How to Prepare Yourself for a Career in the Auto Trades

Auto Mechanics Working on a Car in an Auto ShopPhoto Courtesy: Bill McChesney

So you want to get into the automotive industry. Now what? Well, like any other field, you will have some educational and technical hoops to jump through, and the field is getting more and more competitive.

Whether you’re just starting into your working career or you’ve decided to change your current career, here are some ways to make your way into the auto trades.

Start in high school

If you’re one of those lucky people who just knows what you want to do for a career at the ripe age of 16, take advantage of your foresight and start training in high school. Many high schools offer programs that allow high school juniors or seniors to focus on a vocational program in the auto trades rather than completing traditional high school education. Even if you don’t participate in the full program, you can start to take classes for auto trades early.

Get hands-on direction

Get a job with an auto mechanic. Even if you have to start out washing cars and changing oil, you’ll have the chance to see the ins and outs of an actual shop. Find a mechanic you like by using a TraderQuote which will share company info and numbers with the public. Put in the time, and the mechanics will start to reward you with tips and tricks that just can’t be learned in the classroom. Another perk of choosing to work for a mechanic is that you won’t have to pay for you education. In fact, you’ll be making money at work and learning at the same time.

If you’re having a hard time getting in with a mechanic, you can also participate in an apprenticeship program. An apprenticeship is around 80 percent on-the-job training while the rest is spent in the classroom. It’s a great option for people who don’t like to spend the day sitting down and prefer hands-on learning. Depending on the apprenticeship, the length of the program could be one to five years.

Get certified

Especially if you’re working in a large urban area, you’ll want to find out how to certify with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. ASE is a nonprofit service that works to improve automotive trade performance. More than 350,000 auto professionals hold this certification and work in mechanic shops around the nation. Mechanics from several fields go through the testing for this degree including engine machinist, collision damage estimators, Bus technicians, and parts specialists.

ASE provides study guides, test taking tips and practice tests to help potential test takers prepare. Depending on your intended field, you will have the option of becoming certified in one or more areas. ASE mechanics nationwide insist their employees get certified, while other employers value the standardized implications of the certification.

Attend a vocational school

Even if you participated in a high school program, attending a vocational school can offer you more technical and sophisticated skill. Community colleges and vocational skills will provide anywhere from six months to 2 years of classes that will develop your ability not only to work on cars, but also to communicate and provide customer service. If you’re interested in getting a broader education that will include liberal arts and other general education courses, the community college would be the best choice.

Train with a manufacturer or dealer

Many auto manufactures and franchised dealers sponsor associate degree programs post-high school. In these programs, you’ll learn the various service departments specific to the particular brand of car/automobile for which you’ll work. One of the nice things about a dealership training program is that you’re being groomed for a specific job with the company. The dealership will not want to throw away the time they’ve spent making you their best expert.


Whether you’re still in high school or you’re looking to get out of your current career, the automotive trade industry is diverse and there are several ways to get into the field. Think about the way you learn and choose between a vocational school, apprenticeship, or a dealer training depending on your time, style and goals.


Amy Nielson

Amy Nielson is an avid blogger who writes often for automotive insurance sites. You can follow her on Twitter @NielsonAmy.

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