From breakfast sausage to living room couches, diesel-powered trucks play a huge role in delivering the goods Americans need for their day to day lives.
Almost every item has, at some point or another, spent part of its time in the trailer of a diesel 18-wheeler.
This statement especially holds true in Alaska, where most items are shipped in from the lower 48 states.
Long drives through cold Alaska nights put extra wear and tear on diesel engines, making the need for diesel mechanics in Alaska even more important. There are several employment opportunities throughout the state of Alaska for professionally trained diesel mechanics.
Before starting a diesel mechanic training program, many institutes require the completion of several prerequisites before students can enroll.
Almost every college and institute in Alaska requires their students to hold either a high school diploma or GED before being allowed to join their program. Some colleges are stricter, requiring each of their students to have at least two years of high school math and science before they can enroll.
Most employers in Alaska who are looking to hire a diesel mechanic require the mechanic to have earned a certificate or degree in diesel technology.
A small percentage of companies will accept several years of experience as a diesel mechanic in lieu of a degree; however, it is vital for diesel mechanics who are looking to advance beyond entry-level positions to pursue some sort of education.
Highly sought-after mechanics typically hold either an associate or bachelor’s degree in diesel technology, and a growing number of technical, vocational, and community colleges in and around Alaska are now offering accredited diesel technology programs.
Unless the student is willing to take summer and winter classes, an Associate of Science in Diesel Technology will take at least two years of full time classes to complete, requiring a minimum of 15 credit hours per semester.
For students who wish to seek a management position at some point in their career, a Bachelor of Science in Diesel Technology will take four to five years to complete and graduate. A large percentage of companies who hire diesel mechanics are now requiring their employees to have a degree that is accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
The associate degree program that many institutes offer is a hands-on degree, with certified instructors teaching their students how to maintain and repair all components of a diesel-powered vehicle.
While most work is done in a garage, there are some instances where a classroom or lab is more appropriate for the coursework being covered.
Some of the coursework required for an associate’s degree program includes:
- Diesel engine technology
- Power transmissions
- Fuel systems
- Electrical systems
- Power transmissions
- AC systems
- Heavy duty brakes
For those seeking a degree that will offer better upward mobility at a company, a bachelor’s degree in diesel technology will provide the training to not only diagnose and repair engines but also to manage and direct other diesel mechanics.
A bachelor’s degree in this field of study will require students to learn the science behind diesel repair methods and techniques.
Students will be required to complete a wider range of coursework, with several subjects covering:
- Diesel garage management
- Diesel engine labs
- Diesel electrical systems
- Welding theory
- Diesel fuel systems
- AC and heating systems
- Heavy duty automatics
- Hydraulics and pneumatics
Certification in Alaska
While the state of Alaska does not require diesel mechanics to complete specific certifications to work legally, most companies will require some sort of degree or certification in the diesel technology field.
Diesel mechanics who have previous education or a degree in diesel technology will not only increase their chances of getting hired, but they will also have a potentially higher starting and mid-career salary than those without any certifications.
Some of the most sought-after certifications can be found at the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). These certifications, such as electrical systems, preventative maintenance, and steering systems, will show potential employers the dedication and seriousness of the candidates they are interviewing.
A 2012 report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that about 840 diesel mechanics worked in Alaska, and employment opportunities in this field of study were expected to increase by 15 percent by 2020, offering 35,200 more jobs for diesel mechanics across the nation.
Because Alaskans are dependent upon the trucking industry, diesel mechanics can make upwards of $55,910 annually, making Alaska one of the top paying states in America. According to the BLS, diesel mechanics who specialize in a certain sector of diesel technology have various employment opportunities to choose from, including positions in one of the top-paying industries.
- Deep Sea and Coastal Transportation – $79,250
- Federal Executive Branch – $68,800
- Courier Services – $59,740
- Electric Power Generation – $59,450
- Scientific Research and Development Services – $59,310
From large shipping fleets to small town garages, diesel mechanics are both highly sought after and compensated for their training and knowledge.
As companies expand and grow their product lines, more diesel-powered trucks will be required to get the products from distribution facilities to the retailers.
The increased number of trucks, especially in Alaska, will greatly increase the need for trained and certified diesel mechanics, making this an excellent career choice with an even better career outlook.