Diesel engines are a vital part of America’s economic infrastructure. Whether they are powering locomotives, commercial trucks, private vehicles or fixed installations such as hospitals and pumping stations, America as we know it would not exist without diesel engines.
For this reason, diesel mechanics are an indispensable part of the economy and this field is experiencing sustained and robust growth.
This makes becoming a diesel mechanic very attractive for those individuals who are interested in an interesting, well-compensated and secure career.
Diesel Engines in America
Since the early 20th century, diesel engines have become an increasingly vital part of America’s commercial transport sector. Diesel engines are used to propel cargo ships, trucks, and locomotives. In fact, commercial trucks alone transport over 70 percent of America’s goods to market.
Diesel engines are commonly used for vehicles such as bulldozers, garbage trucks, and emergency vehicles. In addition, many fixed installations use diesel engines for emergency power or for long-term power generation if the facility is isolated from the nation’s larger power grid. This is especially true for facilities such as hospitals, public safety buildings, and water pumping stations where a supply of uninterrupted power is vital in order to maintain public safety.
Diesel Mechanic Job and Career Options
Diesel mechanics represent a large and growing sector of America’s workforce. Currently, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are over 250,000 diesel mechanics in America. Although diesel mechanics are currently experiencing an average rate of job growth, the long-term nature of the job market and attrition due to retirement and other causes make this career’s job prospects very promising for newly trained mechanics.
In fact, the BLS had determined that the annual median wage for diesel mechanics is about $42,000. This is very competitive with other careers that require a similar educational and monetary investment. In addition, many diesel mechanics also enjoy competitive benefits and vacation packages. For this reason, this career can be especially attractive to individuals who have or are intending to start a family.
However, it is important to note that a diesel mechanic’s wages can vary depending on the mechanic’s experience, training and any specialty certifications he or she may have. For example, the BLS has determined that the top 10 percent of diesel mechanics earn over $63,000.
Becoming a Diesel Mechanic
Currently there is no state, federal or local licensure requirements to become a diesel mechanic. Traditionally, many diesel mechanics received on the job training rather than attending a formal training program. However, the growing complexity of diesel engines and their associated systems has increased the importance of receiving a formal education in this field. In fact, many larger employers may only hire those individuals who can provide proof of their graduation from a diesel engine program.
Diesel engine programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools and some adult education centers. These programs can vary widely, but most diesel engine repair programs will include the following subjects:
- The basic principles of diesel engine technology.
- Mechanical repair techniques.
- How to use modern computer based diagnostic and repair systems.
- Maintaining a diesel engine’s emission control systems.
In addition, some programs that confer an associate’s degree may require that the students complete certain classes in core subjects such as math and English. Other programs simply focus on those subjects directly related to diesel engine repair and maintenance. In some cases, a program may also focus on related engine systems, such as electronic engine control systems.
Part Time and Online Classes
A growing trend among American schools is the use of part-time and online program options. A part-time schedule can allow those students who are unable to attend regularly scheduled classes to complete the program at their convenience. Online classes permit the student to complete his or her coursework via the Internet.
This can be especially useful for those students who are located inconveniently far from the school. However, not all schools offer these options and so a student should consult with his or her school administration before committing to the program.
Some diesel mechanic programs offer internships for qualified students. An internship allows the student to work in a functioning garage, under the supervision of experienced mechanics while earning school credit. In addition, many internships are paid internships, which can help defray the student’s educational expenses. This can be especially useful for those students who are unable to obtain student loans or who prefer to avoid accumulating unnecessary student debt.
An internship can also assist the student in finding employment after he or she graduates. In fact, successful interns are often hired by the company they were working for immediately after or even before their graduation. In other cases, their supervisors may be able to provide positive recommendations for the former intern. This can be especially useful for those students who have specific job-related interests.
On the Job Training
On the job training is another route some individuals use to become fully trained diesel mechanics. Essentially, on the job training involves an individual who works in a garage or other facility while being trained by more experienced mechanics. As the trainee obtains skill in the field, he or she is given greater responsibilities until they are capable of working independently as a diesel mechanic.
However, this approach does have a number of drawbacks. In many cases, the individual will take far more time to obtain the same education he or she could have obtained in a formal program. In addition, the quality of education can vary greatly, depending on the nature of the company. Finally, many future employers may prefer to hire individuals who can provide documented proof of their education.
Ultimately, becoming a diesel mechanic can be an excellent choice in today’s economy. Minnesota’s combination of rural and urban areas makes the state especially dependent on the trucking industry, which presents a wide range of employment opportunities for qualified diesel mechanics. For this reason, individuals who are interested in a personally and professionally rewarding career should seriously consider becoming a diesel mechanic in Minnesota.