The saying goes as- There are three things that are indispensable in the United States- the three c’s. Cars, cell and credit cards. Car corresponds to automotive and to handle and maintain them one needs an efficient person. Here comes the role of an automotive technician. This profession is usually for people with a passion and knowledge of cars along with a knack towards technicalities and a penchant for hard work. However, to become a successful automotive technician, one needs to be properly trained, certified (in some cases) and needs to meet certain requirement criteria as laid out by each state in our country. Having said that, it has been cleared that there are different guidelines and requirement for each state for functioning as an automotive technician. In this article, we will deal with all the aspects of becoming an automotive technician in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States.
So, to begin with, let us have a brief look at what precisely an automotive technician is expected to do. In a broader sense, an automotive technician performs the inspection of a vehicle, supposed to run diagnostics on the vehicle and repair the same. Also, an automotive technician is expected to perform routine inspections and tests on vehicles which are imperative for a vehicle’s routine, normal and safe functioning. But, if anyone wants to go into the specifics, the following explains in pretty details the job description of an automotive technician.
- Maintains and keeps the necessary equipment’s ready and handy for running diagnostics on any vehicle and testing and repairing the following functionalities in a vehicle- oil change, tire rotations/changes, cleaning, maintaining and replacing filters, wheel balancing, engine tuning, etc.
- Repairing, replacing and maintaining the body parts of a vehicle as per the vehicle operator’s complaints, looks into electrical functionalities of the vehicle, cleaning, painting, and washing of the vehicle, ensuring the complete adherence and compliance with the engine safety, combustion controlling standards.
- Looking, diagnosing and repairing any sort of malfunctions in the vehicle.
- Keep inventory and also keep track of all receipts and other related documentations.
- Keeps himself/herself updated through continuous up gradation of knowledge through participating in workshops and also reading various sort of related technical publications.
- Should be able to make a budget estimate of all related vehicle malfunctions, maintenance and repair jobs.
- Always making sure to keep stock of all supplies.
- Must be able to keep and handle vehicle records.
- Must possess an eye for detail and vehicle troubleshooting abilities and are required to repair vehicle breakdown issues and supplies related problems and vehicle operator’s complaints.
Skills required to be an automotive technician: Typical skills which most of the employers expect an automotive technician to possess are followed but are not limited to – troubleshooting and complex problem-solving ability, must be knowledgeable and practically trained regarding the vehicle safety measures and compliance issues, ability of a technician to lift heavy weights, have top-notch energy levels, must be dependable in nature, time management, budget analysis, safety management, etc.
Already mentioned earlier, it is widely known that each state in the United States has different guidelines for certifying and qualifying automotive techs and the state of Pennsylvania is no exception to this case. Hence, in the next section, let us have a glimpse of the state requirement for the state of Pennsylvania for becoming an automotive technician.
First of all, to start with, one of the positive things in the state of Pennsylvania is that one does not require to possess mandatory certifications for working as a car mechanic or an automotive technician, although, in many cases, employers prefers a candidate with ASE (Automotive certified master mechanic) certificate which meets all the prerequisites, standards and also the state law for the state of Pennsylvania which is also commonly known as Official Pennsylvania State Mechanic requirements (ASE Cert). There are various certification exams available with ASE, which is usually graded as A1 to A8 tests. The topics these tests include- A1-Engine repair, A2-Automatic transmission/transaxle, A3- Manual drive train and axles, A4-Suspension and steering, A5-Brakes, A6-Electrical/Electronic systems, A7-Heating & Air Conditioning, A8- Engine performance. These are all free tests and advance exams for advanced certification are also available. Details of all these certifications tests and programs can be found on the website of ASE certification.
But, it is to be duly noted that to have the certifications, an individual is also required to have hands on or practical training of at least six months in a real time setting. In the state of Pennsylvania, there are broadly three type of ASE certification options are available for the aspirants to take to become certified automotive technician in the state of Pennsylvania. They are:
1. Automobile service excellence certification (ASE) in Pennsylvania: This one is the most preferred as well as most sort after certification course for the aspirant as well for the trained but non-certified automotive technician seeking certification for better employment opportunities. After successfully passing the certification examination, an individual becomes a certified automotive technician in any of the following areas- school buses/vehicles, Heavy/medium trucks, truck, other heavy and light vehicle. Details of the assessment can be found on the national website www.ase.com However, for extra info, one needs to pass 40 job-related capability/assessment levels to get the ASE certificate for the Pennsylvania state.
2. Refrigerant licensing in Pennsylvania: This is another certification option available with ASE for the automotive technicians in Pennsylvania. If an automotive/car mechanic/technician works with refrigerant or is related to anything that is concerned with refrigerants, then as per the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Pennsylvania requires every technician to acquire this certification from ASE as this certificate course equips them with the proper and required knowledge for handling refrigerants. Training in this regard are available with the labor unions, trade schools, and various companies, but ASE in Pennsylvania is yet to come with a structured and organized course in this field. As of now, they only offer the online examination and certification and are working towards developing a structured coursework for refrigerant incensing for automotive technicians.
3. ASE Student Certification in Pennsylvania: If you are eyeing for a career as a service specialist or automotive technician or any other type of jobs in the motor vehicle industry and do not have any practical, hands-on mechanical experience, this is the ideal certificate program which will act as you stepping stone in the world of the motor vehicle industry. One of the main advantage of this ASE student certification in Pennsylvania is that like the other official certification programs, this student certification programs does not have any prerequisites and almost anyone aspiring to build a career in this particular industry can take up this course.
4. Misc: However, for other official courses and certifications there are certain requirements in the state of Pennsylvania which need to be fulfilled before one seeks to be able to work as a certified automotive technician in Pennsylvania.
However, these state prerequisites are mentioned below:
a. Parts specialist experience- Minimum of 2 years
b. Service consultant experience- Minimum two years.
c. Must have on-job training from local automotive dealers of minimum two years and,
d. Also, must have any of the following formal education:
1. Must have acquired Vocational training or,
2. Have attended Technical schools training & courses or,
3. Attended Community College classes.
Now, let us focus on the course details that a student or an aspiring automotive technician is expected to learn at various tech schools or learning centers that offer courses and prepares an individual towards becoming a certified automotive technician. The topics of all the courses in Pennsylvania usually includes and teaches the students the following subjects/topics/courses:
- Introduction to hybrid electrical vehicles.
- Fundamentals of automotive electricals and technology.
- Manual transmission and transaxle principles.
- Brake systems
- Fundamental concepts related to steering and suspension.
- Automatic transmissions
- Engine repairing, safety measures and other related principles.
- Automotive fuel and emission control systems.
- Vehicle safety inspections
- Automotive wheel services and chassis
- Automotive air conditioning controls and systems
- Engine head is repairing and maintenance services.
- Automotive parts are testing and repairing, etc.
In addition to these subjects, each course usually requires the candidates to take two automotive services internships during the coursework to fully equip its students. Penn State University offers a short term course in the area, and there are also various courses available with various local reputed technical schools. However, one need to look out for the fees they charge as well as post course placement opportunities available and internship options while choosing their courses. The typical tuition fee in the Pennsylvania normally ranges for an automotive technician course between $5,000 to $15,000 and there are usually financial aids available. Few dependable and reputed schools in Pennsylvania who teaches courses related to automotive tech are- Pennsylvania automotive training center, Lincoln Tech, Fortis Institute, Universal Technical Institute among many others.
Now, let us have a look at salaries, career options for an automotive tech in Pennsylvania. So, you are done with your course, internships and even with the required necessary certifications. Now, what? What are the career options available and how are the salaries offered to an automotive tech? Let us have a look.
To start with the median annual salary of an automotive technician is around $36710 as per a study conducted in the year 2013 by BLS. The salary for automotive technicians in Pennsylvania ranges between $31,669 to $41,578. A specialist auto tech’s hourly wage ranges anywhere between $80-$100 per hour.
Automobile technicians can work in various capacities in various establishments. Usually, in the initial phases, a wannabe automotive technician starts off in an entry level position which is often titled as “mechanic” or “auto tech”. Normally, an individual need to work through the junior and senior levels by displaying a demonstrated ability to resolve any complex as well as simple issues regarding vehicle repairing and maintenance before being able to work in a supervising senior position of “service specialist” or sometimes they are also designated as “auto specialist.” However, the duties and responsibilities vary widely including the usual job duties and responsibilities as outlined above in this article.
Now, let us have a look in which cities in the state of Pennsylvania, one can get better employment opportunities or which cities are cited with good salaries and job opportunities for an automotive technician in Pennsylvania. Below is the data provided by the ASE Pennsylvania for your reference.
In Pittsburg, PA the average salary for an automotive tech is around $32000 with around 7000 jobs available with a salary range of $19k to $53K. In the Pennsylvania state college area, the average salary an automotive tech draws are around $35,580 with approx. 420 number of jobs and the salary range is somewhere between $22K to $48K. In other cities and metro areas in Pennsylvania, the typical average salary for the job sits somewhere between $29K to $38K.
Now, before finishing the article, let us have a look in a real time situation where an employer wants to hire an automotive technician. Here, we will look into the desired candidate profile(qualifications) and skills set the employer desires:
Below are the qualifications required by one of the top employers looking for an experienced automotive technician. It goes as follows:
-Required to have 5+ years of hands on experience automotive mechanical diagnostic, demonstrated problem-solving ability, repairing experience and ability. The other qualifications required are as follows:
- Must possess necessary equipment/tools to do repair jobs and running diagnostics.
- Must have a current and valid state driver’s license.
- Excellent communication skills.
- Multi-tasking ability.
- Must be self-driven and self-motivated.
And now, here comes the most important part of the qualification part
- Master ASE/ASE certifications are preferable (though not required).