High school courses in automotive repair, electronics, computers and English, as well as observation of friends and family working on cars, are good preparation steps for a career as an automotive mechanic. To become a fully qualified mechanic, however, a vocational or post-secondary training program lasting anywhere from six months to two years is necessary.
Automotive mechanic training programs are offered at community colleges, auto dealerships and trade schools. In addition to general education classes, training may include courses in automotive systems, engine repair and assembly, and brake and climate control service. Following completion of these courses, a mechanic must also obtain on-the-job training lasting anywhere from two to five years. Entry level mechanics typically assist experienced mechanics until they gain the necessary experience to work on their own.
Some employers allow -- or may even require -- mechanics to gain additional certification through the National Center for Automotive Service Excellence. Certification is available in eight areas: automatic transmissions, brakes, electrical systems, engine performance, engine repair, manual transmissions, heating and air conditioning, and steering and suspension systems. Mechanics who become certified are usually paid higher salaries, and those who pass tests in all eight areas are considered Master Automobile Technicians.
Successful mechanics must also be detail-oriented, have good hand-eye coordination, demonstrate trouble-shooting skills and be courteous with customers.