If you like cars, enjoy fixing things and love working with your hands (and don’t mind getting dirty in the process), then becoming a mechanic may just be the right career path for you.
Read on to find out how to become a mechanic.
1. Research the profession
Gaining an understanding of what mechanics do is an important first step you need to take if you’ve decided to pursue this career path. Here we outline duties and responsibilities of a mechanic, as well as the skills required to successfully perform the job, working hours and salary prospects.
Mechanics are, essentially, the doctors of cars. They diagnose mechanical, fuel and electrical problems, prescribe the correct repairs needed and try to fix the problems to get cars back on the road. They perform restorative or preventative work on the engine, electrics, gears, brakes, exhaust systems, security features, fuel pumps and the air conditioning units of cars.
Also known as light vehicle service technicians, as well as automotive technicians and motor mechanics (they’re all basically the same thing), they work on vehicles such as cars and vans weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, either for large car dealerships, fast-fit outlets, haulage companies or independent garages. You may also find work with local authorities, the police and taxi companies.
As a mechanic, your typical day-to-day duties will include:
- Carrying out standard servicing, repairs and maintenance
- Fitting and servicing accessories like alarms and sat-navs
- Road-testing vehicles to check repairs
- Checking stock levels and ordering parts
- Producing time estimates
- Maintaining records
- Advising customers about technical issues
- Using diagnostic equipment
- Reading technical drawing
- Repairing and replacing faulty parts and components
Essential skills and qualities
To succeed in this role, you’ll need to be able to:
- Work quickly while paying attention to details
- Communicate clearly and effectively
- Work well within a team and independently
- Follow written and verbal instructions
- Have strong practical and problem-solving skills
- Have excellent customer service skills
- Work without supervision
- Have a reasonable level of physical fitness
- Have excellent knowledge of motor technology
- Have a keen interest in motor vehicles
- Have steady hands and a good eye
Working hours and conditions
Mechanics typically work 38 to 45 hours a week, Monday to Saturday, though you may be expected to work long and irregular hours, especially if your employer deals with breakdowns. You may also work in shifts, be on call or travel long distances.
It can be extremely physically demanding (although, fortunately, you will use lifting equipment to lift heavy parts), and climbing under vehicles and working in cramped spaces is a huge part of the job. Also, if you’re a bit of a clean-freak, becoming a mechanic might be a bad idea, considering how you’ll be working with greasy parts and tools – even if you do wear overalls!
As a trainee mechanic, you’ll typically earn between £7,000 and £13,000 a year, depending on your age and stage of training. Once you are qualified, you can expect to start making between £18,000 and £27,000. As you gain more experience, complete further training and progress in your career, your salary will rise to between £28,000 and £35,000 a year.
2. Get the qualifications
Although a degree is not required, you will need a Level 2 qualification in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair.
The most common way to achieve this is through a Motor Vehicle Service and Maintenance Technician (Light Vehicle) apprenticeship, where you’ll work alongside experienced staff and learn job-specific skills all the while earning a wage.
The programme typically takes three years to complete, or sooner if you’ve acquired previous experience or training. Use GOV.UK’s Find an apprenticeship service to search and apply for opportunities in England.
If becoming an apprentice isn’t for you, you can choose to study a course at college. There are several courses to choose from across the country, including:
- BTEC National Certificate and Diploma in Vehicle Technology
- BTEC National Certificate and Diploma in Engineering (Automotive)
- City & Guilds Award and Certificate in Vehicle Maintenance and Repair
- IMI Awards Certificate in Vehicle Maintenance and Repair
Whichever route you choose to take, you’ll find that having a GCSE or two in maths and English can be incredibly helpful. Needless to say, you’ll also need a driving license to road-test the vehicles you repair.
3. Land your first job
Finding a job can be an extremely daunting task – especially if you’re looking for your first full-time job. But by following the tips below – and crafting a winning CV and preparing for interviews – you’ll see that it’s achievable.
How to gain work experience
One of the many good things about taking the apprenticeship or course route to entering this profession is that it equips you with practical experience, making you a strong candidate for the jobs you apply for. Having said that, there are many other ways to gain work experience, especially if you’re still in school, including:
- Getting a job as a garage assistant
- Looking into local dealerships or manufacturers that offer training opportunities (this is an excellent way to complement your already existing skills and knowledge)
- Getting an internship (although these have a bad rep, largely due to the fact they’re often unpaid, they can help you decide whether becoming a mechanic really is for you)
- Volunteering your skills at a local school, church or charity organisation
- Fixing an old car
Where to find mechanic jobs
Other sites worth taking a look at, and which are specifically dedicated to jobs in the automotive industry, include:
Don’t forget to check employers’ websites for vacancies. Moreover, as many jobs often go unadvertised, it might be a good idea to let your family and friends know you’re looking for work – don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth!
4. Develop your career
What are your options after you’ve successfully entered the profession? How can you progress your career?
- Move up the ranks: With experience, you could go on to become a senior technician, workshop supervisor or garage manager.
- Specialise in a particular area: You could also decide to specialise in an area you find especially interesting, like motorsport engineering, for example. Likewise, you could work as a breakdown engineer or specialise in modifying vehicles for higher performance. There are also opportunities to focus on electric or hybrid cars, or on particular manufacturers.
- Set up your own business: Taking this route will require a rather large financial investment on your part, and you’ll need to create a long-term business plan to get the ball rolling. You’ll also need a variety of business permits and licenses, so make sure you carefully research every aspect of starting your own car repair business.
Are you considering a career as a mechanic or currently working towards becoming one? Perhaps you’ve already completed the journey and would like to give your wisdom to future mechanics? Join the conversation down below and share your thoughts with us.
This article was originally published in July 2014.