How Long Will It Take Me to Finish Automotive School?

Sleek cars, high-speed engines, and a career field where jobs appear to be unlimited.

As if those weren’t enough advantages for the automotive repair field, careers in this industry hold another major benefit over other types of jobs that require technical skills: You aren't required to spend four years earning a degree or even complete a two-year course of study at a community college to start your career.

The time it takes to finish automotive school depends on the type of training you pursue. Some mechanics finish vocational programs in high school and go to work in trainee positions at automotive repair shops right after graduation. Some complete a postsecondary automotive technology program in only a year or more, which seems like no time at all to earn the job title of automotive technician.

How long your schooling will take depends on what sort of career you want to pursue. A few different levels of study are available at automotive technology training programs:

  • Vocational programs — High school vocational programs last three or four years and go well beyond simple automotive paint These programs teach students to inspect, repair and maintain engine and other automotive systems, such as the exhaust, heating and cooling, electrical, braking, transmission, suspension, and fuel systems. Hands-on training is a hallmark of the learning approach as students sometimes even work directly with customers to service their vehicles. Upon completing the program, students earn a high school diploma and gain the experience necessary to begin a career.
  • Technical schools and community colleges — Training programs at community colleges and technical schools typically last two years and lead to an associate degree in automotive technology or automotive repair. Both types of automotive schools also offer certificate programs in automotive technology. Certificate programs take less time to complete and focus solely on automotive technology, while associate degree programs include general education coursework as well. Students in both types of programs take courses that explore the various automotive systems and how to diagnose and repair problems with those systems.
  • Learning on the job — Your learning doesn’t end once you complete your formal education. In this career field, much of what you’ll learn will come on the job as many mechanics are still becoming proficient at what they do two to five years after starting out in the automotive industry. After they graduate from high school or earn a certificate or associate degree, prospective auto mechanics continue their training on the job by working as assistants, helpers or trainees under the supervision of experienced mechanics.

While your formal training will be extensive, it’s possible your state will require you to obtain other certifications or licensures. Some states require auto mechanics to hold a license to practice their trade. The process of obtaining a license may involve passing one or more certifications, usually offered in an exam format. Mechanics also might be required to pass an examination for each type of automobile repair they want to carry out.

More certifications might be required for mechanics who want to work on vehicles produced by a specific manufacturer. They can pursue a manufacturer certification by completing a manufacturer-specific training course or program. By earning a manufacturer certification, you can make yourself a more attractive candidate for positions at a dealership.

Regardless of how much time it might take you to complete the training, you want to be sure you earn your training from a school that’s successfully placed graduates in automotive jobs. Before enrolling, research online job placement statistics and find out whether the school offers any career services that’ll help you ready your resume and prepare to engage with employers in the area. Search for an automotive training program that provides courses accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation and has instructors on staff who are certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.