Because automotive technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated, employers prefer service technicians who have completed a formal training program in a postsecondary institution. Industry certification is usually required once the person is employed. High school courses in automotive repair, electronics, computers, mathematics, and English provide a good background for prospective service technicians.
Completing a vocational or other postsecondary training program in automotive service technology is considered the best preparation for entry-level positions. Programs usually last six months to a year and provide intensive career preparation through classroom instruction and hands-on practice. Short-term certificate programs in a particular skill are also available. Some service technicians get a two-year associate’s degree. Courses usually include basic mathematics, computers, electronics, and automotive repair. Some programs have recently added classes in customer service, English, and other necessary skills.
Most service technicians must complete on-the-job training, often as part of a formal education program. Depending on a new service technician’s educational background, it typically takes two to five years of experience to become a fully qualified service technician. It then takes an additional one to two years of experience for service technicians to become familiar with all types of repairs. New workers generally start as trainee technicians, technicians’ helpers, or lubrication workers and gradually acquire and practice their skills by working with experienced mechanics and technicians. Service technicians must discuss automotive problems—along with options to fix them—with their customers. Because self-employed workers depend on repeat clients for business, they must be courteous, good listeners, and ready to answer customers’ questions.
Mechanical and electronic malfunctions are often due to misalignments or other easy-to-miss reasons. Service mechanics must, therefore, account for such details when inspecting or repairing engines and components.
Many tasks that service technicians do, such as disassembling engine parts, connecting or attaching components, and using hand tools, require a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination. Service technicians must be familiar with engine components and systems and know how they interact with each other. They must often take apart major parts for repairs and be able to put them back together properly.
Service technicians use sophisticated diagnostic equipment on engines, systems, and components. They must be familiar with electronic control systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them. Service technicians must be able to identify and fix problems in increasingly complicated mechanical and electronic systems.