Individuals who are contemplating earning a degree to become a diesel mechanic may be wondering what career opportunities are available to them, both now and in the future. Does this career provide sufficient job security in today’s struggling economy?
What are the advancement opportunities for diesel mechanics in today’s trucking industry? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for diesel mechanics are expected to increase by 15 percent by 2020, offering an additional 35,200 jobs for individuals starting out or advancing in this career.
With so many employment opportunities available for diesel mechanics, individuals have various advancement opportunities as long as they meet the required qualifications.
Educational Training for Advancement
Depending on the company and available position, some diesel mechanics start work without any post-secondary education, with the employer training them on the job.
New trainees work on basic tasks that can include cleaning parts, driving vehicles, and checking oil and fuel levels. Once trainees have demonstrated a thorough competency in engine repair and routine maintenance, they can advance to more complicated tasks.
On-the-job training can last anywhere between three and four years, with the trainee being viewed as a journey-level diesel mechanic until training is complete.
Most employers require diesel mechanics to have an associate’s degree in diesel technology before hiring them on for any available positions. From fuel and electrical systems to hydraulics and power trains, associate degree programs teach students the core knowledge of diesel engine technology, allowing them to find positions as a:
- Heavy truck technician
- Fuel systems specialist
- Diesel engine manufacturer technician
- Diesel mechanic
Those who wish to advance farther up in the chain of command need to further their educational training, earning a Bachelor of Science in Diesel Technology and the proper certifications. A bachelor’s degree trains students in the core fundamentals of diesel repair methodologies and techniques, providing them with a well-rounded educational training in natural sciences, mathematics, and humanities to help them obtain a position as a service manager, head mechanic, or diesel mechanic supervisor. Coursework for bachelor degree programs may include:
- Diesel shop management
- Welding theory and lab
- Hydraulics and pneumatics
- Heavy duty automatics
- Diesel shop management
Mechanic companies and dealers offer short degree programs to further train and/or certify their experienced diesel mechanics in a particular technology or machine type, which is conducted by special vendors or manufacturers.
These programs help boost the education and knowledge needed to keep the existing diesel mechanic skills sharp while helping the mechanic advance into another sector of this field.
Diesel mechanics can obtain certification voluntarily through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), allowing them to be certified as a medium and heavy truck technician, master truck equipment mechanic, or master school bus mechanic. Mechanics can also be certified in specialty truck repair, including:
- Gasoline Engines
- Suspension and steering
- Preventative maintenance
- Electronic systems
In order to be certified in a certain area, the diesel mechanic needs to pass an examination and provide proof of at least two years of relevant work experience. Diesel mechanics can substitute two years of relevant educational training for one year of work experience. To maintain their certification, diesel mechanics need to retake the examination every five years to ensure they are up to date with current technology.
Career Advancement Opportunities
A 2010 report from the BLS shows that the median annual salary of diesel mechanics is $40,850, with the lowest 10 percent of mechanics making less than $26,550 and the highest 10 percent making over $60,830.
Although diesel mechanic start out with a competitive wage, earning an additional degree or certification can open many new opportunities in this field.
Certification allows mechanics to earn a higher salary because passing the exam proves they are above the competition when it comes to diesel mechanic knowledge and understanding, and a bachelor’s degree allows mechanics to advance higher in the company. The current top industries hiring diesel mechanics include:
- Local government – $48,070
- Motor parts and vehicle wholesalers – $41,070
- Automotive maintenance and repair – $38,320
- General freight trucking – $38,010
- Specialized freight trucking – $36,110
To earn the highest salary available in this career, diesel mechanics can choose to own their own shops, which requires additional training and experience in engine repair and business. For those who wish to work in management positions, the mechanic industry offers various employment opportunities, including:
- Railroads: There are various administrative positions in the locomotive industry, requiring diesel mechanics to oversee the repair and preventive maintenance of diesel-powered locomotives.
- Marine Equipment: Diesel mechanic managers can oversee the repair and maintenance of diesel-powered engines in ships, watercraft, and boats, working on the dock or at a marina.
- Aviation: Those in a management position in aviation specialize in preventive maintenance of diesel engines. Management inspects the aircraft according to the number of hours flown, days since the last inspection, and operation cycles.
In the current economy, getting a job as a diesel mechanic is one of the most secure careers available. Supplies are needed throughout the country, and the only way to do this is through the trucking industry.
As long as heavy machinery is needed for construction, transportation, and farming, the commerce and trucking industries will always need diesel mechanics.
With so many jobs available for diesel mechanics across the nation, individuals can further their career opportunities by earning a bachelor’s degree or certification.