Should I continue my education with an AA degree after earning two autotech certs from my school?

Hi. I’m a current tech’s apprentice at a small shop and I hold two certs (the only two the school offers) from my local community college’ autotech program. I want to become a master BMW technician and I’m thinking about continuing my education with an associate’s degree in autotech. The only problem is I’m currently working full time to earn ASE certification and due to state budget cuts, the autotech program is being slashed in half. I’m worried that if I do not pursue the degree now, I will not be able to earn it next year or so. It also take up a lot of my time and money. Very few students at my school continue onto the AA degree.
Is an AA degree worth the effort and will it stand out on my resume when I’m applying to dealerships? Maybe just the two certs are good enough. I don’t know and I’m wondering if there’s any BMW master techs or service managers who could give me their opinions. Would the time and effort towards the AA degree be worth it in the long run? Thanks.

You have to decide what’s important to you and what you really want. While there are no guarantees in life, if I were you, I would pursue as much education as possible. Here’s my reasoning:

  • The odds that you’ll physically be able to do auto mechanics work or that you’ll want to, will decrease as you get older.

  • As hard as it seems, there is no easier time for you to continue your education than now.

  • When you say “Very few students continue onto the next AA degree”, that’s your opportunity to stand out and be more valuable to future employers.

Forty years ago I was in your exact shoes, (with a 2-yr auto program certificate) and after working in dealerships for a few years, I gave it my all to continue my education. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

+1 for @JoeMario.

Only thing I’d add is to be careful where you go, many ‘for profit’ schools are good at taking your money or arranging a very expensive loan, bad at giving you a good education. If the AA degree is from the community college, then it could well be a good idea.

many 'for profit' schools are good at taking your money or arranging a very expensive loan, bad at giving you a good education. If the AA degree is from the community college, then it could well be a good idea.

Couldn’t agree more. As a hiring manager I’ve interviewed a few people from the for profit colleges (University of Phoenix). Their degree in computer science was a complete joke. From the people I interviewed they were way way behind other college graduates with a BS degree.

To answer the OP…

A good education is NEVER a waste. It may not help you immediately…but in the long run you’ll be better off.

If the AA degree program is at a legitimate school and includes basic training in business and personal money management I would strongly encourage taking advantage of it.

@AlexTH - We might be able to give you additional comments if you give us more info on the AA program, like which kind of school and the courses involved.

If you only want to be a mechanic and work on cars, the AA won’t be of much use. Work experience and the ASE certification will get you a mechanics job. An AA would only help if you were in competition for the same job with someone else that had identical experience and certifications, sort of a tie breaker.

However, if you would like to become a supervisor or even a manager over a repair department at a large dealership, an AA would be a big help. Going on for a BA in business or Industrial Technology would help even more, especially for a managerial position. Note: Industrial Technology, not Industrial Engineering. Industrial Technology is more of a business degree specializing in industrial management positions as opposed to engineering positions.

Your real education will begin when and if you hire on at a franchised car dealer… :wink:

ok brings up another point, car dealers send their mechanics to factory schools. Having a degree shows the HR manager that you are willing to go to school and learn, but your certs already do that for you.

You seem to be interested in becoming a BMW mechanic. Your best bet is to find some BMW mechanics and become friends with them. Hang around the BMW dealership if they will let you, get any job there that they have, even if just washing cars and cleaning the bathrooms, but get to know the mechanics and their supervisors.

Hit craigs list for an old beemer that you can get cheap just so you can join the “club”. Anything that would help you get a foot into the door at the dealership and anything that would make a positive impression.

It’s true that more car manufacturers are placing more emphasis on factory training schools but my point about a real education is that working for a dealer will reveal the bad things that the new employee was never told about while attending school and who had no idea such things went on.

Backstabbing politics, working on cars for free or heavily discounted due to warranty issues or a spineless service manager on a customer pay job, company policies that defy all logic, wrestling the flat rate system, etc are just a few of those things.

@ok4450 - knowing what you know now, what area would you choose if you wanted to work on cars, engines, aircraft, whatever?

I’m somewhat of a gearhead and love mechanical things. If I had it to do all over again I’d try to become a good machinist as I consider the field highly analytical and fascinating while the pay is fixed.

I have a small lathe and mill at home and do some metal work but I would never even consider rating myself as even an amateur or hack. The only thing I’ve got going is the fact that I’m a nitpicker and never satisfied with whatever I do. Doing metal work definitely opened my eyes about how complex some of that can be.

Not trying to be a downer on the idea of working for a dealer but in most cases there’s a lot of not so pleasant things going on behind the scenes in that gleaming dealership shop with a quiet hum going on. Knowing what I know now, I would never, ever, have gone to work for an automotive dealer on flat rate though.

"Your real education will begin when and if you hire on at a franchised car dealer…"
This is true in many fields, and is particularly true in education. I was a faculty member at a university for 44 years. I’ve seen back-stabbing, unscrupulous faculty taking credit for work that they did not do, etc. I’ve had this happen to me on more than one occasion. I did serve on review panels at least half a dozen times. Several times I was able to expose some shady practices in departments that were trying to force out a faculty member who was too good and made other faculty in the department jealous, and was able to save their jobs. What kept me going for all the years was that I enjoyed teaching and working with students. I turned down a position with industry at double my salary to do what I loved doing.
If you like working on cars, learn all you can. Stay out of the politics as much as possible. Job satisfaction is the most important thing.

“This is true in many fields, and is particularly true in education.”

I got a chuckle years ago when an acquaintance decided to get their PhD and teach so that they could ‘get out of all the office politics.’ Right…

Your real education will begin when and if you hire on at a franchised car dealer............. ;-)

Was it you that shared the tale of the mechanic who had to find a problem with a brand new 7 series? Wound up tearing it all apart, putting it back together and then finding out they gave the guy a new car under lemon law?

@bscar, that wasn’t me that posted that story but I remember it in general. The mechanic was a long time BMW guy who was pretty sharp and had pretty much been turned into a quivering mass of jello after spending countless hours and days trying to sort out some electrical gremlin.

If I remember correctly, the car wound up being gutted from one end to the other with the entire interior removed searching for that ghost and the mechanic’s career was pretty much finished health-wise.

I’ve got several friends who still work for dealers and have for decades. They essentially become prisoners of the system and “maybe next week will be better” snowballs until one thinks back and wonders how it all turned into decades.
A friend in Missouri was a good mechanic at 2 dealers; one a GM and the other a Chrysler. We talk on the phone once or twice a year and about 15 years ago he told his boss that he was done while giving his 2 weeks notice.
When asked what he was going to do, he said he was going back to his farmhouse and starve to death if necessary but he wasn’t turning another wrench on flat rate as long as he lived.
The boss offered him an opportunity in the parts department so he moved in there with the A/C and no grease. After a few years the parts manager retired and my friend took over that spot; with no regrets.

I’m not a mechanic by trade, but I’d totally agree with everyone that says that the more education you get, the better. But I’d also add that a lot of employers understand the balance between education and experience, and a lot are looking for real-world experience, which can only come with time. So IMHO if you can afford it, get the best education you can, but don’t necessarily expect a completely cherry job until you’ve been in the field for a little while.

The AA degree tells interviewers and your current employer you want to better yourself. Agree with Keith, it sends a message you want to manage, supervise or maybe own your own business at some point.

The AA degree tells interviewers you studied a lot

Once you get your foot in the door, you will have to prove that you actually know how to work on cars.

It all boils down to the individual’s motivation.