part of a mechanics job, and you’ll spend a lot of your time checking systems to make sure they are in running order. Additionally, basic maintenance is a common reason people visit a mechanic in the first place. While on-board computer systems make the need for regular tune-ups less common, services such as oil changes and tire rotations are still the job of skilled mechanics.

If you decide that working with high-performance automobiles is your passion, you’ll need hands-on-experience in addition to all the knowledge of a regular mechanic. If this is the course you want your career to take, it helps to apply for entry-level positions in performance shops where you can learn directly from the best. Without an education in auto or motorcycle repair, you are going to face stiff competition when attempting to get a position in a high-performance shop.

If you are interested in a specific manufacturer of car, consider looking for work in a dealership where your specialized knowledge can make the difference. In the end, how you choose to pursue your dream of being a mechanic is up to you, but never forget the value of a solid education.

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