Backyard mechanics are going the way of keypunch operators and typing pools. Computerized drive train technology has long replaced carburetors and today's automotive technicians are as likely to be clicking a mouse or tapping a touch screen as turning a wrench.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "Automotive service technicians and mechanics must continually adapt to changing technology and repair techniques."
The BLS notes that the responsibilities of automotive service technicians and mechanics "have evolved from simple mechanical repairs to high-level technology-related work. Today, integrated electronic systems and complex computers regulate vehicles and their performance while on the road."
Given the highly sophisticated and fast-changing automotive technology, "Technicians must have an increasingly broad knowledge of how vehicles' complex components work and interact. They also must be able to work with electronic diagnostic equipment and digital manuals and reference materials," says the BLS.
High-tech tools and skills needed.
Today's automotive technician needs high-technology tools to work on the computer equipment that operates most automotive systems, such as braking, transmission, and steering systems. Many luxury vehicles have complex integrated global positioning systems, accident-avoidance systems, and other new features.
The BLS says transmission technicians and rebuilders who work on gear trains, couplings, hydraulic pumps, and other parts of transmissions need "extensive knowledge of computer controls, the ability to diagnose electrical and hydraulic problems, and other specialized skills" to work on these complex components, which employ "some of the most sophisticated technology used in vehicles."
The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) says that strong math skills are needed to help analyze and solve problems like calculating gear ratios; while a strong science foundation, especially in physics, is necessary to understand force, friction, hydraulics, and electrical circuits.
NATEF also recommends having "strong communications skills to access technical information from shop manuals or computers." These skills are also needed to effectively deal with customers and coworkers. Keyboarding skills and basic office computer and internet skills will help in completing work orders, searching repair and parts databases, and processing receipts.
Formal training and certification are preferred.
The BLS notes that "Employers are increasingly looking for workers who have completed a formal training program in high school or in a postsecondary vocational school or community college."
In addition, the BLS says, "ASE certification has become a standard credential for automotive service technicians." According to the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, more than 350,000 automotive professionals nationwide have earned the ASE Blue Seal of Excellence and work in all areas of automotive repair.
ASE Certification is available in eight different areas of automotive service, such as engine repair, electrical systems, brake systems, suspension and steering, and heating and air-conditioning. For certification in each area, technicians must have at least 2 years of experience and pass the examination. For ASE Certification as a Master Automobile Technician, technicians must pass all eight examinations. Certification is also available for medium and heavy duty trucks, school buses, collision repair, and more.
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