Although a high school diploma is the typical education needed for entry, employers increasingly prefer to hire service technicians who have some postsecondary education. The majority of workers, however, still learn informally on the job.
High school or postsecondary courses in automobile repair, mathematics, and computers provide a strong foundation for a service technician’s career.
Postsecondary programs and degrees in diesel technology or heavy equipment mechanics provide the most comprehensive training for new service technicians. Offered by vocational schools and community colleges, these programs cover the basics of diagnostic techniques, electronics, and other related subjects.
Most programs last 1 to 2 years and lead to certificates of completion. Other programs, which lead to associate’s degrees, generally take 2 years to complete.
Education significantly reduces the amount of on-the-job training new service technicians need.
Entry-level workers with no formal background in heavy vehicle repair often receive a few months of on-the-job training before they begin doing routine service tasks and minor repairs. Trainees advance to more complex work as they show competence, and usually become fully qualified after 3 to 4 years of work.
Many employers send new technicians to training sessions conducted by equipment manufacturers. Training sessions may focus on particular components and technologies or types of equipment. Sessions generally last 1 week.
Some manufacturers offer certification in specific repair methods or equipment. Although not required, certification can demonstrate a mechanic’s competence and usually brings higher pay.
Dexterity. Many tasks, such as disassembling engine parts, connecting or attaching components, and using handtools, require a steady hand and good hand-eye coordination.
Mechanical skills. Service technicians must be familiar with engine components and systems and know how they interact with each other. They must often disassemble major parts for repairs and be able to reassemble them.
Physical strength. Service technicians must lift and move heavy equipment, tools, and parts without risking injury or fatigue.
Technical skills. Service technicians use sophisticated diagnostic equipment on engines, systems, and components. They must also be familiar with electronic control systems and the appropriate tools needed to fix and maintain them.
Troubleshooting skills. As heavy and mobile equipment become more complex, malfunctions become more difficult to identify. Service technicians must be able to find solutions to problems that are not immediately apparent.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition