Automotive service industry career paths that may surprise you

Mike Rowe has it right: Job growth in STEM careers looks strong into the foreseeable future. That’s particularly true in the automotive service and repair industry. The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that the automotive repair and maintenance sectors are expected to add 237,500 new jobs and have a higher than average growth rate through 2020.

Tony Molla

Much of that demand is due to the generational shift from large numbers of baby boomers entering retirement, making automotive technicians one of the top jobs with relatively high median earnings and the potential for significant job openings over the next decade. So, what kind of work is out there?

The jobs run the gamut from line technician to service consultant, service director, or automotive parts and service business owner. There are many diverse opportunities in parts counterpersons, parts distribution and wholesaling; collision repair, painting and damage estimating; vehicle maintenance, repair and performance upgrades and custom, restoration and motorsports.

There are additional personnel needs in technical training areas for many organizations, or in management at the local, regional and corporate level for national franchises, vehicle manufacturers and private and municipal fleets. There are instructor positions with high schools and community colleges, as well as private schools, and still other technicians find themselves moving into sales, marketing and business management, where their technical knowledge is a valuable edge in knowing both the customer and the products.

Countless automotive aftermarket executives got their start turning wrenches, though nowadays the tool of choice is as likely to be a diagnostic computer and monitor. As you can see, there is no shortage of career paths in the automotive sector.

Next time, we’ll take a look at how a technical career can be a gateway to many career paths you might never imagine. In fact, so many people have started their careers in the automotive aftermarket as an auto technician that it is viewed as something of a portal career.

For those whose true calling is in the service bay, it’s far from a dead-end career. Top-notch technicians well versed in computer diagnostics and the latest engine performance and drivability solutions can and do command top-dollar salaries. Pride in work, technical savvy and craftsmanship are rewarded.

So if your child prefers to get out into the real world and make his or her mark, consider a career in automotive technology. Ask your child’s guidance counselor, or better yet, visit your local National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) accredited community college or technical school.

The nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) conducts the only nationally recognized certification program for automotive service professionals. ASE offers a wide range of tests that serve virtually every segment of the automotive service arena. More than 360,000 professionals hold current ASE certification. To learn more, go to

The National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation, or NATEF for short, is ASE’s education arm. NATEF works closely with the automotive service industry to develop national standards for automotive training programs. Such programs, in turn, benefit students and employers alike by providing a steady stream of job-ready young technicians.

For more information about NATEF’s programs, a list of certified automotive Career/Technical programs in your area, and additional career information, visit