It happens to most automotive technicians. After seven months, nine days and twenty-two minutes of changing oil and swapping spark plugs, after laboring for $13.25 per hour for 55 hours per week, they wonder: Is this worth it? How big is this pot of gold at the end of my rainbow?
That depends, to indulge a cliché, on how hard you are willing to work.
According to SimplyHired.com, as of May 29, 2015, the average annual income for an A.S.E.-certified master technician is $45,000. At the height of their careers, some master automotive mechanics can expect to make twice that much. Most are not salaried; most are paid per hour and a few via commission.
“We’re looking for the greatest master technician in Orange County,” began one advertisement by Chapman Auto Repair of Orange. Along with available dental and medical insurance, guaranteed five-day work-weeks and a tool reimbursement program, Chapman Auto promised $85,000 per year. Other high-quality mechanics, the crème de la crème, may work in Porsche or Ferrari dealerships, where annual earnings, which usually include 10-30 hours of weekly overtime, may top $100,000. In this field, brand certification often counts for more than an industry stamp of approval.
Conversely, the mechanic who squeaks past his nine Automotive Service Excellence (A.S.E.) written tests and puts in his two years of qualifying labor only to work in a piece work shop or a Jiffy Lube might earn just $33,000, according to SimplyHired.com. Local low-volume dealerships may also pay less than high-volume dealerships, such as those located in urban areas with a strong middle-class customer base.
But what an A.S.E.-certified master automotive mechanic has that many professionals lack is job security. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual job growth for auto mechanics should grow 17 percent annually, compared to 14 percent for domestic jobs in general. As cars grow ever more complicated and the Baby Boomers, those nurtured in the golden era of the American automobile, move past 70 and retire, while the younger generation spends hours driving via <i>Grand Theft Auto</i>, the demand for skilled mechanics will only grow. A laptop is becoming as essential as a set of socket wrenches. The job is not in danger of being outsourced, nor is the job market particularly volatile. Where there is a will, where there is a talent for troubleshooting, there is a paycheck.