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Entry-Level automotive service technicians are those that have just graduated from an automotive technology program or have just entered the auto repair business. Without experience and further training, these technicians are at the basic skill level. They repair and discuss minor faults, demonstrate basic product knowledge, can extract and read automotive computer and scan tool codes and data, and can demonstrate a factory-approved diagnostic procedure in one or more of the ASE (National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence) repair areas, like brakes, suspension, steering, basic electricity, or engine performance. These technicians perform assigned tasks under direct or indirect supervision.
Automotive service technicians inspect, maintain, and repair automobiles and light trucks, such as vans and pickups. In the past, these workers were called “mechanics,” however, today’s level of technology in the modern automobile makes the term “technician” more appropriate.
When mechanical or electrical troubles occur, technicians first get a description of the symptoms directly from the owner or, if they work in a large shop, the service consultant who prepared the repair order. To locate the problem, technicians use a diagnostic strategy approach. First, they inspect and test to see if components and systems are working properly, then they rule out those components or systems that could not logically be the cause of the problem (process of elimination). They look for the root cause of the customer’s concern.
Salary.com reported that an automotive technician with 0 to 2 years of experience earned a median salary of $33,466, not including commission.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, median hourly wage-and-salary earnings of automotive service technicians and mechanics, including commission, were $16.88 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.44 and $22.64 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $9.56, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28.71 per hour. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of service technicians were as follows:
* Local government, excluding schools: $20.07
* Automobile dealers: $19.61
* Automotive repair and maintenance: $15.26
* Gasoline stations: $15.22
* Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores: $14.90
Many experienced technicians employed by automobile dealers and independent repair shops receive a commission related to the labor cost charged to the customer. Under this system, weekly earnings depend on the amount of work completed. Employers frequently guarantee commissioned technicians a minimum weekly salary. Some employees offer health and retirement benefits, but such compensation packages are not universal and can vary widely.
Automotive technology is rapidly increasing in sophistication, and most training authorities strongly recommend that people seeking work in automotive service complete a formal training program in high school or in a postsecondary vocational school or community college. However, some service technicians still learn the trade solely by assisting and learning from experienced workers. Acquiring National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification is important for those seeking work in large, urban areas.
Most employers regard the successful completion of a vocational training program in automotive service technology as the best preparation for trainee positions. High school programs, while an asset, vary greatly in scope. Graduates of these programs may need further training to become qualified. Some of the more extensive high school programs participate in Automotive Youth Education Service (AYES), a partnership between high school automotive repair programs, automotive manufacturers, and franchised automotive dealers. All AYES high school programs are certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Students who complete these programs are well prepared to enter entry-level technician positions or to advance their technical education. Courses in automotive repair, electronics, physics, chemistry, English, computers, and mathematics provide a good educational background for a career as a service technician.
Postsecondary automotive technician training programs usually provide intensive career preparation through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on practice.