California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics in San Diego County

May also be called: Auto Technicians; Auto Brake Mechanics; Fuel Injection Servicers; and Auto Transmission Specialists

Specialties within this occupation include: Automotive Air-Conditioning Repairers; Brake Repairers; Undercar Technicians; Transmission Technicians; and Engine Performance Technicians

What Would I Do?

Automotive Service Technicians inspect, repair, and maintain automobiles and other gasoline, diesel, or alternate-fueled vehicles. In smaller shops, Technicians complete a wide variety of repairs from simple engine tune-ups to tearing down, repairing, and rebuilding of complete power systems. They also service and repair electrical systems; align and service suspension, braking, and steering systems; repair and service air conditioning, heating, and engine-cooling systems. In larger shops, some of this work is completed by specially-trained Technicians who are assigned by their specialty area, such as brake repairers, undercar or transmission mechanics.

To diagnose an automotive malfunction, Technicians may need to test drive a vehicle or use a variety of testing equipment, such as onboard and hand-held diagnostic computers or compression gauges to identify the source of the problem. These tests indicate whether a part is salvageable or whether a new part is needed to repair the vehicle.

Today’s automobiles are run by complex computers and integrated electronic systems. The work of Automotive Service Technicians has progressed from mechanical repair into a high-technology job. The advances in automotive technology create a need for workers who can use computerized shop equipment and work with electronic components while maintaining their skills with traditional hand tools.

Automotive Air-Conditioning Repairers install and repair air-conditioners and service their components, such as compressors, condensers, and controls. They complete special training concerning the handling and disposal of refrigerants to comply with federal and State regulations.

Brake Repairers adjust brakes, replace brake linings and pads, and make other repairs on brake systems. They also diagnose and repair computer controlled anti-lock brake systems and traction control.

Undercar Specialists align and balance wheels and repair steering mechanisms and suspension systems.

Transmission Technicians work on gear trains, couplings, hydraulic pumps, and other parts of transmissions. Transmissions are very complex components that involve some of the most sophisticated technology used in vehicles.

Engine Performance Technicians service emission control systems and adjust valves or replace spark plugs and other parts to ensure efficient engine performance and the proper operation of emission control systems.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Examine vehicles to determine extent of damage or malfunctions.Customer and Personal Service
Repair, overhaul, and adjust automobile brake systems.Mechanical
Test drive vehicles, and test components and systems, using equipment such as infrared engine analyzers, compression gauges, and computerized diagnostic devices.Control Precision
Use electronic test equipment to locate and correct malfunctions in fuel, ignition, and emissions control systems.Troubleshooting
Follow checklists to ensure all important parts are examined, including belts, hoses, steering systems, spark plugs, brake and fuel systems, wheel bearings, and other potentially troublesome areas.Information Ordering
Repair and replace defective balljoint suspensions, brakeshoes, and wheelbearings.Repairing
Test electronic computer components in automobiles to ensure that they are working properly.Computers and Electronics
Perform routine and scheduled maintenance services such as oil changes, lubrications, and tune-ups.Manual Dexterity
Disassemble units and inspect parts for wear, using micrometers, calipers, and gauges.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Overhaul or replace carburetors, blowers, generators, distributors, starters, and pumps.Installation
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Automotive Service Technicians usually work indoors in well-ventilated and lighted repair shops. However, some shops are drafty and noisy. They work with dirty and greasy parts and in awkward positions. Automotive Technicians risk injury from lifting heavy parts and tools. Minor cuts, burns, and bruises are common but the risk of injury is reduced if the shop is kept in an orderly condition where safety practices are observed.

Many Automotive Service Technicians work more than 40 hours a week. Some may also work evenings and weekends to meet customer needs.

Most Technicians must provide their own tools, which can be very expensive. Technicians have often invested thousands of dollars in their tools by the time they reach journey level. Employers usually supply the more expensive power tools, engine analyzers, and other diagnostic equipment.

Some Automotive Service Technicians are members of labor unions such as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Automotive Service Technician may appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. Automotive Technicians occupations satisfy those with realistic interests. Realistic occupations involve technical or mechanical activities.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2017 for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics in California was $44,241 annually, or $21.27 hourly. The median wage for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics in San Diego County was $41,444 annually, or $19.93 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2017Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
San Diego County$30,629$41,444$57,894
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2017 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Automotive Service Technicians may expect to receive benefits that include health insurance, retirement plans, paid holidays, and vacation.

What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 41 employers in San Diego County, almost all provide vacation, and most provide medical insurance and dental insurance benefits to Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance76%2%
Dental Insurance61%2%
Life Insurance54%2%
Vision Insurance49%2%
Sick Leave29%0%
Retirement Plan29%0%
Disability Insurance20%0%
No benefits5%12%
Paid Time Off Bank2%0%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 31 employers surveyed who responded in San Diego County, who provides medical benefits, most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and none reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
Half or more52%0%
Less than Half32%100%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

What is the Job Outlook?

The need for Automotive Service Technicians will remain very strong as the number of vehicles in operation increases, reflecting the continued growth in the number of multi-car families. Job opportunities in this occupation are expected to be very good for persons who complete automotive training programs in high school, vocational and technical schools, or community colleges. Persons with good diagnostic and problem-solving abilities, and whose training includes basic electronics and computer courses, should have the best opportunities. However, persons without formal automotive training are likely to face competition for entry-level jobs. Additional job openings will be due to the need to replace a growing number of retiring technicians, who tend to be the most experienced workers.
Most persons who enter the occupation can expect steady work, even through downturns in the economy.

Employment growth will continue to be concentrated in automobile dealerships and independent automotive repair shops. Employment of automotive service technicians and mechanics in gasoline service stations will continue to decline, as fewer stations offer repair services.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics are expected to increase by 8.5 percent, or 5,900 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

In San Diego County, the number of Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics are expected to increase by 9.6 percent, or 610 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Additional Openings
Due to Net
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 580 new job openings per year is expected for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, plus an additional 1,850 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 2,440 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 61 new job openings per year is expected for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, plus an additional 170 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 231 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
San Diego County
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Due to the complexity of today’s automotive technology, most employers prefer to hire employees with a high school diploma who have completed a postsecondary vocational or community college automotive technician training program. Applicants must be physically able to perform all phases of the work and have the ability to distinguish color differences. Many employers also require a valid California driver license because Automotive Technicians often test drive vehicles to diagnose mechanical problems.


The amount and type of work experience required varies from company to company. However, Automotive Service Technicians’ apprenticeship programs usually require 8,000 work hours and completion of 144 hours a year of technical classroom instruction. Instruction is available at various California community colleges.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in Automotive Technician careers should take courses in English, mathematics, computer technology, electronics, physics, and auto and machine shop. Technicians need good reading, mathematics, and computer skills to study technical manuals and to keep abreast of new technology and learn new repair procedures.

Apprenticeship and Work Study Programs

Apprentices learn their trade while working on the job. They also attend evening classes for technical instruction. Many apprenticeship programs require a high school diploma or equivalent. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.

Training programs for Automotive Technicians are also available through Regional Occupational Programs. Applicants in the program must be physically able to complete all stages of automotive work. Also, they must be a minimum of 18 years old or 17 years old with parental consent. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

It is very important for Automotive Service Technicians to keep up to date with the latest developments in automotive technology. They must retest every five years to obtain the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence recertification.

Licensing and Certification

Technicians working as Brake/Lamp Adjusters or Smog Check Technicians must be licensed through the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The Brake/Lamp Adjuster license is valid for four years and the Smog Check Technician license is valid for two years. Refer to “Other Sources.” Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Voluntary certification is available through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). The ASE certification has become a standard credential for Automotive Service Technicians. Certification is offered in up to eight areas of automotive service such as engine repair, automatic transmission, electrical/electronic systems, brake systems, manual drive train and axles, suspension and steering, heating and air conditioning, and engine performance. To qualify for certification, Automotive Technicians must have at least two years of experience and pass an examination. Master Automotive Technicians must be certified in all eight specialties to obtain ASE certification. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Automobile, Automotive, Diesel, and Vehicle.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Automobile Service Technicians primarily work in the following industries: Automobile Dealers; Automotive Repair and Maintenance; and Auto Parts, Accessories, and Tire Stores. The largest industries employing Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Automotive Repair and Maintenance34.6%
Automobile Dealers31.0%
Auto Parts, Accessories, and Tire Stores9.7%
Local Government2.0%
Gasoline Stations1.2%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 41 employers in San Diego County which employ 706 Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and few employ part-time Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics.

About Work Experience:  Of the 41 employers surveyed in San Diego County, almost all require new hires to have prior work experience as Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 13%
25 to 60 months 38%
13 to 24 months 33%
1 to 12 months 18%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 41 employers surveyed in San Diego County, most indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while many indicate it is hard to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics.

About Hiring:  Of the 41 employers surveyed in San Diego County, almost all expect the number of Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 10%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 83%
Expect Employment to Decline 7%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 41 employers surveyed in San Diego County, 34 percent hired Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 93 percent filled existing vacancies, 14 percent filled newly created positions, and none filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Many vocational schools operate placement centers for their students. Jobs may also be found through classified advertisemetns in newspapers and trade publications.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics.

  • Automobile Customizing
  • Automobile Diagnostic Service
  • Automobile Electrical Service
  • Automobile Machine Shop Service
  • Automobile Oil & Lubrication Services
  • Automobile Repairing & Service
  • Automobile Smog, Brake & Lamp Inspection & Repair
  • Brake Service
  • Transmissions-Automotive

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Entry-level employees usually start as trainee technicians, technicians’ helpers or lubrication workers. They gradually learn and practice their skills by working with experienced Technicians. It generally takes two to five years of work experience to become a journey-level Service Technician that can complete the more difficult types of service and repairs. Complex specialties, such as transmission repair require another year or two of training and experience.

Experienced Automotive Service Technicians with leadership ability may advance to shop supervisor or service manager. Technicians with management, business skills, and sufficient funds, sometimes open their own shops.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics with links to more information.

Aircraft Mechanics and Service TechniciansProfile
Automotive Body and Related RepairersProfile
Engine and Other Machine AssemblersProfile
Farm Equipment MechanicsProfile
Helpers--Installation, Maintenance, and Repair WorkersProfile
Industrial Machinery MechanicsProfile
Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and WeighersGuide
Small Engine MechanicsProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification49-3023
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Automotive Master Mechanics49-3023.01
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RIE
   Automotive Specialty Technicians49-3023.02
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RIC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Automobile/Automotive Mechanics Technology/Technician 470604
   Alternative Fuel Vehicle Technology/Technician 470614
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Automotive Technology094800
   Alternative Fuels and Advanced Transportation Technology094840