Automotive technology keeps on advancing and becoming increasingly sophisticated. As such, the need for automotive professionals and specialists who can keep up with modern innovations is ever-growing. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that around 728,800 job positions will be available to automotive professionals in the country through 2029 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). This 4% decrease compared to the number of jobs in 2019 could mean tighter competition among professionals, and having finished an automotive technology degree program can prove essential.
Today’s automotive technology courses are designed to prepare them for exciting and lucrative positions—from repair technicians to designers and engineers, as well as researchers. Ultimately, these degrees are offered to help meet the demand for highly qualified specialists who will perform specialized industrial, technical, and scientific tasks that make efficient and safe transportation possible.
In this document, you can learn more about automotive technology degrees. Among the topics tackled are what are the types of degrees available for the specialization, how much you can expect to spend to complete one, and what you can do with an automotive degree.
An automotive technology degree concentrates on the study of self-propelled vehicles or machines. Programs in this degree aim to equip students with the skills and knowledge required by the automotive industry. Some of the automotive technology degree skills that a student can learn include vehicle maintenance, mechanical design, emission testing, collision science, and automotive engineering, to name a few. In all, this degree helps students master the critical skills they need to be successful in the field. It also exposes students to both theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience that employers look for.
Based on automotive technology definition, this degree can lead to a career in vehicle manufacturing, automotive services and maintenance, and automotive and transportation research. The automotive field is quite broad and opportunities for automotive technology degree holders are varied. It is common for these specialists to get hired for technical and mechanical positions. In the US alone, there were about 905,000 people employed by the automotive manufacturing industry in 2020 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
However, as mentioned in the journal Concurrent Engineering in the 21st Century, “as the automotive industry is one of the most advanced industries using information technologies for product development (Katzenbach, 2015),” graduates can also choose to pursue a career in automotive science and research. This is particularly the case for those who complete a graduate automotive degree. “Legacy Systems have to be integrated with modern solutions. Service-oriented architectures (SOA) and semantic nets will lead to a new system landscape,” the authors said about a few of the I.T. solutions and processes impacted by technology.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020
Automotive technology degrees are generally more expensive than non-technical programs due to the nature of the specialization. This degree program utilizes a wide range of equipment, tools, and materials, all of which need regular or periodic maintenance. Aside from automotive technology degree tuition fees, students also need to allot budget for other expenses and requirements, including their own set of tools, textbooks, school supplies, housing and accommodation, transportation, food, and clothing, among others.
As mentioned, automotive technology degrees can entail a hefty price tag. For instance, a traditional two-year associate automotive technology degree costs anywhere from $2,000 to $58,000 per year, with rates widely varying depending on the institution you choose. Meanwhile, the annual tuition fee average for bachelor’s degree programs in automotive technology can cost between $5,000 and $60,000. Undergraduates who wish to pursue higher learning can also complete a master’s degree in automotive technology, which may cost between $10,000 to $65,000.
Incoming students should keep in mind that schools may charge differently for in-state students and out-of-state students. In general, the average cost of college also differs between public and private schools. As one may expect, public colleges and universities charge lower than private schools.
|Public In-State||Public Out-of-State||Private|
|Associate Degree||From $15,000||From $25,000||From $35,000|
|Bachelor's Degree||$24,000 - $54,000||$35,000 - $54,000||$29,000 - $56,000|
|Master's Degree||$12,000 - $30,000||$16,000 to $50,000||$15,000 - $80,000|
|Doctoral Degree||From $30,000||From $30,000||From $50,000|
|*Values are estimates.|
If you have an innate interest and affinity for vehicles and transportation —and the design, engineering, science, and overall work involved in them— then, getting an automotive degree opens up doors to opportunities to become a professional in the field. For starters, you will be educated by highly skilled automotive experts. Furthermore, reliable schools that offer automotive technology degrees are typically affiliated with car manufacturers that accept student trainees. As such, even before you graduate, you can potentially acquire hands-on, real-life experience in the industry.
Furthermore, according to the latest estimates, the average automotive technician salary in the US is $42,360 (Salary.com, 2021). Other estimates for automotive mechanic salary puts the average at $50,713 (Payscale, 2021). Meanwhile, a service manager can earn an average of $62,179 annually (Payscale, 2021). The overall national average salary for automotive industry employees in the US is $39,298 (Glassdoor, 2021). Considering these figures, automotive technology degree-holders can earn back what they invested in their education in a short period of time.
Many automotive technology degree jobs await degree-holders. It is common for graduates to get employed as automotive technicians or mechanics, either by manufacturers, service companies, fleet operators, or dealerships. More senior technicians can eventually move up to supervisory or managerial positions. With additional higher learning courses and degrees, graduates can also be qualified to teach and enter the research field.
The number of cars on the road increases every year. In 2020, there were 286.9 million registered cars in the US (Hedges Company, n.d.). This is projected to rise to 289.5 million this 2021. Many of these cars are not new and more owners hang on to their vehicles longer than ever (Rogers, 2019). The average age of cars is about 12 years old, while trucks remain in use for an average of 12.1 years (Hedges Company, n.d.). As such, the demand for automotive technicians who will take care of new and old vehicles is ever-present.
Furthermore, automotive technology constantly evolves. This is both a bane and boon for the automotive technology job market. Decades ago, many were interested in hot-rodding and modifying cars to make them even more powerful. As a result, a lot of people got interested in manual work. However, newer technologies paved the way for vehicles that were already powerful enough not to require modifications. Because of this, the younger generation seemed to have lost the excitement. This led to fewer people specializing in automotive technology. In turn, the demand for technicians grew.
Moreover, with automotive technology always changing, training also becomes more advanced. As such, there is a need for both technicians and trainers. Additionally, as people continue to buy and own cars, there will always be a demand for highly qualified automotive technology specialists, whether they work in a garage, school, laboratory, or office.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for automotive technicians was $44,050 as of May 2020. The lowest 10% average was $25,790, while the highest 10% averaged $71,940. Those who worked with automotive dealers got an average annual salary of $47,620. Meanwhile, those in the automotive mechanical and electrical service field earned an average yearly wage of $41,430 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
As with other fields, there are different automotive technology degree types. These vary in length and duration, as well as admission and completion requirements. Typically, there is also a difference between the scope, earning potential, and common career paths. The types of automotive technology degrees are associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and master’s degree.
Average time to complete: Two years
An associate degree in automotive technology is a program that can help you land a good job after graduation. It is designed to equip students with knowledge and training that will prepare them for immediate entry to the workforce or for pursuing higher learning. The courses largely focus on general aspects of automotive technology.
Among the topics covered in an associate degree in automotive technology is the introduction to automotive repair, maintenance, and components. Students will be familiarized with heating and cooling systems, engines, and transmissions: how they work, how to inspect them, and how to keep them in good running condition. Students also engage in hands-on learning.
Once a student completes the program, he or she should have the basic knowledge and qualifications needed in entry-level positions. Associate in automotive technology degree graduates can qualify for service, maintenance, and repair jobs.
Entry-level jobs: Automotive body and glass repairer, Brake technician, Automotive air-conditioning technician
Average time to complete: Four years
A bachelor’s degree in automotive technology can open the door to higher-level field jobs as well as management opportunities. In addition to acquiring practical skills and knowledge in the repair, maintenance, and service of automotive systems, students also get a deeper understanding of the science and technology behind automotive innovation and manufacture.
Moreover, a bachelor’s degree also helps students choose an area they want to focus on. For instance, they can specialize in alternative fuel science, safety engineering, or mechanical engineering. A bachelor’s degree in automotive technology also prepares students looking to pursue a master’s degree.
Entry-level jobs: Transmission technician, Drivability technician, Front-end technician
Average time to complete: Two years
Out of almost a thousand master’s degrees granted in the US every year, some are master’s in automotive technology. This program is ideal for undergraduate completers who want to become more proficient in their chosen specialty area related to automotive technology. Among these focus areas are fuel efficiency, ergonomics, and self-driving technology. The two-year program gives students an opportunity to dedicate intense focus and study to their concentration of choice.
Furthermore, in a master’s in automotive technology degree, students learn to view vehicles as an entire system. As such, students learn how essential technology and design are. Once a student graduates from this program, their earning potential can substantially improve. They can also be qualified for teaching and training positions, and participate in research and development efforts in the industry.
High-level jobs: Managerial positions, Researcher, Trainer
Average time to complete: One year
In a certificate in an automotive technology program, students are taught the principles of fundamental automotive system maintenance, repair, and installation. They acquire basic knowledge of vehicle components and their supposed performance. The program tackles course topics, such as automotive system performance and diagnostics, electrical systems, emission systems, and engine theory.
Furthermore, a certificate program in automotive technology teaches students the skills they need to pass certification examinations, including the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). They also get hands-on experience in workshop activities.
Entry-level jobs: Service mechanics, Electronics technician, Fleet technician
Source: NCES (2021)
Automotive technology degree prerequisites vary depending on the degree type, state, and type of institution. As this is a technical specialization, some institutions may require some level of practical experience, particularly in handling tools and equipment. In general, most institutions have the following admission requirements:
Skills gaps in the local labor market are perceived as the top barrier to the adoption of new technologies in the automotive industry worldwide in 2020 (World Economic Forum, 2020). Automotive technology degrees are designed to hone the natural affinity and innate skills of students that will help them excel in the industry. These skills include the following:
If you are planning to enroll in an automotive degree program, there are considerations to keep in mind aside from your personal interest in the field. It is best to also look at how a program will help you achieve your career goals and how one suits your financial capacity.
Automotive technology covers a wide range of systems, each of which can be a focus of the specialization. If you want to eventually specialize in a particular aspect of automotive technology, you should choose a program that offers it. For instance, if you want to work on diesel engines, look for a program that provides extensive coursework on it.
Every automotive technology degree program must be accredited by certain agencies. In most cases, only degrees with these accreditations are recognized by licensing and professional bodies. It is best to enroll in an automotive technology program accredited by the Automotive Service Excellence Education Foundation (ACCSC), Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Education Foundation, and The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
In 2019/2020, undergraduate students received as much as $9,000 worth of financial aid (College Board, 2020). If you are worried about funding your automotive technology education, fret not. There are financial aids and grants available to students. You can check out national automotive industry associations to apply for scholarships. Students can also apply for scholarship programs from other non-profits.
Source: College Board, 2020
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a degree. Of course, it is essential to choose a program that meets your interest and matches your natural talents. However, it is also important to consider other crucial facts, such as the cost of the program and the availability of jobs after graduation.
Furthermore, after you have decided to take an automotive technology program, you should also carefully choose the institution you will enroll in. You need to check whether an institution has enough prestige and if its programs are accredited by the industry’s accrediting organizations. Additionally, it is also best to know if the program they offer meets your specialization goals. In this way, you will know if this program is worth your investment and if it can really help you achieve success in the future.