Automotive Employment Outlook

More jobs on the way and more responsibility

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, career opportunities in the automotive industry will be growing at or above average for the next decade. Overall, these jobs aren't expected to be as affected by potential economic downturns as some other industries.

Automotive service technician

Most automotive technicians and mechanics work more than 40 hours each week - including evening and weekend shifts. In 2004 there were over 800,000 mechanics and automotive service technicians working in the U.S., a number that's expected to rise more than average through the next decade. Most people entering the workforce in this position can expect steady work. There are also a relatively high proportion of self-employed technicians (16 percent in 2004).

Where mechanics will find work

More job openings will come as older technicians (often more experienced) retire. Automobile dealerships and independent repair shops will make up most of the growing job market. Small retail businesses offering specific repairs (oil change, brakes) will also be an area of job growth. Gas station positions will decrease as fewer stations continue to offer repairs. Of course that doesn't at all mean that automotive repair school is a bad idea! Read on.

Automotive service technician wages

Often technicians working with dealerships or independent shops earn a commission on the labor costs paid by the customer. The amount of work done weekly will correspond to the technician's take-home pay. In a busy shop mechanics on commission can make above average money, while the opposite is true for slow periods. Many employers will guarantee a minimum salary each week.

  • Median hourly earnings including commission - $15.60
  • Middle 50 percent - $11.31 to $20.75
  • Top 10 percent - over $26.22
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $8.70 Median earnings by industry
  • Local government - $38,160
  • Automobile dealers - $38,060
  • Automotive repair and maintenance - $28,810
  • Gasoline stations - $28,030
  • Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores - $27,180

Auto body technician

A 40-hour week is normal for auto body technicians although some work longer. There were almost 225,000 auto body technicians in 2004 with one of every 10 specialized in auto glass repair and installation. Growth is expected to be average and not highly affected by changes in the economy. Self-employment is fairly common in the auto body field, with more than one in every five technicians acting as their own boss.

Where auto body technicians will find work

The majority of new job openings will be due to the retirement or job change of experienced auto body techs. Auto body, interior, paint and glass repair businesses will account for most available positions.

Auto body technician wages

Incentive pay is a common way for independent shops and dealers to pay body repair workers. Different jobs have a set rate and the employee is paid based on how many jobs they complete. Many employers will guarantee a minimum salary. In companies that maintain their own vehicles, body workers are generally paid hourly.

  • Median hourly earnings including incentive pay - $16.68
  • Middle 50 percent - $12.55 to $22.04
  • Top 10 percent – over $28.45
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $9.42 Automotive glass installer and repairer wages
  • Median hourly earnings including incentive pay - $13.45
  • Middle 50 percent - $10.36 to $17.04
  • Top 10 percent – over $20.63
  • Bottom 10 percent - under $8.53

Sales and business management

Automobile dealer salespeople can expect to make significantly higher median wages than most others in the sales industry at $18.61. In addition, those on the management end will make substantially higher wages depending on the size of the shop and the amount of business it carries out.

Fixed operations

Counter clerks at automobile dealerships can expect the high end of wages for their category, about $17.87 per hour. Automotive equipment rental and leasing counter jobs pay around $10.42. Collision repair estimators working for insurance companies as damage appraisers can expect a median annual salary of $45,330, with the top 10 percent earning over $63,000 and the bottom 10 percent earning under $27,000.

Statistics courtesy the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2004