Career Path: Diesel Mechanic

Who is usually the most popular guy in the neighborhood? A mechanic!

If you are looking for a career that could be more than just a job and pays great reward with some old-fashioned “sweat equity,” then being a diesel mechanic might be the perfect profession for you.

What are the pros?

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, produced by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of diesel service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow by 12% from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

As more freight is shipped across the country, additional diesel-powered trucks will be needed to carry freight where trains and pipelines are not available or economical. Additionally, diesel cars and light trucks are becoming more popular, and more diesel technicians will be needed to maintain and repair these vehicles.

What about the cons?

While not exactly a con, a career as a diesel mechanic requires a commitment to lifelong learning. Since technology never stops evolving, keeping up with new developments is absolutely critical if you are to succeed as a diesel technician. Those who do not may find themselves relegated to oil changes, and little else, for the rest of their careers. People who enjoy learning and are willing to invest time in continuing education may be best suited for this job.

What’s the pay like?

In May 2015, the Occupational Outlook Handbook reported that the median annual wage for diesel service technicians and mechanics was $44,520. The lowest 10% earned less than $28,680 and the highest 10% earned more than $66,940.

Median annual wage by industry:

  • $51,870 – State and local government
  • $45,480 – Wholesale trade
  • $41,540 – Automotive repair and maintenance
  • $40,650 – Truck transportation

Many diesel technicians, especially those employed by truck fleet dealers and repair shops, receive a commission in addition to their base salary. Most diesel technicians work full-time, and overtime is common, as many repair shops extend their service hours during evenings and weekends. Additionally, some truck and bus repair shops provide 24-hour maintenance and repair services.

What does a typical day on the job look like?

Diesel technicians and mechanics work in a variety of settings, including car dealerships, trucking companies, private garages, and even government agencies. Technicians are responsible for keeping diesel engines in good shape, and this involves regular inspections, routine service, repairs, and occasionally may even require full engine rebuilds.

What qualifications are needed?

This is a job for those who are mechanically inclined, love working with their hands, and enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together. Diesel technicians usually start their careers by earning a professional certificate in diesel technology. Many technical schools and community colleges offer these programs, some of which enable you to earn an associate degree. Programs tend to mix hands-on teaching with conventional classroom learning and typically include courses in hydraulic applications, diesel electronics and diagnosis, diesel engines and repair, and fuel systems, among others.  There are also specialized programs within the field of diesel technology such as marine diesel technology.

So if you are ready to get your hands dirty and start a rewarding career, your future is literally in your hands!

Written by Cynthia Payton