How to Become a Diesel Mechanic
Is being a Diesel Mechanic the job for you?
Does the bad economy have you looking for a new career? Does the idea of fixing a large piece of equipment on a construction site sound like fun? Or maybe rescuing a semi that's broken down on the highway? You may want to consider becoming a Diesel Mechanic. There is potential for high pay, good benefits, and plenty of room for advancement.
Truck and Trailer
Entering the Industy.
There a few different ways to enter into the industry.
- Trade School or Tech School
From my experience the tech school is the most popular way to gain access to the industry. These range from the high end private trade schools, public community colleges, and even some vocational programs attached to high schools. The biggest downside to this option is that the better and faster the school, is the more you will likely end up owing in student loans, unless of course you pay cash. A lot of programs are offered as either certificates or Associates of Applied Science degrees. Time ranges generally from about a year for a Certificate from a specialty school to about two years for an Associates Degree from a community college.
- Military Service
The military is not going to be for everybody. It does look pretty good on your resume if you were a mechanic in the military and will even give you an edge when it comes to civilian contractor jobs. They give you a lot of training and the best part is you won't be paying the student loans afterward.
- On The Job Training
This is probably the hardest way to break into the industry. If you are lucky enough to find a job that will train you, it is usually lower pay than entry level for vaterans and tech graduates. It usually takes a while longer to move up the ladder. Some of the best mechanics I've worked with started this way.
Types of Diesel Mechanic Jobs.
- Working on Over the Road and City Trucks, Buses, and Coaches.
- Truck Stop Mechanic- This can be a very good paying job in the right situations. I would look for commission paying jobs over hourly paying jobs. A first stop for a lot of students and on the job training guys. Most of these places are 24 hour operations so a regular 9-5 kind of schedule isn't likely for new guys. Beginners usually start with oil changes, then move up to tires. Benefits are usually OK and a lot of places include student loan repayment programs.
- Fleet Mechanics- For many companies it is more economical to have their own shop than to outsource repairs. The good side to these jobs is the schedule, most have only a 40-50 hour work week. Most only run one or two shifts, but large one run 24 hours. Pay is generally lower than dealerships and independent shops. I have been told that State fleet jobs are the ones to look for.
- Dealership Jobs- Dealerships are where broken trucks go when the problem is under warranty or out of scope for other shops. Dealerships that pay well and have good work tend to have really good mechanics. You can learn a lot from these guys but it will take time. Dealership jobs are hard to get as first mechanic jobs unless you go to a place with more work than hirable people. Benefits are usually really good. Afternoon or Graveyard shifts are all but gauranteed for newbies. Top pay at dealerships is often well above $30 per hour flat rate, income potential is huge if you do good work quickly. One great benefit to these jobs is that there is a really good opportunity for manufacturer training, which really looks good on your resume.
- Independent repair Shops- A lot of these shops do the same work as dealerships, minus the warranty work. Pay varies from relatively low to really high. Work conditions also vary wildly from shop to shop. These can be the best jobs you ever have but also can be the worst jobs you find. Just don't make any commitments until you know the situation is workable. In places with labor shortages you can negotiate really good deals including signing bonuses, performance bonuses, and retention bonuses with these shops if you are willing to relocate and qualified.
- Heavy Equipment Repair Jobs
- Construction Equipment / Agricultural Equipment - These jobs can range from working on small equipment at rental shops to working on large equipment in the field from a service truck. Generally speaking a good liking for hydraulics goes a long way in these jobs. Pay and Benefits are usually good. Union membership is sometimes required. A lot of tech schools have the connections to place frech graduates in these jobs. These jobs have basically the same fleet, independent, and dealership breakdown as the truck jobs.
- Natural Resource Gathering Equipment Jobs- These can be some of the most dangerous, exciting, and well paying jobs in the industry. They can include logging equipment, mining equipment, oilfield equipment, and many others. The pay for these jobs depends on what equipment you are working on, how dangerous it is, and where it is located.
- Power Generation Jobs- I don't have too much experience in this field, but the guys I have talked to who work on generators say it goes from backyard generators to really large commercial generators. A couple of them have even worked in Antarctica.
- Other- Under other I list Railroad Locomotive mechanics and Marine Mechanics which generally have their own apprenticeship programs. Previous military experience in these areas are great ways to get your foot in the door. I have seen some tech schools advertising marine programs, but I believe these programs are for smaller boats and not ships.
One thing to consider is that most of these jobs will require you to have your own tools. That is not an investment to be taken lightly. Its OK to have a small set in the beginning but in order to move up you will need to buy tools in most cases. Some of the top guys I have worked with have had well over 100k in tools but they are the exception.
- ACT Auto Jobs: Great Auto Jobs, auto careers, tire jobs, & truck jobs.
ACT Auto Jobs. Great Auto Jobs, auto careers, tire jobs, & truck jobs.
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