California car culture. Despite the escalating cost of gas, Angelenos still love their automobiles and spend hours and hundreds of dollars maintaining them. If you want a steady job with significant economic potential, then being the person who these auto lovers bring their vehicles to for repairs and upkeep will put you on the road to success.
But do not expect to work in the auto mechanic shop of the olden days–with grease spilled everywhere and learned-on-the-job repair knowledge the order of the day. That is not to say that auto mechanic shop does not still exist to some degree, but the increased computerization of contemporary automobiles has necessitated a change in repair shops as well.
Today, people working as automotive service technicians (instead of mechanics) need to have broad knowledge of how vehicles’ complex components work and interact, and must also be able to work with electronic diagnostic equipment as well as digital manuals and reference materials.
The number of jobs in this industry is projected to grow faster than average for all occupations over the next decade, according to the United States Department of Labor (DOL) Occupational Outlook Handbook. In fact, the DOL found that employment of auto service technicians and mechanics will increase 16 percent between 2006 and 2016 compared to 10 percent for all other occupations.
DOL also noted that the job growth will continue to be concentrated in automobile dealerships and independent repair shops, which together account for about 29 percent of those employed. Nearly 17 percent of service technicians were self-employed.
The median annual earnings in dealerships is about $18.85 per hour, and in independent shops it is about $14.55 an hour. The rest of these workers are employed by the government ($19.07 an hour); automotive parts, accessories and tire stores (seven percent at about $14.38 per hour); and gasoline stations at about $14.51 per hour.
In the Los Angeles area, there are a number of locations which provide job training for automotive service technicians/mechanics. Twenty-six high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District offer education that ranges from classes to full programs. Carson, Dorsey, Fairfax, Fremont, Hamilton, Jefferson, Manual Arts, Venice, and Westchester are among the local schools with programs.
Seven community colleges in the region provide automotive training. These range from the Southland Center for Transportation Technologies at Cerritos College to Los Angeles Trade Technical College’s four-path program (collision repair and refinishing, auto and related technology, diesel truck and heavy equipment, and motorcycle repair).
The other two-year colleges with programs are Compton, East Los Angeles, Los Angeles City, Long Beach City, Pierce, El Camino, Rio Hondo, and Pasadena.
There are also six community adult schools or regional occupational centers offering training, including Fremont-Washington Community Adult School and Abram Friedman Occupational Center.
One nonprofit organization, the Los Angeles Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America, provides a short-term Automotive Quick Change course to people age 17 and older. This prepares students to become lube center technicians.
Finally, there are a number of privately-run programs that offer training for a fee. These include the American Auto Institute and Intech College.