Diesel mechanics are an integral part of our national economy. They repair cranes and other heavy-duty equipment required to complete construction projects. They maintain ferries, cruise liners, and fishing boats. They even work on school buses so our children can get to school and be educated. One of the biggest perks of being a diesel mechanic is the barrier to entry is relatively low and the average diesel mechanic salary is very high considering the job requires only a high school diploma or GED.
No matter what stage you are at in life, it is not too early or late to consider a career in diesel mechanics. If you are taking an automotive mechanic class in high school, you can look at trade schools or vocational schools with six or twelve-month programs. You may also choose to go straight to work once you graduate. Find out today what it takes to be a diesel mechanic, the average diesel mechanic salary and much more in this comprehensive guide.
What Is a Diesel Mechanic?
Diesel mechanics are responsible for the repairs, maintenance and overall care necessary to keep diesel vehicles running. This includes bulldozers, trucks, boats, and buses. They may work in well-ventilated indoor shops or outdoor shops exposed to elements such as extreme heat and humidity or cold and aridity. They may specialize in inspecting and overhauling one vehicle such as a school bus or certain truck brand. Typical employers and industries include federal, state and local governments, mass transit, freight trucking and vehicle wholesaling. Many people choose this career because of the entry requirements and the diesel mechanic salary.
Education and Training
Education requirements will differ from employer to employer. Federal government agencies, for example, may have stricter standards than the family-owned boat repair shop in your town. Entry-level positions typically require no more than a high school diploma. If competition is fierce in your local area, look at attending a college or university that offers certificate programs or Associate’s degrees with a specialization in diesel mechanics. Trade or vocational schools may offer more hands-on training and cost a lot less. Look for programs that teach you systems such as the vehicle’s fuel and electrical system and become familiar with the diagnostic software. More vehicles than ever are computerized and can self-diagnose if you know how to read the reports.
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE, has been certifying mechanics for over 30 years. Passing an ASE exam specifically for diesel vehicles and heavy equipment proves you have the overall knowledge of systems and the quick recall of the smallest important details necessary to excel in your career. Ask your employer if they will pay for your exam. There are eight parts to the medium and heavy truck tests – gasoline engines, diesel engines, drive train, brakes, suspension and steering, electrical and electronic systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and preventative maintenance inspection.
Diesel mechanics must be physically fit as they must work and move quickly, sometimes lifting heavy machinery without the assistance of special equipment. They must have excellent recall to quickly and efficiently diagnose problems without having to consult manuals and other resources constantly. They must have great dexterity as sometimes they will need to fit tools into tight, cramped spaces. In addition, they need to be both physically and mentally flexible, using their vast knowledge to think quickly on their feet.
They sometimes have higher education but often receive all their training on-the-job. New and renewing certifications are often paid for by their employers. These professionals must have great attention to detail and understand both the technical and mechanical workings of diesel vehicles. They must also be comfortable with computer software used to diagnose and precisely repair these vehicles. Finally, customer service is a necessary skill. You want customers to continue patronizing your employer’s business, so you have to be friendly and personable. It can be frustrating for a customer when he or she has an expensive or time-consuming repair looming. A friendly, knowledgeable, trustworthy diesel mechanic will go a long way in easing their worries.
To earn the average diesel mechanic salary you must have certain core competencies. These include complying with EPA and safety procedures as well as learning and applying cutting-edge technology to diagnose and repair the most advanced motors. You must maintain an accurate inventory of supplies and tools whether you provide those on-the-job yourself or your employer provides them for you. You must also know how to troubleshoot and repair each kind of diesel engine vehicle and perform basic preventative maintenance. If you specialize in one type of diesel vehicle, you pigeonhole yourself and lose the opportunity to advance your career.
More important than the average diesel mechanic salary is job security and the ability to enter the field. As of 2016, there were 278,800 jobs in the diesel mechanic field. By 2026, 25,800 jobs are expected to be added. Technology is always changing and is a key component to diagnosing, troubleshooting and repairing vehicles. If you can afford it, go to a technical school to learn all about the innovative technology being used in vehicles today to give you an edge on your competition.
Similar to diesel mechanics and service technicians, aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians made an average of $61,260 in 2017. To work in this field, you must attend a Part 147 FAA-approved aviation maintenance technician school earning at least an Associate’s degree. Then you must pass the FAA exams. Finally, you must earn an A or P certification for airframe mechanics (bodywork) or engine work (power plant mechanics). Some employers may require both A and P ratings. To qualify for these certifications, you must have at least 30 months of related experience.
Automotive body and glass repairers need only a high school diploma or GED and in 2017 had a median pay of $40,580. Similarly, heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians require only a high school diploma and had a median pay of $49,440. Automotive service technicians and mechanics require at least an Associate’s degree but the average pay was only $39,550 per year. Small engine mechanics made only $35,990 per year on average and minimum education for an entry-level position is a high school diploma. Certain employers may require at least an Associate’s degree and a certificate from the Equipment & Engine Training Council.
Diesel Mechanic Salary for Beginners
The average diesel mechanic salary for beginners is $17.38 per hour which works out to $40,812 per year. Furthermore, the average additional compensation for entry-level positions is bonuses worth $1,004, profit sharing worth $1,011 and a commission worth $3,744 per year. The bottom 10% of earners made $24,000 or less for the year while the top 10% of earners made over $65,000 before any other additional compensation.
Here is the diesel mechanic salary range excluding benefits such as health, vision, life, dental, unemployment and long and short-term disability insurance.
Diesel Mechanic Salary by Location
Seattle starts entry-level diesel mechanics on salaries that are around 32% above the national average. Chicago pays 31% above the national average. On the flip-side, Cleveland pays diesel mechanics 18% below the national median while Orlando pays 16% less than the national average.
Salary by Specialty
If you live on the coast, you may have considered working on yachts, marine equipment or ships. This could include troubleshooting, repairing and performing preventative maintenance on government water vehicles or working on boats privately owned by companies or individuals. Most work is performed outside on the docks or at the marina. Inland water transportation mechanics make on average $53,830 per year while ship and boat-building mechanics make only $37,350 per year.
Working on road construction equipment pays $43,820 per year, but you often have to travel to construction sites. There is a lot of responsibility as if something breaks the entire project or a major part of it can be halted. Farm equipment mechanics work on dairy and irrigation systems as well as harvesters and tractors. Due to the rural areas where people farm, the average pay is $36,150 per year but your dollar will go further there because the cost of living is lower. If you specialize in a specific industry, you can earn an average of $50,120 per year.
Diesel mechanics are a vital part of our society. Many crucial elements of our infrastructure require diesel engines. The average diesel mechanic salary depends on several factors including industry, geographical location and experience. However, the only education required for entry-level positions is a high school diploma or equivalent. You may choose secondary education such as certification from a trade school or an Associate’s degree from a college. However, you can learn everything you need to through in-depth, carefully supervised on-the-job training. To be successful, you need great customer service skills and the ability to think quickly on your feet, recall tiny details and work with ever-changing technology. If you want a career with a great salary, minimal barrier to entry, and the opportunity to help people every day look into starting your career as a diesel mechanic.