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What’s a Mechanic’s Salary, and How Can You Become One? AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

If you love hands-on work, and you love machinery, then at some point you’ve likely considered pursuing a mechanic job. I’ve spent a good amount of time around auto mechanics, and I’ve heard a handful of them claim, “You don’t pick to be a mechanic, it picks you.” However, even if you feel like you might love the job, it may seem a bit daunting to just jump right into it.

You probably wonder, “Exactly how much does a mechanic make?” After all, that is the whole reason we’re working. To make money. Well, there’s a ton of different paths you can go when you follow this trade, and the pay scale varies depending on which route you go. To make things a little clearer, we’ll break down some of the national average mechanic salaries and pay rates in the United States, so you can decide for yourself if it’s worth it.

Auto Mechanic Salary

Becoming an auto mechanic is perfect for those out there that have a passion for cars and trucks. Some people start off right after getting their high school diploma as a part-time entry level service technician, but if you get some years of experience and your ASE certification, you can go pretty far as an automotive technician. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert with mechanical and engine repairs.

Options will begin to open up, and you can choose to work for dealerships, auto repair facilities, auctions, and so many other places. If you find yourself more interested in trucks, the option to become a diesel mechanic is also available. You’ll dive right into the details of diesel engines, and many mechanics prefer it over traditional gas engines. It’s all personal preference, so you can truly enjoy what you do everyday.

The average annual salary for auto mechanics and automotive service technicians in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is $42,090. To put that in perspective, you’ll likely see an hourly wage of around $20.24.

The median salary for diesel mechanics, on the other hand, is $48,500 per year. This equates to an average wage right around $23.32 per hour. Additionally, the demand for qualified bus and truck mechanics remains steady, so there’s some good job security there.

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How to Become an Auto Mechanic

Now, if you’re genuinely interested in working as an automotive mechanic, here’s where you need to start. The first thing you’ll want to do is enroll in an automotive technology program. You can find these training classes at trade schools or vocational schools , community colleges, and with automobile manufacturers. Universal Technical Institute is a good example of one. The coursework involves learning computer systems, electronics, and engine mechanics, and it even provides hands-on auto repair experiences. Once completed, the formal training program will reward you with either an associate’s degree or certification of completion in automotive service technology.

At this point, you can get a full-time auto technician job at a dealership, or another auto service repair shop. You’ll start gaining some more experience through real-world job training and learn the know-how for problem-solving by working around other experienced master technicians. They’ll likely have you work on oil changes, tire rotations, and other simple service work, while slowly working up to more. It won’t be the best pay in the world right out of the gate, but that will come with time. In the meantime, take in as much as you can so you can nail the next step once it comes time.

To advance further, you’re going to need to get certified. To do this, you’ll go through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. This organization offers certification exams (ASE certification) in numerous different specialization areas. These include engine repair, engine performance, drive train, heating and air conditioning, electrical systems, and brake systems, just to name a few. Once you complete your certificate program, you’ll be on track to get paid the bigger bucks and possibly even become a master mechanic later down the road.

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Before you know it, you’ll be an expert in troubleshooting and repairing vehicles, and you’ll be getting paid to do what you love. Hell, maybe you’ll even have enough confidence to open up your own repair shop!

Industrial and Heavy Equipment Mechanic Salary

So, let’s say you’re not that big into cars, or you’re looking to go a different path with your mechanical skills. Industrial mechanic work may be right for you. These guys install, maintain, and repair factory equipment and other industrial machines. You’ll likely work inside a manufacturing facility, and it certainly is a full time job. Along with that, they’re normally pretty big on PPE, so be prepared to wear it.

Alternatively, you can opt to work as a mechanic on heavy equipment. This may include working on mobile construction equipment like bulldozers, excavators, and other big machines. This is absolutely a job for a hard-working person who doesn’t mind being out in the sun, because you’ll have to expect to travel out to a particular site to fix the broken equipment in some cases.

Industrial mechanics bring in an average salary of $52,860 per year, or $25.41 per hour. Not too bad, considering you’ll get to work in the air conditioning most of the time.

Mobile heavy equipment mechanics bring home a median salary of $51,590 per year or $24.80 per hour.

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Aircraft Mechanic Salary

Here’s another route you can go, and one you might want to consider, if you’re keeping track of the rapidly increasing cost of living. Becoming an aircraft or avionics equipment mechanic is definitely one of the more profitable industries of mechanic work. It’s significantly higher than automotive repair. Whether you’re looking to do this because of your love for flying machines, or just because it pays well, there’s no doubt that it’s quite the interesting job.

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In 2019, BLS noted that the median pay for an aircraft mechanic is $64,310 per year or $30.92 per hour. That certainly would help you live a slightly more comfortable lifestyle, but these guys still work very hard for their money.

There are tons of other related jobs you can get into if you decide to become a mechanic. When it comes down to it, if you’re good with your hands, then it’s something you should really look into. The salaries that come with it are either at or above the national average. Another awesome thing about this line of work is the fact that you can go basically anywhere and find work.

You could decide to move to New York City, San Francisco, Denver, Austin, or wherever you would like, and it shouldn’t be too hard to land another job doing the same kind of work. Your experience is what matters, so if you’re ready to get going, don’t be afraid to get started!

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