The field of mechanics has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Part of the reason for the changes has been an overall transition from the relatively straightforward mechanical engineering used during most of the 20th century to the technologically integrated electronic systems and computerized systems used today. The field will obviously continue to become more intricate and technical as time goes on, which will lead to an increased demand for qualified mechanics.
In general terms, mechanics have the important responsibility of ensuring that machines and equipment run smoothly and that building systems operate efficiently. This requires extensive knowledge and training, along with a committed attention to detail in the ongoing preventive maintenance of said equipment and systems. On a daily basis, mechanics must diagnose problems and figure out the best way to solve them. This can involve replacing or fixing worn or broken parts or making adjustments so that equipment and machines return to functioning properly. Some of the most common tasks completed by mechanics are as follows:
Mechanics may be required to complete many of these tasks, and others, depending on where they work. In a small business, mechanics may work alone and handle all repairs, except for very large or difficult jobs. In larger establishments, mechanics may work under the direct supervision of a more experienced worker, with his or her duties limited to the maintenance of everything in one particular workshop or area.
Many mechanics opt to specialize in a particular field, like auto, diesel, aviation, heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, and industrial maintenance. These specializations can be practiced in many different environments, such as factories, offices, cafeterias, laundries, hospitals, and stores. Mechanics can find work in a number of fields, with most of them leading to these careers:
Most mechanics work a 40-hour week, including some evening, night, or weekend shifts, or are scheduled to be on call for emergency repairs. A downside to the profession is that mechanics may have to stand for long periods, lift heavy objects, and work in uncomfortably hot or cold environments, in awkward and cramped positions, or on ladders. Some tasks put workers at risk of electrical shock, burns, falls, cuts, and bruises.
Top Mechanic Careers (BLS, 2013)
|Career||Number of Workers Nationally in 2013||Job Description||Degree Requirements|
|Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians||115,410||These workers perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft as well as inspections as required by the FAA.||According to the BLS, most aircraft mechanics learn their trade by earning a certificate of completion at a FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School.|
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||604,990||Automotive mechanics troubleshoot mechanical problems and create actionable plans to repair them. They replace parts and perform routine maintenance.||The BLS reports that most automotive service technicians and mechanics only need a high school diploma. However, a growing number of these professionals also earn a certificate of completion at a trade or technical school.|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics and Maintenance Workers||473,480||These workers disassemble and reassemble industrial machinery when required. They diagnose problems, perform repairs, and complete preventative maintenance.||Most industrial mechanics need at least one year of training after earning a high school diploma. This training can be completed at a trade or technical school and often leads to a certificate of completion.|
|Millwrights||38,680||Millwrights install and repair machinery. They replace defective parts and perform calibrations and alignments, as needed.||Millwrights usually complete a four-year apprenticeship or earn an Associate degree in Industrial Maintenance.|
|Small Engine Mechanics||62,860||Small engine mechanics repair and perform routine maintenance on small engines and their components.||Small engine mechanics learn their trade through on-the-job training.|
Mechanical Career Education
Those hoping to pursue a career in this field need to have mechanical aptitude, the ability to use shop mathematics, and manual dexterity. Depending on the work setting, the job may involve a lot of walking, standing, reaching, and heavy lifting. The more difficult jobs require keen problem-solving ability, and many positions require the ability to work without direct supervision.
Many mechanical careers begin with on-the-job training or an apprenticeship, but others get started with postsecondary education at a trade or technical school. The following table uses 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to outline the different degree and certificate options in this field and what kind of career they may help you qualify for:
|Education Type||Timeline for Completion||Possible Careers|
|Certificate or Apprenticeship||Although timelines vary considerably depending on the program you choose, many certificate programs can be completed in one year or less. Meanwhile, apprenticeships can last anywhere from 1-5 years.||Aircraft Mechanics, Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Bus and Truck Mechanics, Farm Equipment Mechanics, Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Motorboat Mechanics, Motorcycle Mechanics, Recreational Vehicle Service Technicians, Small Engine Mechanics, Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics|
|Associate||Associate degrees can typically be completed with two years of full-time study. However, programs completed on a part-time basis may take longer.||Millwrights|
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/aircraft-and-avionics-equipment-mechanics-and-technicians.htm#tab-1
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm#tab-1
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Industrial Machinery Mechanics and Maintenance Workers and Millwrights, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/industrial-machinery-mechanics-and-maintenance-workers-and-millwrights.htm#tab-1
"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Small Engine Mechanics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/small-engine-mechanics.htm
Schools for Mechanic are listed in the column to the left.
This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.
Click each Occupation title for more details.
|Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics||648,050|
|Bus and Truck Mechanics||264,860|
|Farm Equipment Mechanics||34,300|
|Industrial Machinery Mechanics and Maintenance Workers and Millwrights||362,440|
|Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics||140,260|
|Recreational Vehicle Service Technicians||15,560|
|Small Engine Mechanics||31,760|