Automotive Technology as a Big Tech Career

Officials with the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence — the independent group that tests and certifies the competence of auto technicians nationally — note that automotive service and repair has changed dramatically in just the span of a generation. High-tech systems unheard of 30 years ago are now standard equipment on much of the nation’s fleet of vehicles: stability and traction control systems, adaptive cruise control and variable valve timing, just to name a few. And more changes are on the way: hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles are commonplace; hydrogen fuel cell and other alternative fuel vehicles are deployed in municipal fleets around the country; and Internet connections, voice recognition commands and GPS mapping are available in economy to luxury models.

Given the advance of technology and a richly varied automotive industry that offers an array of positions and career paths, the future is bright for talented young persons with math, science, communications and technical skills. And unlike many high-tech careers that require four, six, or even eight years of college, automotive technology careers can begin after just two years of education. As with any career, lifelong learning and continuing education is necessary, but the simple fact is, students in automotive technology can get out into the real world sooner – and with less college debt.

Moreover, job growth looks strong into the foreseeable future. The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts automotive repair and maintenance industry is expected to add 237,500 new jobs and have a 30 percent growth rate through 2020, making technicians one of the top 20 jobs with relatively high median earnings and the potential for significant job openings over the next decade. And with the outsourcing of jobs picking up steam – first manufacturing jobs, now computer programming, customer call-center work, and accounting services all going overseas – it should be comforting to know that automotive service and repair is fairly immune to such moves.

So, what kind of work is out there?

The jobs run the gamut from line technician to service consultant, service director, or store owner. There is work in parts, parts distribution and wholesaling; collision repair, painting, and damage estimating; vehicle maintenance, repair, and performance upgrades; and motorsports. There’s the growing field of high-performance machining and rebuilding. There is work in technical areas, training, or in management at the corporate level for national franchises, vehicle manufacturers, and private and municipal fleets. There are positions with high schools and community colleges, as well as proprietary schools, as instructors. Still other technicians find themselves moving into sales, marketing, and business management. Countless automotive aftermarket executives got their start turning wrenches, though nowadays the tool of choice is as likely to be a diagnostic computer and monitor.

In fact, so many people have started their careers in the automotive aftermarket as an auto technician that it is viewed as something of a portal career. For those whose true calling is in the service bay, it’s far from a dead-end career. Top-notch technicians well versed in computer diagnostics and the latest engine performance and driveabilty solutions can and do command top-dollar salaries. Pride in work, technical savvy, and craftsmanship are rewarded.

So if your child prefers to get out into the real world and make his or her mark, consider a career in automotive technology. Ask your child’s guidance counselor, or better yet, visit your local National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) accredited community college or technical school.