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Are you dreaming of being a mechanic and working on cars or trucks all day? Perhaps you are curious about how much you’ll make or if it will be easy to find a job. The median salary for an automotive service technician is just a hair under $47,000. That said, there are many different types of automotive service technician and mechanic jobs, some of which make considerably more money. A looming shortage of automotive service technicians may signal a sharp wage increase.

How much money does an automotive technician make?

U.S. News found that if you lined every current automotive service technician up by how much money they make, the one standing in the middle would earn $46,880. But at either end, their salaries would look very different.

An automotive service technician connects a sensor to the battery of a minivan, the shop visible behind her.
Automotive service technician | Colin McConnell Toronto Star via Getty Images

The bottom 25% of mechanic jobs pay just $35,680 a year or less. But the top 25% of automotive service technician jobs are making $59,950 every year. A chronic shortage of dealership service technicians might lead to increased salaries over the next few years.

According to Automotive News, there are roughly 750,000 auto mechanics in the U.S. (about 300,000+ of which work at dealerships). But the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the industry will need 46,000 more technicians by 2026. Why? One reason may be that the average repair takes more time. Another may be a wave of older dealership technicians retiring. But as dealerships are forced to turn away jobs because they don’t have enough employees, they are likely to offer higher wages.

How long does it take to be trained as a mechanic?

The majority of automotive service technicians enter trade school after high school. While some shops do offer entry-level positions to high school grads, these apprenticeships can require five years of on-the-job training to get enough mechanical experience.

An automotive technician rolls a rim and tire across a mechanic's shop.
Automotive service technician | Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

The proliferation of advanced vehicle technology, such as ADAS, is making technical training increasingly important for mechanics.

Jason Spohr is an automotive mechanics instructor at Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nevada. He said, “Having advanced training is absolutely mandatory…Ten, 20, 30 years ago, you could pretty much fumble your way around fixing a car, and (now) it’s just not so. With the computer controls and the amount of electronics that are in vehicles today, you do have to find some training sources.”

What is the highest-paid automotive technician career?

Like with most careers, generalists are paid less, while skilled specialists are paid more. So the more training you get and the more experience you build in a niche within the automotive technician field, the more money you can expect to make. Dealership techs usually make more than private shop employees, though private shop owners stand to make the most.

At the bottom of the scale is a job like a lube technician, which pays half as much as a master technician. So increasing your training is a great way to increase your pay. Another popular way to improve your earnings as an automotive technician is to get a certification beyond basic trade school. The most popular certification is offered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).

The ASE has been around since 1972, but continues to adapt to the industry. For example, it recently added a certification for technicians who repair advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). In addition, technicians can now renew their ASE certification through a phone app.

I reached out to ask the ASE about how the automotive industry is changing. An institute representative said the following:

“I believe consumers are finally understanding the importance of our technicians and the service repair business. It was deemed essential during the pandemic and those who needed to be out and about, needed their vehicles and needed them serviced.”

Trish Serratore, ASE

Next, find out why classic cars are NOT easier to work on or see an automotive mechanic discuss his job and salary in the video below: