Entry-level mechanic positions generally require a high school diploma, although hands-on experience in a mechanic training program in a high school or college is expected by many employers. Most mechanics develop advanced skills through on-the-job training and professional certification programs.
According to an occupational study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the best preparation for an entry-level position in the field is a vocational training program in automotive service technology lasting six months to one year. Some high schools offer such programs, as do many community colleges and training institutes across the country. Two-year community college training programs leading to an associate degree are also widely available. Although an associate degree is not required for most entry-level mechanic positions, they are excellent preparation for the field and often lead to faster professional advancement early in a career.
Most entry-level mechanics work under the supervision of more experienced mechanics, learning many advanced skills on the job. Depending on the formal training one starts out with, three to seven years of work experience is required to develop all-around professional competency. Most professional auto mechanics pursue certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Individual certification programs are available in more than 40 different specialty areas. Each certification requires subject-specific, on-the-job experience and a passing score on an exam. Exams must be retaken every five years to maintain a certification.