Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||110,200|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.9%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||5,250|
- Many employers seek candidates with a certificate or associate degree in diesel engine repair -- although a large percentage will accept a high school diploma plus relevant experience.
- Many vocational schools and community colleges offer associate degrees and/or certificate of completion diesel engine repair programs.
- Diesel engine repair programs take from six months to two years to complete.
Due to the hands-on nature of the occupation online diesel mechanic training programs are very rare, however online courses are available on a very limited basis. Some schools provide a hybrid format which require students to complete a portion of their coursework on-campus or at a work location.
Completing a diesel mechanic training program may lead to a career as a diesel engine specialist, diesel service technician, heavy equipment maintenance professional, fleet maintenance mechanic, locomotive maintenance mechanic or truck mechanic.
What you study:
- Basics of diesel technology
- Cooling systems
- Diesel engine systems
- Electrical and electronic systems
- Brake systems
- Preventive maintenance
- Diesel engine operation
- Diagnostic techniques
- Engine overhaul
A quick look at what diesel mechanic work includes. Created for the US Department of Labor.
As a reference, below is a selection of schools among the largest in graduating diesel mechanic students:
The Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pennsylvania is an affiliate of Pennsylvania State University. The college provides an applied technology certificate and degrees. Students learn advanced diesel maintenance techniques and principles.
The A.A.S. Diesel Technology program prepares students to take the following National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (NIASE) examinations: Heavy Truck Mechanics, Stationary Refrigeration, Motor Vehicle Air-conditioning, level I Eaton Hybrid Certification and the Allison Transmission Certification exam. Students are also prepared to obtain manufacturer certifications and EPA certifications in motor vehicle air-conditioning and stationary refrigeration.
San Jacinto College, a two-year college in Pasadena, Texas, ranks 4th on the list of the top 50 associate degree producers in science technologies by Community College Week.
San Jacinto College provides an Associate of Applied Science Diesel Technology program and a 3-term Diesel Technology certificate. Students in the Associate Diesel Technology degree program learn about engine testing and repair as well as HVAC, electrical systems, brake systems, powertrain, safety and much more. San Jacinto College reports prominent companies often seek graduates from its programs.
Wyotech, with locations in Wyoming, California, Florida and Pennsylvania provides training with an array of diesel engines and power systems. Students learn to work on machines made by some of the top names in the diesel industry including Caterpillar, Cummins, John Deere and Detroit Diesel.
Wyotech offers specialities such as advanced diesel, automotive-diesel combination, applied service management, light-duty diesel, high performance powertrain, motor sports chassis and other specialities.
Tips for Selecting a School
- Accreditation: The best schools are accredited at the national level by a notable organization such as the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
- Hands-on training: It's the most important part of diesel mechanic training program. Some diesel mechanic programs include about 30 hours per week of hands-on training. The diesel technology certificate program at Western Technical College consists of about 50 percent hands-on training. Choose a school with an on-site garage. Some diesel mechanic schools provide students the option of participating in manufacturer-specific training programs.
- Class size: A small class size provides the opportunity for more one-on-one instruction from the teacher
- Recommendations: Ask for feedback from local repair shop owners about the diesel mechanic schools you're interested in.
- Certification: Does the school have a good track record regarding its graduates obtaining certification from the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) organization?
- Equipment: A tour of the facility provides you better insight into the overall quality of the diesel mechanic program. Look at the amount of available equipment.
- Graduation rate: What percentage of students graduate from the program.
- On-time completion rate: What percentage of students graduate on time? For example, Wyotech's Advanced Diesel Technology diploma program has a 90 percent on-time completion rate.
- Job Placement: Find out the school's job placement rate. For example Wyotech's Advanced Diesel Technology diploma program has an 81 percent placement rate and San Jacinto College reports a 100 percent placement rate. Some diesel mechanic programs have partnership programs which help place students in entry-level jobs.
- Electives: Does the program include manufacturer-supported electives? Some schools provide electives such as Cummins Diesel, Cummins Power Generation, International Trucks and Daimler Trucks.
A Day in the Life
Diesel mechanics inspect and repair vehicles using diesel engines, including, trucks, buses and construction machines. Diagnosing problems is one of the most challenging aspects of the occupation.
Depending on the employer, you may work on trucks, road graders, diesel-powered cars, boats, farm tractors, bulldozers and cranes. In many shops diesel mechanics perform a variety of repairs, for example, you may fix a broken electrical system, install an emission control system and perform major repair work on an engine. In modern repair shops diesel mechanics and diesel technicians use hand-held computers or laptop computers to diagnose problems and adjust engine functions.
You may work on a variety of areas or you may be assigned a specialty. You may spend time on general maintenance. Diesel mechanics advance to increasingly more difficult work as they improve their ability and performance. You'll be working with a variety of tools. At times you may be working in tight conditions. Those working for a large trucking company typically work on a shift basis because the larger companies have mechanics working around the clock.
Certifications and Licensing
Although not required, certification from the National Institute for Automotive Excellence (ASE) is the recognized industry credential for diesel mechanics and technicians. ASE certification may increase employment opportunities and salary.
You must have at least two years of work experience in the field to apply to take the ASE exams. However, those without the experience can take the exams if they've completed an approved apprenticeship program or complete a special co-op class from an original equipment manufacturer.
Diesel mechanics may obtain certification is specific repair areas including electronic systems, drive trains and preventive maintenance and inspection. They can also take the Master Diesel Mechanic certification examination. Diesel mechanics who test drive large trucks or buses may be required to have a commercial driver's license.
Full-time versus part-time: Most diesel mechanics work full-time and many diesel mechanics work on the weekends. Overtime is common.
Work location: Most diesel mechanics work indoors in repair shops, however at some shops they sometimes work outdoors with large vehicles. Some repair shops are well-lighted and ventilated. Diesel mechanics occasionally repair vehicles at a job site or on the road.
Here are several websites we consider among the best resources for researching diesel mechanic careers:
- The US Department of Labor Occupational Handbook is an excellent reference for a wide variety of basic information and data about diesel mechanics. The handbook includes salary information.
- The National Institute Automotive Service Excellence tests and certifies automotive professionals. Its website offers information about ASE certification tests including test preparation and training. The institute provides ASE practice tests, study guides and more.
- The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation NATEF compares technical training programs to standards set by the automotive industry. NATEF provides qualifying programs NATEF accreditation. The NATEF certifies training programs in all 50 states at the secondary and post-secondary levels.