Diesel engines play a crucial role in maintaining America’s economy. They are used in applications ranging from commercial transport to power generation and are found in a vast number of homes, businesses and government organizations.
Because of this, the ability to maintain and repair diesel engines is a skill that is in growing demand across the United States. Diesel mechanics, no matter their specialty, enjoy a secure and well-compensated career in today’s economy.
Career and Salary Options for Diesel Mechanics
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were over 242,000 diesel service technicians and mechanics employed in the United States in 2010. That number is expected to grow by at least 15 percent between 2010 and 2020, resulting in a net gain of over 35,000 jobs.
In addition to this source of growth, attrition among already employed diesel mechanics due to retirements and other causes will lead to a large number of openings in this field.
The continuing importance of effective and available maintenance services to any organization making use of diesel engines will help to ensure that qualified workers will be able to find reliable employment for the foreseeable future.
Currently, the BLS has estimated that the annual median salary for a diesel mechanic is $40,850. The salary range for diesel mechanics can be fairly wide, however, and the highest paid workers earn an annual wage of over $60,000. The lowest paid 10 percent of diesel mechanics earn approximately $26,000 per year.
However, as many diesel mechanics are paid on an hourly basis, an individual mechanic may find his or her salary varying dramatically, depending on how much overtime his or her employer offers.
Self-employed mechanics can see their effective take-home pay fluctuate widely depending on their client base.
What do Diesel Mechanics Do?
Diesel mechanics work to maintain and repair diesel engines ranging from routine maintenance to full-scale engine overhauls. They work in wide variety of fields, with the most common areas of employment including the following:
• Commercial vehicle repair and maintenance.
• Fixed diesel generator repair technician.
• Waterborne diesel engine operation and repair.
• Private vehicle diesel mechanic.
In addition, these professions work with a wide range of organizations. Many diesel mechanics work as part of a large company where they work with a number of other technicians. In other cases, a diesel mechanic may be the sole mechanic on the staff of a neighborhood garage. In addition, many mechanics are self-employed, either owning their own shop or providing repair services at their client’s home or place of business.
Finally, diesel engine mechanics are finding themselves increasingly in demand due to the growing importance of ensuring that the diesel engines under their care continue to comply with state and federal environmental emission regulations. Skilled diesel engine mechanics can help avoid the danger of incurring fines due to pollution from malfunctioning or poorly adjusted engines.
Diesel Mechanic Specialties
Some diesel mechanics work in specialized fields. Most commonly, these include working on large construction equipment, marine diesels, or fixed diesel engines that provide electrical power. In many cases, these fields require a number of different skills when compared to a traditional diesel engine mechanic and may demand additional education on the part of the mechanic.
Becoming a Diesel Mechanic
There are no state certification requirements to become a diesel mechanic, and for that reason, many diesel engine mechanics obtained their training on an informal basis. However, many businesses prefer formally trained diesel mechanics, and this, coupled with the growing complexity of many diesel engine systems, makes it beneficial for individuals seeking to become a diesel engine mechanic to obtain a formal education in this field.
Many community colleges and vocational schools offer courses in diesel engine repair and maintenance. The length of these programs can vary, depending on their nature and the student’s class schedule. Many programs have part-time options for those students who cannot attend on a traditional schedule.
Most programs include a mixture of traditional classroom instruction and hands-on practice on actual diesel engines. In some cases, a program may have an arrangement with a local garage, allowing the students to obtain practical experience while working with trained mechanics.
Certification as a Diesel Mechanic
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers a variety of certification programs for diesel mechanics. While certification is not required in order to seek employment, it can dramatically improve the individual mechanic’s wage and professional options.
In addition to being required to pass a certification test, a candidate must usually have between two and three years of direct experience in the field of diesel repair. There are a number of different ASE certification areas, some of which include a diesel engine certification exam as a component. Mechanics interested in becoming ASE certified should contact the ASE for information on what certification area would best suit their professional goals.
While diesel mechanic have no formal continuing education requirements, they must remain current with the modern state of diesel engine technology. In most cases, this can be done through practical experience, but those individuals who are ASE certified must be recertified on a regular basis, which may require taking one or more formal courses at a community college in order to ensure that they can pass the examination.
Ultimately, becoming a diesel engine mechanic is an excellent step for any individual seeking a secure and well-compensated profession. In addition, the growing importance of ensuring that private and commercial vehicles alike are well maintained is likely to help ensure that a diesel engine mechanic remains a valued member of any repair team. For these reasons, becoming a diesel engine mechanic is an attractive career choice for newly graduated students and older individuals alike.