By Kim Howard
If you own a car, you have likely looked for a good mechanic or a reputable automobile garage to service, repair or inspect your vehicle. Auto technicians have your life in their hands. Have you ever wondered what sort of education they receive? Or, maybe a desk job is not your professional career path, and you like the idea of working on vehicles. Have you thought about pursuing this career path? Perhaps Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) can help.
“The automotive profession is no longer simply a greasy-fingered mechanic working on your car. Your mechanic has changed because cars have changed. Much of the work on cars now is electronics. Your mechanic is more analytical and sophisticated in his or her approach to fixing your car than in years past,” said Geoffrey Brown, collision repair instructor and assistant dean, NVCC Automotive Department.
Brown, who has been teaching since the mid-1970s, said that modern auto shops are sophisticated businesses where the work environment is clean. “Modern autos are complicated machines needing detailed analysis in what you do. The auto mechanic profession is a relatively well-paying job, and there is a great call for it,” Brown said. And the numbers agree with Brown. According to the Department of Labor, Virginia is one of the states with the highest annual mean wage for auto techs: $43,150-$61,050. The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan area is also listed as one of the top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest employment level in this occupation.
And luckily for Prince William residents, NVCC happens to offer an accredited program for anyone who might be interested in pursuing it. The automotive program at the Manassas Campus of NVCC has earned accreditation by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). To achieve this coveted recognition, the automotive program went through rigorous evaluation by NATEF to ensure the program meets nationally accepted standards of excellence in such areas as instruction, facilities and equipment.
Diane Mucci, interim dean of the Manassas Campus Science and Applied Technologies Division, said, “We are delighted to join the ranks of NATEF accredited training programs. We’ve always had a great automotive program, and this adds another way our students will know they are receiving first-rate education. In addition, employers recognize NATEF accreditation and will be assured they are hiring top-notch employees.”
According to NATEF, accreditation of an automotive training program brings program credibility, prestige, recognition and overall program improvement. By ensuring training programs meet the highest standards, NATEF accreditation benefits schools, students, future employers and everyone driving on the roads.
NVCC offers the following degree and certificate programs:
- Automotive Technology Associates in Applied Science, AAS,
- Emissions Specialization, AAS,
- General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program (GMASEP),
- Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair Career Studies Certificate, and
- Collision Repair Technology Career Studies Certificate.
With some employers reporting difficulty finding workers with the right skills and education, job opportunities for qualified applicants should be very good, whether they obtained their knowledge through education or experience, according to the Department of Labor. Of these workers, those who have completed formal postsecondary training programs or achieved ASE certification should enjoy the best job prospects. Those without formal automotive training or certification are likely to face strong competition for entry-level jobs.
Laura Garcia, global automotive instructor, and the only female instructor on staff, echoed this positive job outlook. “Students who earn their AA degrees here have more opportunities to move up the career ladder. They oftentimes move into other areas of expertise as well. We have a former student who works for Sentara Hospital repairing hospital equipment. And another student who went on to the University of Michigan and earned his engineering degree,” Garcia said.
And women should not overlook this field simply because it’s dominated by men. Garcia, who has worked in the profession for 10 years, said that many shops are progressive and like having a woman working on staff. “Many shops are happy to have a woman’s perspective and influence in the shop, whether we are problem solving or advising co-workers on relationships. The people in this profession help each other. There is a lot of mentoring and camaraderie that is unique to our profession,” she said.
For details about NVCC’s automotive program or if you wish to donate to the NVCC Educational Foundation, please visit nvcc.edu/alexandria/divisions/sps/auto/index.html.
Kim Howard, CAE, (email@example.com) is the editor in chief of Prince William Living and has a son who attends NVCC and works at an auto garage in the City of Manassas.
2015 Quick Facts on Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
- 2015 Median Pay: $37,850 annually
- Typical Entry-Level Education: Postsecondary non-degree award
- Work Experience in a Related Occupation: none
- On-the-job Training: Short-term OTJ
- Number of Jobs, 2014: 739,900
- Job Outlook, 2014-2024: 5% growth (as fast as average)
- Employment Change, 2014-2024: 39,100
Source: U.S. Department of Labor