Front End Mechanic
Front-end mechanics specialize in the alignment and balancing of wheels, and in the maintenance and repair of steering and suspension systems. They often use specialized equipment to achieve wheel alignment and balance. They test systems using electronic testing devices, and also base their diagnosis on the information they receive from customers about the nature of the vehicle's malfunction. After isolating the specific problem, they determine the type of work that needs to be done. After completing the necessary repairs or replacements, they usually test-drive the vehicle to ensure it is in working order.
Front-end mechanics need to have good analytical skills, as well as strong interpersonal communication skills. Because they are constantly required to keep up with new technology and learn new techniques, they should have well-developed reading, mathematics, and computer skills. They need to have an overall understanding of how vehicles operate, as well as an aptitude for mechanical work. Due to the fast-paced increase in automotive technology, it has become highly advantageous for these workers to obtain proficiency with sophisticated computer and electronic equipment. Experience working on vehicle as a hobby, or in the Armed Forces, can be advantageous.
In 2002, front-end mechanics earned a median hourly wage of $14.71. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $8.14, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $25.21. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of front-end mechanics:
- Local government $18.04
- Automobile dealers 17.66
- Gasoline stations 13.04
- Automotive repair and maintenance 12.77
- Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores 12.60
Training and Education
Front-end mechanics learn their trade through a wide variety of routes involving education, training, and certification. While a small number will learn only from assisting other experienced workers, it is highly recommended to complete some type of high school or post-secondary vocational school program. As technology becomes more complex, formal training becomes more important. The quality of high school programs can vary, but some programs, such as the Automotive Youth Education Service (AYES) offer students a basic technician certificate that they receive along with their high school diploma. After high school, there are many options. Trade and technical schools offer programs lasting from 6 months to a year, while community colleges provide more extensive programs that last as long as 2 years and supplement the automotive curriculum with English, mathematics, computers and other electives.
Some even add classes in customer service and stress management to help their graduates become more employable. Some automobile manufacturers offer 2-year certifications as well. For most employees, it will take between 2 and 5 years of on-the-job experience to become a fully proficient journey-level service technician. Front-end mechanics can voluntarily become certified through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) by having at least two years of experience and passing a written exam. You can check out a list of Auto Mechanic Schools by clicking on this link.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of front-end mechanics is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Job demand will be created by general population increases, growth of the labor force, and rises in personal income enabling multiple car ownership. However, this demand will be somewhat offset by increases in technology making cars and trucks more reliable and durable. Job opportunities should be very good for people with formal education and training, especially in more advanced technology.