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Trade School vs. College: Is a Mechanic Career Right For You?

Many students attend a traditional college or university to earn a degree so they can begin a career they are passionate about. However, you’ve probably heard the phrase college isn’t for everyone, and if you’re one of those people who doesn’t think college is right for them, you should know you still have plenty of ways you can find a fulfilling and well-paying career. 

Recently there has been a surge of interest in trade schools as many individuals choose to circumvent the traditional system and look for direct training for the job they wish to pursue. If you have a real love for cars and don’t mind getting your hands dirty fixing things, a career as an automotive mechanic may be right for you. 

As you decide between a trade school or college, learn more about their differences and what you should do to become a certified automotive mechanic.

What’s the Difference Between Trade School and College?

The biggest difference between a trade school and a traditional college is the omission of general education classes and liberal arts courses at a trade school. Instead of making you take classes you’ll likely never use again, trade schools offer practical training in a specific vocation, which is why they’re also called vocational schools.

Trade schools offer mechanic training and job-specific coursework for other skilled trades. Students are known to finish their education in about half the time it takes a college student. For example, a trade school tends to only last one to two years, while an undergraduate degree usually takes four years. Not to mention, trade school costs less, and students are usually guaranteed a job upon graduation.

College degrees do carry a certain amount of prestige, but certification from a trade school shouldn’t be looked at as any less important. The education and skills learned in trade school are just as vital to our functionality as a society.

After all, who’s going to unclog the shower drains, fix the cars that have broken down on the side of the road, or repair the hot water heater? A graduate of a trade school, that’s who.

Is Becoming a Mechanic The Right Move?

Mechanic jobs are physically demanding, and you’ll need adequate training to get into this field. While the job can be demanding, it gives you a chance to work with your hands, not sit behind a desk all year, and earn a higher salary than many college-degree holders (the average salary of automotive mechanics in the United States is close to $49,000 as of July 2023). 

Becoming a mechanic is also a great choice if you love problem-solving. Since tons of things can go wrong with vehicles, mechanics who know how to break down problems and come up with a solution are highly sought after. Of course, those who love working with cars and aren’t interested in attending college are also well-suited for working in the automotive industry.

How Do You Receive Mechanic Training? 

If you think becoming a car mechanic sounds like a rewarding career for you, the process of becoming one is relatively simple. Review the main steps of landing mechanic jobs below:

  • Attend a trade school after college: After graduating high school, you’ll need to finish a mechanic training program. Some programs even partner with high schools to find potential trainees. Quite often, you’re allowed to train as a mechanic while working on your high school diploma. Whether you start in high school or after, pick a trade school near you and complete the required courses to prepare yourself for a mechanic job. 
  • Gain an entry-level certification: After you finish your trade school coursework, the next step is an entry-level certification. To gain this credential, you’ll need to take a test developed by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). 
  • Land a mechanic internship: After you pass the exam, you’ll need to enter into a mechanic internship or apprenticeship before getting hired. Once you have everything you need to become a certified professional technician, you’ll take another ASE exam.
  • Apply for a job and continue your education: After you’ve passed your ASE exam, the company you interned for may offer you a position, but you could also need to apply to other shops. Once you begin working, don’t think your education stops. You’ll need to keep up with the current trends in your field. Technology is constantly making improvements and introducing new features, meaning you’ll need to stay on top of trends in the automotive industry.

Join Our Family of Qualified Mechanics at Chapel Hill Tire

If you want to become a mechanic, you can find a mechanic position for you at Chapel Hill Tire. At Chapel Hill Tire, we support all of our mechanics at our 11 Triangle area locations by paying for unlimited training. We also care about our automotive technicians’ work-life balance, so we stick to a five-day work week, never require night shifts, and offer paid vacations and holidays. Additionally, our industry-leading 401k retirement plan, health care package, and performance bonuses ensure you’re well-compensated for the work you do. 

When you’re ready to see for yourself what working with Chapel Hill Tire is like, apply for a position today.

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