Automotive Technology Associate's Degree
An automotive technology associate's program can prepare you to be an automotive service technician or mechanic. Read on to learn more about what an associate's degree can do for you, how to find a program, what courses may be included and what the job market is like for these positions. Schools offering Automotive Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Why Do I Need an Automotive Technology Associate's Degree?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that because automotive technology is becoming more complicated and sophisticated, you stand a better chance of being hired if you've completed a formal training program, such as one leading to an associate's degree (www.bls.gov). An associate's degree program can give you the chance to gain hands-on work experience before looking for a job. Earning an associate's degree can also qualify you to continue your education later and earn a bachelor's degree, if you so choose.
The BLS also states that it can be to your advantage to earn certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Certification entails passing one or more examinations administered by the ASE and completing two or more years of hands-on work experience. In some cases, formal training can serve as a replacement for certain experience requirements as well as prepare you for test questions (www.ase.com).
Where Can I Find a Program?
There are a number of sources you can use to help you locate a suitable program. Although the National Center for Education Statistics lists over 500 schools offering associate's degree programs dealing with automotive technology, there are two other websites that might prove more specific and helpful.
The Accrediting Commission on Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a legitimate accrediting agency (www.accsc.org). At the ACCSC website is a searchable directory of schools that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide variety of categories. By searching for automotive programs, you can find a number of programs nationwide leading to an associate's degree in automotive technology.
The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) is another source to find programs (www.natef.org). The NATEF website features listings of secondary and postsecondary schools that offer accredited automotive programs.
What Courses Will I Take?
An associate's degree program may take you 2-3 years to complete and consist of 63-71 credits. Upon completion, you may earn an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science. Typical courses can include automotive service and maintenance, suspension and steering, power trains and transmissions, heating and air conditioning, electrical systems and wiring, brake systems, engine repair and welding. Schools often require you to purchase or provide your own toolkit.
Some programs are sponsored by specific manufacturers and feature courses focused on that company's vehicles. You may receive course credit if you've done appropriate work at a trade school or in the military. You may also have the opportunity to serve an internship at a school-partnered facility.
Because of the hands-on nature of training, online programs are scarce. If you're already an ASE-certified automotive technician, you may qualify for admission into an online associate's degree program. This is possible because by the nature of ASE certification requirements, you will have completed all hands-on practical courses. The online portion of the program consists mostly of general education courses.
What Are the Economic Prospects?
In 2010, the BLS projected that employment opportunities for automotive service technicians and mechanics would increase five percent from 2008-2018. This is slower than the national average for all fields. The BLS reported that opportunities would be best for those who completed postsecondary training, earned ASE certification and were familiar with newer technologies.
BLS wage data showed that in May 2010, the mean annual salary for automotive service technicians and mechanics was $38,200. Those working at automobile dealerships earned a bit more, making $42,830 on average.
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