I am transitioning out of the military and would like to use my GI bill to pay for an automotive school. I already have a four year degree, so I would like to know if there is a top of the line automotive school that would lead to a higher paying job. Is there such a thing as an “MIT” of automotive schools? If so/not what programs would you recommend?
I refuse to believe you want to become a mechanic. I know you want to go into engineering. Picking a system or speciality could help you decide what school.
If you absolutely must turn wrenches I vote for the BMW step-student program.Not sure on G.I Bill issues.
Mean salary in 2007 for mechanics $36,000 (Bureau of Labor Standards) sounds attractive doesn’t it.
Call a state trade school and get the training for free. Post-graduate courses rule the world.
Speaking as a retired School Counselor, I can tell you a few things on this topic.
Many private trade/technical schools are essentially profit-making ventures that are an educational travesty. For instance, in NJ, some of my students went–against my advice–to a trade school owned by a large corporation. I will not name the school specifically, but I can tell you that it is named after The Great Emancipator (hint, hint).
When these students would come back to visit, it invariably resulted in identical complaints, namely that the electronic equipment was not up to date, classes were very overcrowded, tools were in such short supply that they could only work on cars on alternate days (“This is one of your observation days, tomorrow you can work on a car”), and standards were incredibly low. And, the students (or the government) were paying something like $8,000. per semester for this very poor-quality training!
It appeared to many of my former students that this private technical school took in large numbers of inner-city students who received Federal Pell Grants, and kept them just long enough for the school to collect those Federal funds. Each semester, once they dismissed the inner-city students, it was more likely that the remaining students would be able to work on cars every day, but this still did not change the reality of out-dated electronic equipment and instructors who were not very good at educating. In short, my former students would report to me that they thought that they were learning very little at this expensive school.
My recommendation for these students was always that they pursue their automotive training at one of the state’s community colleges. Most of those programs included both a “generic” program and a program sponsored by a major auto manufacturer. One college had a GM-specific program and a generic program, another had a Ford-specific program plus a generic program, and still another had a Chrysler-specific program, plus a generic program.
I am also tempted to say that a couple of these community colleges had programs sponsored by a foreign car manufacturer (BMW? VW?), but it is possible that I am not remembering this correctly. It has been 6 years since I was active as a school counselor, so some of my “recollections” about the sponsoring manufacturers could be inaccurate.
In order to receive a degree, a student in one of these 2-year college programs does have to take some academic courses in addition to the automotive courses, but for someone like the OP who already has a 4-year degree, most–if not all–of the academic course work would be waived, rather than making him repeat those courses.
The “manufacturer-specific” programs had late-model cars and up to date electronic test equipment provided by that car manufacturer, and they also featured a cooperative work arrangement with a dealer for that brand of cars. The cooperative work arrangement involved starting with just oil changes and tire changing, and progressed to more complex tasks at the dealership as the students progressed through the curriculum. In other words, once the students had taken the Front End courses, then they could work on front ends…and so on.
In view of the downturn in the economy, it is very possible that some of these manufacturer-sponsored programs have been cut back or eliminated. However, I think that the OP owes it to himself to investigate what exists at the various community colleges in his area. In my experience, these programs were never well-publicized, with the result that 99% of the public were never aware of their existence.
The US Dept. of Education requires that all post-high school educational programs maintain accurate statistics regarding job placement of students within 6 months of graduation. It is important to note that you want to find out about job placement in an automotive technician’s position within 6 months of graduation, not just job placement, per se. If the student is now asking “Do you want fries with that?”, it does not speak well for the school’s reputation. Figures should also be available regarding the median salary of recent graduates. Compare all of these statistics at all of the colleges and technical schools that you are considering, and this should give you some indication of relative quality.
Good luck with your continued education, and thank you for your service to our country!
Edited to add: I have confirmed that Toyota/Lexus is one of the foreign manufacturers that sponsors one of these programs. Just as a sample, here is a link to a program at one of the community colleges in my state that offers “generic”, plus GM-sponsored, and Toyota/Lexus-sponsored automotive programs:
Why have the “having a degree/certification means you are incompetent” crowd not spoken up? That was the conclusion from many when I was suggesting using the ASE test prep books as a learning tool. I have used trade school training,community college training,ASE training,Dealer training and the training you get just by working long hours. I feel they compliment each other rather than generating the “you are book smart but can’t do the job lable” because I am book smart and I can do the job.
I am pushing for my community college to develope a dedicated OBD2 course, perhaps they could drop the small engine repair course to make room for it. A 3 credit hour course in small engine repair is prerequisite for the AA in Automotive Technology. The class wasn’t totally useless but I think OBD2 training is more relevent.
Good info, VDC, from someone who knows. I took a welding course at my local community college, and walked through the auto classroom every time. Lots of good, up to date equipment, and it never seemed overcrowded. I always get a bad feeling when I see those glossy ads for the for-profits schools.
I heard it before too. You cant get nowhere with a degree. Look at my boss; he makes three times what I make and I wouldn’t trust him to pack the wheel bearings on a baby carriage. Then there’s this one: Why should I exercise? I ain’t no afflete!
In the healthcare community, UTI indicates Urinary Tract Infection.
Thanks for the reply! I appreciate the thought you put into it.
I have no misconceptions that the advertised and commercial for profit trade schools might not always have my best educational interest in mind. I will look into the community college programs in my area. I assume that I should look for something that will produce an ASE certification. Now, that being said, it seems like I will have to make a judgment call as to the quality of the program.
So it appears that the answer to my original question about the “best” school would be a yes and that it may or may not be in my own back yard. Thanks for the insight. Its a hard transition for someone to make coming out of the military under normal circumstances, but this economy makes it even more so. Thanks for your help.
Any way you might make the rounds of the car dealer service departments and quiz the service managers about where they like to go to hire mechanics?
As a former Ase certified L1 master tech, I would recommend reconsidering. You have to buy your own tools $$$, pay is usually low if hourly, and if you get paid book time you are always racing the clock. You get no respect from most employers, the “technician shortage” is a joke. The best place I worked for pay and benefits and shop condition was Carmax, but it was the worst company as far as being screwed.
The work itself can be interesting at times if you are doing diagnostics, however you don’t make money diagnosing, you make money doing the mind numbing brake work ( I HATE brake work, I have done enough of it for one lifetime) and other repetitive services.
I finally got out of it after 7 years and it was the best decision I have ever made. I am now an apprentice lineman, and in my first year I make more than I did as a tech considering there are no tool bills, I have great insurance and we get respect at work. Work ends at 4pm every night and anything over 40 hours is time and a half, Sundays and holidays are double time. Mechanics don’t usually get overtime if they are commission.
I made about 40k-57k a year turning wrenches, Not to brag on myself but I was a very skilled very successful tech who knew how to play the game (No, I never ripped off customers, if your a tech you know what I mean), less skilled make less. As a lineman I will make 80k a year once I reach journeyman status, That’s not a lot of money for a white collar professional, but for a schlubb like me 80k a year is a decent living, All it takes is one big mistake and your dead, but the same goes for driving.
Sincere thanks for your service to our country. You can hold your head up proudly for the rest of your life.
This is a tough one. The “MIT” of automotive schools is a design school in California, but I’ve been reading that their grads are finding no openings with little hope for the future.
The market is flooded with out of work design engineers. You may not want to even consider going that route. The “glory days” of being an engineer are largely over.
Your local community college should have an automotive technologies degree program to learn wrench turning. You may hav courses from your bachelors that can transfer to meet the math course requirements. Their Admissions Counselors will help you there. Their Veteran’s Affairs officer will help you with your GI Bill processing.
The key to a higher paying job as a tech is in the ASE certifications. The more areeas you’re certified in is the more your market value is.
Yes, you’ll need to buy a tool chest with tools worth about $4K to even begin the program, but most colleges offering sutomotive technologies have deals with companies like Snap-On that provide huge discounts to matriculated students. In many cases the tools will cost you less than 1/2 of their retail price.
Th good news is the industry is relatively secure. It won’t be outsourced. We cannot send our cars to China to get them diagnosed and fixed.
You have a lot of years ahead of you to work. If this is what you want, pursue it.
Haven’t you been reading all the grief I have been taking because I promote ASE certification? Promiment members of the Forum equate ASE certification with incompetence. Take a look at the “composite vehicle” thread I started, you will see some Forum members view on ASE’s.
If it’s someone’s position that there does not exist a direct relationshi between ASE certs and market value, I guess I’ll have to disagree.
Whether certs are a true indication of competance is a whole 'nother question. I happen to believe that while they’re far from a guarantee they’re better than nothing at all. At least the holder has passed SOME testing by a third party accrediting agency. I believe in the system, as imperfect as it may be.
I support certofication. I’m with you on that one.