What Is an Automotive Technology Degree?

by TBS Staff
• 6 min read
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An automotive technology degree prepares you for both hands-on and management roles in today's fast-paced automotive industry, from auto repair and custom body work to automotive sales and research.

Automotive technology students prepare for a variety of careers in the automotive and machining industry, including auto repair and sales. Mechanic schools and automotive technology studies can also prepare you for work in leadership and research careers that help advance the automotive industry.

Mechanic schools feature two- and four-year programs, including associate and bachelor's degrees. Some programs offer a certificate or minor degree concentration in automotive technology or management. Learners with a background in automotive technology move on to exciting careers such as industrial production managers, mechanical engineers, auto mechanics, diesel service technicians, and auto body shop managers.

Common names for this type of program include:

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Is Automotive Technology the Right Career Path for Me?

Graduates from automotive technology programs and mechanic schools enjoy fulfilling careers in the sales, parts, and service side of the automotive industry. Professionals in this field should possess strong problem-solving abilities and exceptional customer service skills. Most workers in the automotive industry also need above-average hand dexterity and precision with tools.

You Might Enjoy an Automotive Technology Career if You…

  • Find working with your hands fulfilling.
  • Possess a creative mind for design and engineering.
  • Excel in customer-facing positions or customer service.
  • Imagine yourself in a leadership or management role in an automotive repair facility.
  • Wish to pursue a career or advanced degree in mechanical or electrical engineering.

What to Expect in an Automotive Technology Program

Many associate and bachelor's degree programs provide students with hands-on experiences at participating auto dealerships in their area. On-the-job experience allows learners to reinforce the skills they studied in the classroom, ask professionals questions, and gain further insight into auto technicians' and sales peoples' roles in the field.

Degree-seekers in online mechanical schools complete most or all of their coursework online. Online programs often provide remote learners with interactive lessons, simulations, and animations to offer a virtual learning experience.

Both in-person and online automotive technology programs and schools for mechanics help students develop people skills and hard skills. People skills, or soft skills, play an equally important role for automotive industry professionals' success as hard, or technical and hands-on, skills.

People Skills

  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving
  • Conflict resolution
  • Teamwork

Hard Skills

  • Mechanical skills
  • Electrical skills
  • Technological and diagnostic skills
  • Environmental consciousness
  • Dexterity with tools

How Do I Get into an Automotive Technology Program or Mechanical School?

Admissions requirements for automotive technology programs and mechanic schools vary between programs. Requirements for incoming students of associate and bachelor's programs may be more extensive than for certificate-seekers. In most cases, prospective mechanic school students need a high school diploma or GED, a valid driver's license, and a completed online application for consideration.

What Kinds of Automotive Technology Degrees Are There?

Prospective students with an interest in pursuing a formal education in mechanic school may choose from certificate, diploma, associate, and bachelor's programs.

While all of these trade programs prepare you to pass the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Exam and earn ASE certification, you do not need a formal automotive technology education to sit for the exam — work experience or an apprenticeship can also suffice. Bear in mind that the ASE offers several types of certifications, some of which may require learners to gain hands-on work experience beyond what they get in the classroom.

Certificate Program in Automotive Technology

Learners who want a formal introduction to the foundational aspects of automotive technology can pursue a certificate or diploma. The length of certificate programs varies among automotive technology schools. Full-time students can complete a certificate in 1-2 semesters in some cases. Other programs can take up to 24 months, especially for part-time learners.

A certificate program in automotive technology prepares you to sit for ASE certification. Since the ASE offers different types of certifications, you may need to acquire additional hands-on experience to sit for more specialized certifications. Most certificate-holders take time after their program to study before taking the certification exam.

Associate Degree in Automotive Technology

Automotive technology associate degrees at community colleges and trade schools prepare learners for technical, mechanical, and supervisory roles in the industry. These programs usually take two years to complete. They prepare students for careers such as auto mechanics, service technicians, and parts specialists.

Typical courses in associate programs include intermediate algebra, introduction to electrical systems, and powertrains. Some schools offer a specialized track such as management or engineering. You may also receive the freedom to choose your own electives that fit your personal interests. Associate degree-holders may sit for an ASE certification upon completion of these programs.

Bachelor's Degree in Automotive Technology

Bachelor's programs in automotive technology provide learners with more in-depth studies than certificate and associate programs. These four-year programs typically feature both classroom and hands-on work, including classes such as project management, vehicle safety and security systems, and automotive customer relations.

Bachelor's degree-holders may sit for an ASE certification. Since learners at this level study automotive technology topics more intensely, degree-holders might feel comfortable sitting for more advanced ASE certifications.

After completing the bachelor's degree and certifications, many graduates move on to managerial, research, and leadership positions in the field. Popular career paths for bachelor's degree graduates include collision repair and insurance management, auto dealership management, and specialty auto technician.

Accreditation for Automotive Technology Programs

Accreditation ensures your educational institution meets high academic standards and offers its students worthwhile credentials. Automotive technology and mechanic schools hold regional or national accreditation as a broader institutional credential.

Specific programs within a college or university may also possess programmatic accreditation to meet specialized educational standards. Programmatic accreditation for automotive technology programs may come from bodies such as the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) or the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology (ABET).

What Can You Do With a Degree in Automotive Technology?

Top career paths in this field include automotive service technician, body and glass repairer, auto salesperson, and mechanical engineering technician. On-the-job training plays a significant role in many automotive technology careers. However, employers do not require graduates to complete an apprenticeship before beginning work, especially for those with formal training in a certificate or undergraduate program.

The eight specialty areas of ASE certification include:

  • Suspension and steering
  • Manual drivetrain and axles
  • Heating and air-conditioning
  • Electrical/electronic systems
  • Brakes
  • Automatic transmission/transaxle
  • Engine performance
  • Engine repair

What Kind of Salary Can I Earn in an Automotive Career?

Mechanic school graduates today earn a good living. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals with formal training in automotive technology typically earn more than the median annual wage for all other occupations in the U.S. Those who specialize in heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service earn some of the best salaries in the field. In fact, the top 10% of earners in these roles earned a median annual wage of at least $79,810.

Automotive Career Examples
Career Annual Median Salary (2020)
Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians $53,370
Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics $50,200
Automotive Body and Glass Repairers $44,190
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics $44,050
Small Engine Mechanics $39,020
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Questions About Automotive and Mechanic Schools

true How Long Does It Take to Become a Mechanic in School?

Certificate-seekers usually need less than a year to complete training. Associate and bachelor's degree students need two and four years, respectively, to finish their programs. The duration of your training depends on which level of education you pursue.

Can I Be a Mechanic if I Know Nothing About Cars?

You do not need any particular training or knowledge before entering an automotive technology program. Everything you need to know to become a mechanic is part of your accredited training.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Being a Mechanic?

Many mechanics enjoy having the knowledge to work on their own vehicles or start their own auto shop. On the downside, mechanics may dislike the physical strain involved. Additionally, professional grade equipment is expensive.

How Do I Train to Become a Mechanic?

Employers may not require mechanics to have formal training, but they often prefer candidates with a certificate or degree. They often require at least a GED or high school diploma.

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