What Does it Mean to Study Auto Repair?
On any given workday, an auto mechanic might be called upon to tinker with engines, replace transmissions, or fix a car's drivetrain. However, these workers don't do all their work and diagnosis by hand as they did decades ago. With the help of computers and complex software programs, auto repair specialists are able to lean on technology to determine what is wrong with your vehicle. On the one hand, this is good, as it makes it easier for auto mechanics to do their work. On the other hand, it does mean there's a lot more to learn about the job.
Fortunately, this is where auto mechanic schools come into play. Students pursuing an auto repair degree have the opportunity to learn how to repair and maintain motor vehicles of various types, from basic models to those with complex computers or electric/hybrid technology. Some pursuing an auto repair major may choose to specialize in a specific type or brand of vehicle, while others may choose to be generalists.
Types of Online Auto Repair Degrees
Learning how to repair a car through an online class?! It may sound impossible, but it's true. Thanks to the internet and various forms of technology, it's possible to become an auto repair major and complete the bulk of your studies online. Keep in mind that in most cases, an auto mechanic program cannot be completed 100 percent online; students usually have to spend time in a garage or mechanic's studio for the hands-on component of their education. However, being able to take even a portion of your classes online can be very helpful for someone who needs to work, perhaps to pay for school or to support a family.
There are several different auto repair programs you can pursue, and there's more differences between them than just what they're called. Let's take a look at some of those differences, as well as what factors might influence your choice between them, here.
Online Certificate Programs in Auto Repair
Certificate programs are designed for aspiring auto mechanics who want to learn the basic components of the job. These programs tend to be technical in nature, meaning they focus on introducing students to the hand-on skills required for this line of work instead of classroom instruction.
Generally speaking, you can pursue a certificate in auto repair that specializes in your area of interest. While options may vary depending on your school, options may include: automotive service technology, advanced body repair, collision repair, electric and hybrid vehicles, and maintenance and light repair.
Some of the auto repair courses you might see in a certificate program, regardless of specialization, are:
- Introduction to Auto Repair
- Maintenance Basics
- Engine Repair
- Automotive Technology
- Truck Chassis Systems
Online Associate Degree in Auto Repair
An associate degree in auto repair typically takes around two years to complete. During this time, students should be focusing on learning how to detect, fix and prevent common mechanical problems. Since many vehicles on the road include complex computer systems and technology, there's a lot to learn about the automotive technology and software programs used on the job. Here are some of the classes you might see in the curriculum for an associate in auto repair degree program:
- Controller Area Networking
- Computer Integration in Automobiles
- Emerging Technologies in Auto Repair
- Vehicle Repair Systems
- Preventative Maintenance
Online Bachelor's Degree in Auto Repair
This is usually the highest level of education available in the field of auto repair. A four-year bachelor's degree program in auto repair covers a wide range of technical, managerial and core educational topics, giving students an opportunity to ground their knowledge of auto repair with many other helpful skills.
These programs are likely to go into depth on complex automotive technology such as vehicular systems technology, inspection and maintenance procedures, instrument calibration, and test equipment operation and maintenance. They may also touch on liberal arts and business topics that can help students learn how to handle high-level management positions, so if a management position is what you're aiming for, this might be the program to pursue. Courses for these four-year programs may include:
- Quality Control
- Mechanical Engineering
- Product Design
- Materials Science
- Manufacturing Technology
What Can You Do with a Auto Repair Degree?
While becoming an auto repair major is meant to lead to a career working with cars and other mechanical vehicles, there are several different possible jobs to consider in this field. Here are some of the career options for auto repair majors, along with the degree types and certification you might need in order to get started.
Automotive Service Technicians
Automotive service technicians perform a wide range of tasks to maintain and repair various vehicles. Using computer systems and programs, as well as their own experience, they are able to notice and diagnose problems with vehicles. Then, using their knowledge of automobiles, they can explain problems to clients, suggest repairs and replace broken or worn-out parts.
People don't only bring their cars to these professionals when they break down. Automotive service technicians also perform regular maintenance that helps cars stay running, such as oil changes and tire rotations. They also examine automotive systems and explain to clients how to care for their cars in hopes of keeping these vehicles running smoothly in the future.
- Many automotive service technicians get started with a certificate program, although some go on to earn an associate degree.
- The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers certification for automotive service technicians. Certification is available in nine specialty areas.
Automotive Air Conditioning Technicians
While these workers often have training in basic auto repair as well, automotive air conditioning technicians focus mainly on maintaining and repairing air conditioning systems. They install and repair air conditioning systems, troubleshoot problems and handle refrigerants.
- Many air conditioning technicians get started with a certificate program, although some go on to earn an associate degree.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires automotive technicians that work with refrigerants to be certified in refrigerant handling. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence is one source of such certification in air conditioning and heating.
Diagnostic technicians, also known as drivability technicians, focus the bulk of their work on accurately diagnosing problems with motor vehicles. They use complex computer software programs to spot and diagnose problems that keep autos from running efficiently, and they create reports that list the problems a vehicle is experiencing along with suggested repairs.
- Diagnostic technicians typically pursue a certificate program or an associate degree in auto repair along with on-the-job training.
- The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers a few different certifications diagnostic technicians can pursue, including certifications in engine repair and electrical systems.
Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics
Diesel service technicians and mechanics inspect, repair and maintain vehicles that run on diesel fuel, such as buses and large trucks. They diagnose mechanical problems and suggest repairs and upgrades to consumers. These workers may also inspect and replace malfunctioning components, interpret diagnostic tests, and perform basic care and maintenance that keeps diesel engines in working shape.
- While diesel service technicians and mechanics may get started with basic on-the-job training, many employers seek workers with a certificate or associate degree.
- The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence offers certification for service technicians and mechanics that work with diesel engines.
Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians work mostly on large equipment used in farming, transportation and construction. They perform scheduled maintenance to keep large machinery running smoothly, and they use computer software to help them diagnose problems. They also replace worn out equipment and mechanical components before they become a problem that could cause the equipment to break down.
Because large vehicles may not be able to travel very easily, heavy vehicle technicians often travel with their tools to the job scene and perform their work on-site.
- Because heavy machinery is very complex, many employers prefer to hire technicians that have received postsecondary education through a certificate or associate degree program.
- Some heavy vehicle technicians may need to earn certification in a specific software program. Even if certification is not required, it typically leads to higher pay.
Associations and Organizations
As new cars continue to be made, new ways to fix them (and new things that need to be fixed!) are continuing to be made as well. If your goal is to become an auto repair professional, it's important to stay on top of changes within the industry. The following organizations and associations offer continuing education, news and other important resources in this field:
- The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence -- This organization sets standards within the industry while also offering certifications that can help workers increase their job prospects and command higher pay. Certification tests can be taken in fields such as automotive repair, heavy trucks, truck equipment, school buses and more.
- Automotive Service Association -- The Automotive Service Association has the sweeping goal of improving automotive service by raising standards on a national level. They also offer membership opportunities, research and news within the industry.
- Auto Care Association -- The Auto Care Association serves as the voice for 500,000 independent businesses within the auto care industry. Check out their website to find auto care news, job boards and membership opportunities.
- National Windshield Repair Association -- The National Windshield Repair Association offers extensive news and resources within the field of windshield repair.
- Council of Automotive Repair -- This association offers automotive repair centers in several states, along with certification opportunities for repair shops that want to join.
- Associate Degree Automotive Service Technology, Ferris State University, https://ferris.edu/aas-associates-degree-minor-automotive-service-technology.htm
- Automotive Engineering Technology, Ferris State University, https://ferris.edu/HTMLS/colleges/technolo/auto-heet/aet/homepage.htm
- Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
- Automotive Technology, Ivy Tech Community College, https://www.ivytech.edu/automotive-technology/
- Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/diesel-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
- Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heavy-vehicle-and-mobile-equipment-service-technicians.htm