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The Automotive Technology industry is a relatively new one, having only existed for the last hundred or so years, but the way that cars and highways have embedded themselves in American culture has led to the field's explosion in popularity. This same popularity has also introduced rapid technological advances in Automotive Technology, so much that the field looks wildly different than it did even 20 or 30 years ago.
Jobs in the industry are overwhelmingly based on servicing cars in some form or another, typically in service positions such as Mechanics or Service Technicians. But even with a relatively clear career path, it can be difficult to decide which jobs in the industry are the most interesting or engaging.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Automotive Technology Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
For the Automotive Tech field, hard skills like diagnosis proficiency and automotive knowledge/expertise tend to be more emphasized than soft skills. That's because the field tends to be more hands-on than others, requiring you to utilize all of your senses in addition to specialized equipment in order for you to accurately determine what's wrong with a vehicle and figure out the best fix for the problem.
Let's take a closer look at what some of these Automotive Technology skills look like:
In order to properly diagnose problems in cars brought to your shop, you'll need to have good problem-solving and analytical skills in addition to all of your practical knowledge regarding how cars operate.
Most Automotive Technology jobs require a lot of hands-on work with vehicles, which is very physically demanding. In order to avoid discomfort or outright inability to work, you'll need to have a decent amount of physical mobility and endurance. In addition, this job is particularly difficult to work in the event that one or more of your senses are impaired for any reason due to the very tactile nature of auto repair. Lacking the ability to hear, see, or even smell has the potential to put a service person at a severe disadvantage in this field.
Communication/Customer Service Skills
Especially if you get into repair, you'll likely be interacting with customers on a daily basis, and so having good customer services will be essential to your success. Good communication skills will also come in handy when it comes to explaining to non-car aficionados about what's wrong with their vehicle in layman's terms.
An internship is an excellent way to get a leg up in the automotive industry, especially if you're able to find one at a company you enjoy working for. You'll be learning important practical skills while also building out your network of business contacts -- besides the fact that you won't be making much (or perhaps any) money during this time, there's no real downside and plenty of benefits.
The best way to get these kind of internships are by exploring the network you already have at your disposal. Reach out to your college's career resources department to see if they have any connections that might be useful to you. If that doesn't work out, then reach out to various shops on your own and express to them your interest in interning at their business -- this is easier to sell while you're still in school, so if this is interesting to you, make sure you start reaching out before you graduate from college.
There are also apprenticeships available to you, although they're not often called this anymore. But most entry-level jobs in the automotive industry are heavily supervised, as it takes years to become an experienced mechanic -- so if you miss out on internships, just know that it's not too late to get a more learning-based position under your belt.
Before you settle on an internship or apprenticeship, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
The automotive industry is all about cars, including everything from their conception and design to their manufacturing and sale, and even including their post-sale maintenance and repair. As a result, despite the industry's laser-like focus on a single product, the variety of jobs related to the industry in some way remains staggering.
With Automotive Technology specifically, the focus is on the way that cars and trucks operate from a mechanical standpoint, and as a result the jobs tend to be related to either the development of new cars and automotive technologies, the manufacturing process, or (most frequently) in the repair and maintenance of automotives.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Automotive Technology Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Automotive Technicians (or Service Techs) repair, maintain, and inspect cars and light trucks. Their duties include things as simple as performing basic care, like changing oil, to more complex procedures like identifying obscure car problems and repairing or replacing damaged parts.
Shop Foremen direct and schedule the work order of an entire shop's worth of technicians, monitoring their progress to ensure that work is being done in an timely and safe manner.
Team Leaders provide guidance and instruction to an entire team of individuals whose responsibilities and projects vary by industry. In the Automotive Technology industry, this could be anything from running an auto shop to organizing a team of salespeople.
One of the best ways to find jobs in this industry is to prove that you have the skills necessary to work. Certifications are available in a number of different skills and disciplines, with many requiring taking pre-required courses.
Others require only that you finish the test itself (and that you pay to take the test, of course). You can learn the skills necessary for some of these certifications just through your undergraduate degree or through internships, but some certifications might also require an amount of on-the-job training. Those kind of certifications in particular will be more helpful to you finding new jobs later on, or getting promotions at your current job.
While helpful at any stage of your career, networking is extremely useful to you while you're still in college. If you can find someone working the position you'd like to work yourself, reach out to them to see if they can tell you more about their work, such as what an average day looks like for them or how they got their job in this field.
This helps you learn more about the position itself while also helping you find people who work in the field already. You can reach out to as many people you like this way -- if you manage to make a strong connection with someone this way, keep it in mind once you're finally out on the job hunt. They might be able to help point you to a place that's hiring, or even help you find a job at their own place of work.
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
When it comes to post-graduate Automotive Technology education, Master's programs are few and far between, and Ph.Ds are rarer still. Most schools either assume that their Automotive Technology majors will be going directly into the work force or will have specialized in Automotive Engineering, which is more geared towards the development of new technology than it is understanding and repairing existing technology.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with Automotive Technology degree normally consider:
Master's in Automotive Technology
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence
The ASE is a professional organization working to certify and test mechanics and service technicians in order to promote excellence in the field of Automotive Technology.
AMRA is a trade organization dedicated to the field of automotive maintenance, specifically with helping establish lines of communication between maintenance and repair providers and the consumers to whom they provide service.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
A non-profit professional organization dedicated to sharing knowledge about the field of mechanical engineering, including education and networking opportunities for members.
Enter "Automotive Technology" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.