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Diesel Mechanic

Are you fascinated by large vehicles? Do you love working on hands-on projects? Ever wonder what it would be like to repair commercial trucks, buses, or massive pieces of machinery? If you answered yes to any of the above, becoming a diesel mechanic might be an attractive career path.
Career Overview*
  • Median Salary$58,306
  • Career Outlook16% growth through 2026
  • Certifications Required

While being a diesel mechanic is similar to being an auto mechanic, there are a few differences which you will see below!

Diesel mechanics have the chance to work with a wide array of clients and in various environments. Many machines use diesel engines, so there are plenty of work opportunities for qualified diesel mechanics.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to become a diesel mechanic. We’ll cover the required education, qualifications, licenses, and more. 

What Does A Diesel Mechanic Do?

A diesel mechanic is responsible for inspecting and repair vehicles and machinery that use diesel engines. A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses heavily compressed air to ignite the fuel. Some vehicles that use diesel engines include large trucks, buses, and construction vehicles.

While their main focus is working on diesel engines, diesel mechanics have a wide range of responsibilities. Most diesel mechanics work at repair shops or onsite at company warehouses.

The average pay of diesel mechanics in the United States is $22 per hour.  

Key Responsibilities

  • Identifying and repairing diesel engine and mechanical issues
  • Inspecting machines and other systems
  • Working with batteries
  • Examining and repairing wheels
  • Replacing broken parts
  • Maintaining the condition of current parts 

Keep in mind that these are just examples—a diesel mechanic’s duties and responsibilities vary between different industries and worksites. The type of vehicle being worked on also plays a significant role.

If you want to be a successful diesel mechanic, you’re going to need to wear several different hats. The job requires you to have specific essential skills to complete assignments on time and correctly. Below is a list of the most vital skills and qualities:

  • Knowledge of Motors: It might seem obvious, but you need to have a solid education in motor technology and a general love for engines to be a good diesel mechanic. Knowing the inner workings of diesel engines will help pave your way to becoming one of the best diesel mechanics in your area.
  • Communication: Like most jobs, having good verbal communication skills is crucial. Not all your clients know the industry as well as you do. You’ll need to be able to communicate problems and solutions with your clients effectively. 
  • Following Directions: During your first few years on the job, you’ll likely be working under a master-level mechanic. To eventually reach that level in your career, you need to know how to follow directions and execute orders. Otherwise, advancing in your career as a diesel mechanic will be quite challenging. 
  • Problem Solving: Without a doubt, your ability to solve problems on the spot will determine how successful you are as a diesel mechanic. Some projects might be similar, but there will be a time you’re faced with an entirely new challenge. When this occurs, you’ll need to put on your thinking cap to get the job done.
  • Team Player: Since you’ll likely be working with a team of mechanics, it’s essential to know how to work well with others. This includes being able to communicate, take orders, and occasionally receive criticism about your job performance. 
  • Physical Fitness: You don’t need to be a seasoned athlete to be a good diesel mechanic. However, the job does require you to maintain a certain level of fitness. Diesel mechanics often work in confined spaces and need to lift heavy pieces of equipment. 
  • Having Workplace Flexibility: There will be times when you need to work extra hours or pay special attention to a particular task. Often, you’ll need to be able to multitask to get projects done on time. As a result, you need to be extremely flexible in the workplace.

Becoming A Diesel Mechanic

Choosing where you’re going to learn all the essential skills to become a diesel mechanic should be taken seriously. Whichever school you choose could make or break your experience as a diesel mechanic. Here are a few things you should consider before choosing a school:

  • Hands-on Training. Getting the right amount of hands-on training will determine what kind of position you’ll land after school. Many top schools have up-to-date garages containing all the necessary tools you need to master your trade. Make sure your school offers top-notch training to students.
  • Accreditation. While it might seem obvious, you want to find a school that is recognized and compliant with the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. 
  • Facility Quality. Whenever possible, try and schedule a tour to view the school in person. It’s important to make sure the facility is well-kept and contains all the right equipment you’ll need for gaining real-world experience. 
  • Student Testimonials. Try and connect with real students who’ve attended the school and see what they have to say. Most people are willing to provide valuable feedback about their school and whether or not it’s a good fit for you. 
  • Career opportunities. Some schools are suitable for specific career paths. As a result, you want to keep your eyes open for the potential career opportunities you’ll have upon graduating. If you already know which area you want to work as a diesel mechanic, find a school that offers the best programs for that particular field.  

Educational Recommendations & Requirements

As a diesel mechanic, your success will hinge on certain certifications. The first step towards getting certified is graduating high school or getting your GED. If you want to get a head start in your career, opt for a few technical classes at your high school for early exposure to the industry.

Next, you have two main options for higher education if you want to become a diesel mechanic, obtaining an associate degree or completing a certification program (stay tuned). Whichever route you choose to take, there are likely facilities in your area that offer options—and if not, there are online programs.

Once you’re certified, it’s best to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). This license allows you to operate trucks, buses, and other commercial vehicles you’ll be working with during your career as a diesel mechanic. If you want to diagnose diesel engine problems accurately, you need to know how to use one.

Additionally, getting a CDL will tremendously increase your chances of getting hired. Many students obtain their CDL while taking classes so that they are ready to start working as soon as they finish school.

Training Recommendations

The mechanic industry relies heavily on training. With that in mind, it’s best to get a job working in a garage while attending school to obtain some additional training. Future employers will appreciate the hands-on experience.

Working while you are studying is also a great way to save time. You’ll be ready to work from day one after graduation. You can find jobs at local diesel garages and network with other people in the industry. They can give you real insights as to what it’s like to work as a diesel mechanic.

Diesel Certifications & Licenses

There’s a wide selection of certifications to choose from if you want to be a diesel mechanic, most of which are offered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). To give you a better idea, here’s a list of some of the primary fields you can obtain certification for:

  • Automobiles
  • Collision repair
  • Truck equipment
  • Commercial buses
  • School buses
  • Medium trucks
  • Heavy trucks

Each of these fields has different exam requirements. If you want a master-level certificate, you’ll need to take anywhere from three to eight tests. Many certification programs also require a certain number of apprenticeship work hours. If you already know what field you want to choose, research the requirements carefully before making any decisions.

It’s strongly recommended that you take a practice test before your exam so that you know what to expect. Fortunately, there are over 450 licensing centers in the United States, so getting your hands on test material isn’t challenging. You can even find a wide range of study guides online.

Average Salary For Diesel Mechanics

The national average diesel mechanic salary in the United States is $58,306 per year. Salary ranges differ depending on employment location, experience, skills, and what kind of certifications you have. The best way to ensure you get the best salary possible is to complete all the necessary certifications and pursue higher education, like an associate degree.

Job Outlook For Diesel Mechanics

The diesel mechanic industry is growing, likely due to growth in other industries, such as eCommerce (transportation relies heavily on diesel engines). The job market for diesel mechanics is expected to grow by 16% between 2016 until 2026, which is much faster than the current 7% industry average.

We’ve already mentioned that the diesel mechanic industry is growing. It’s a top choice for those thinking about getting into a career in auto mechanics. Those with post-secondary education have the best chances of getting the best employment opportunities.

The entire world practically runs on diesel. Whether it’s repairing construction equipment or working on the trucks that transport our food, diesel mechanics are needed to make sure our society functions properly. As a result, there are almost infinite career opportunities upon completing your education and initial training. 

Here are some of the most popular career paths you can take after completing your diesel mechanics training:

  • General Diesel Mechanic. While this might seem obvious, becoming a general diesel mechanic is a great choice. The responsibilities of a diesel mechanic (also called a diesel technician) include constructing, repairing, and servicing vehicles and machinery that run on diesel. Students who wish to become a general diesel mechanic should focus their studies on a diesel system’s anatomy. You may end up working at an auto repair shop, an agricultural company, or a military installation.
  • Diesel Locomotive Technician. Do you like trains? Why not work on one?As you might have guessed, diesel locomotive technicians work on repairing and constructing diesel engines for locomotives. You might also be responsible for testing engines and other safety features, such as brakes and other components. Diesel locomotive technicians almost always work for railroad companies.
  • Fleet Mechanic. If you are attracted to more oversized up-scale vehicles, becoming a fleet mechanic might be the best choice. Fleet mechanics generally work with massive fleets of government or commercial vehicles (mainly trucks) and have a wide range of responsibilities. Diesel mechanics that choose this specialty rarely see a shortage of work opportunities, but only the best of the best succeed in this niche. 
  • Heavy Equipment Specialist. Don’t find vehicles that interesting? Luckily, you aren’t limited to just working with trains and trucks. One of the largest employment sectors for diesel mechanics is in heavy equipment maintenance. These diesel mechanics generally work on construction sites, factories, and government facilities. You’ll need extensive job training to get into this field, but it’s well worth it considering all the employment opportunities.
  • Agricultural Mechanic. Do you long for the great outdoors? If you have a green thumb and a knack for mechanics, becoming an agricultural mechanic would be an excellent path for you. In this field, diesel mechanics have particular knowledge about specific pieces of equipment and vehicles related to farm work. You would generally be working in the private sector or for a government organization. 

As you can see already, there are several options and career opportunities for those wishing to become a diesel mechanic. All you need to do is think about your goals and choose a career path that aligns accordingly. 

The national average diesel mechanic salary in the United States is $58,306 per year. Salary ranges differ depending on employment location, experience, skills, and what kind of certifications you have. The best way to ensure you get the best salary possible is to complete all the necessary certifications and pursue higher education, like an associate degree.

Pros & Cons Of Being A Diesel Mechanic

Now that you have a good understanding of what a diesel mechanic does we can talk about the pros and cons of this career to help you decide if it is right for you.

PROS

  • Steady income. Diesel mechanics make good money, and there’s a high demand for both experts and entry-level technicians. 
  • You have access to a wide range of career opportunities. Since diesel engines are used in various industries, the career paths are almost endless.
  • You don’t need to obtain any student loan debt. Since a college degree isn’t required to become a diesel mechanic, you don’t need to spend money going to college. With that in mind, having an associate degree in diesel mechanics will help you get a better job.

CONS

  • It’s dirty work. Diesel work is much messier than everyday auto repair work. You’re always dealing with grease, exhaust dust, and other compounds.
  • Diesel vehicles often come from several different manufacturers. Sometimes finding the information that you need to complete a job can be frustrating.
  • You need to undergo extensive training and years of experience before starting your career.
  • Your work hours may fluctuate widely. There might be times where you need to start early in the morning and won’t finish until late at night.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about this career. If you have other questions that are not listed here – please email us or leave a comment below and we will be sure to add it!

What Are The Physical Work Conditions For A Diesel Mechanic?

The work conditions will vary between jobs and career choice. As a diesel mechanic, you can expect to be exposed to heavy vibrations. You also might come into contact with harmful equipment, materials, and conditions that come with a risk of injury. Diesel mechanics often find themselves working both indoors and outdoors, as well. You’ll likely be on your back or may have to stand in an awkward stance for prolonged periods during projects. You might be required to climb to high areas of the vehicle or equipment to undergo repairs. In addition to all the above, you can expect to work around loud noises. Many diesel mechanics eventually struggle with hearing loss. Protective gear is highly recommended but not always possible if you need to hear team members.

What Are The Hours Like For A Diesel Mechanic?

Depending on the job, working hours are typically inconsistent. Standard diesel mechanics usually have a 40-hour workweek. You might be required to travel for work to find the necessary equipment for the job. 

What Are The Most Important Skills For A Diesel Mechanic To Have?

We’ve covered that diesel mechanics require a wide array of essential skills to have a successful career. Some of the most critical skills are working with mechanical engines, working in tightly confined spaces, and physical fitness. However, depending on the career path, you might need to master more specialized skills.

Thinking About Becoming a Diesel Mechanic?

Without a doubt, becoming a diesel mechanic is an excellent choice for anyone looking to enter the auto repair industry. There are numerous employment opportunities, and the pay is steady. You also don’t need to spend four years at a university to get started.

Even so, becoming a certified diesel mechanic won’t be easy, but with the right school and resources, you’ll have everything you need to become a master in your field. Now that you know how to become a diesel mechanic, want to give it a shot? Fill out the form below to access the resources you’ll need to get started. 

*Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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