Automotive service technicians and mechanics inspect, repair and maintain vehicles. Here are just some of their responsibilities:
- Use computerized diagnostic tools to find problems
- Use manuals, resources and experience to fix problems
- Perform basic car maintenance, including changing oil, checking and filling fluids, replacing parts, repair broken mechanical items and repairing flat tires
- Explain auto problems to vehicle owners
Auto mechanics usually complete a formal training program at a postsecondary school in programs lasting from 6 months to a year. Once employed, most technicians also get industry certification. Many mechanics work full time in a car repair shop while working on an Associate's degree at an independent school or through a degree program sponsored by a manufacturer or auto dealership. States don't license auto mechanics, but certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence is required by many employers. This takes at least two years of school or one year of on-the-job training and one year of school. Students must pass an exam to get certified. The U.S. EPA requires that mechanics working with refrigerants earn certification in proper handling techniques.
Fast Facts for Auto Mechanics in California
There are 60,440 auto mechanics in California, and they earn an average annual salary of $44,230. That translates into about $21.26 per hour. There are nearly 4 auto mechanics jobs out of every 1,000 jobs in the state.
The highest concentration of auto mechanics in California is in Redding, California, where there are more than 8 mechanics for every 1,000 workers. Yuba City has the next highest concentration with 6.85 mechanics per 1,000 workers.
Among the largest metropolitan areas of California, the highest concentration of auto mechanics is in the Riverside-San Bernadino area, where there are nearly 6 auto mechanics for every 1,000 workers. The highest average annual salary is found in the San Francisco-San Mateo area.
One in four auto mechanics in California works in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale area of Southern California while 33 percent of the state's total works in the Long Beach-Santa Ana region of Los Angeles. Combined, Los Angeles auto mechanics make up 58 percent of the state's total auto mechanic workforce.
Auto Mechanic Salaries in California
Auto mechanics in California make about 20 percent more than the national average for all auto mechanics. In the San Francisco Bay Area auto mechanic salaries are a whopping 46 percent higher than the national average and 23 percent higher than the state average. There are a few places in California where auto mechanics make less than the national average, but they tend to be smaller rural towns, like Hanford, Visalia and Yuba City. Fresno is the only large city in California where annual salaries for auto mechanics are on par with the national average.
Nationally, the highest salaries for auto mechanics go to those who work for auto dealers, where the average annual salary of $41,980 is about 13 percent higher than the national average salary. The lowest salaries are paid at auto parts and tire stores, where the average annual salary of $31,550 is about 15 percent below the national average.
To learn more about what it takes to become an auto mechanic in California, we sat down with Gloria Peterson of the Automotive Service Councils of California, and asked her advice on the trade.
What are the advantages of studying to become auto mechanic?
There is a high demand for auto mechanics and pay is very good. Becoming an auto mechanic also opens up a variety of career choices for people -- you could own your own business, for instance.
If you're still in high school, what's the best way to prepare for college courses in an auto mechanics program?
It depends on whether you have available to you some type of auto mechanic courses. That's the ideal route to go. You can get hands-on experience working with vehicles, but you also get exposure to the career and this could help you decide if this is a career you want to pursue. You may have to travel to another campus to gain access to an auto mechanics course, but if you're interested in that as a career, that's the best avenue.
What is the career outlook for auto mechanics?
The career outlook is very positive. There are a lot of career opportunities. The way the industry has developed, the technology used in vehicles is constantly changing, such as with hybrid and diesel vehicles, and this makes the job more interesting because you have to stay up on all these changes. It's also becoming more difficult for consumers to "do it yourself," so that means more job security for people in the auto technician field.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, California, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ca.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/automotive-service-technicians-and-mechanics.htm
- Interview with Gloria Peterson, Automotive Service Councils of California