Essential Info: How Much Do Mechanics Make Across The U.S.

If you are taking a mechanic's class in high school and are considering trade school or jumping straight into the job market when you graduate, you may wonder, "how much do mechanics make?" Depending on the type of work that interests you, the job outlook is significantly better than average. so this may be a great career choice for you.

While you may be interested in becoming a mechanic, we all have to make enough to support our desired lifestyle. Keep reading to find out how much mechanics make based on career path, job outlook, and where to live to have the best shot at making money.

Auto Mechanics Training & Certification

The largest factor in the question of how much do mechanics make is what they work on specifically, but certifications and training can go a long way in boosting your salary. Training may occur at junior colleges or vocational school, or it also may occur through a high school program. Higher education institutions offer diplomas, certificates, and associate degree programs in everything from diesel repair to automotive technology.

Introductory courses start out universally with control systems, electronic circuits, and blueprint readings. This is critical in newer-model cars because they are jam-packed with technology that older vehicles do not have. Intermediate and advanced classes will depend on which niche in the field you wish to break into. On-the-job training is often had by routine work such as replacing batteries, greasing parts, and changing filters.

Certification

Some mechanic career paths may be a little harder to break into. Mitigate this issue by acquiring voluntary certifications such as those offered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Not only are you more likely to get a desirable job, you are also likely to command a higher starting pay rate. You may even get a bump in pay if you get certifications once you are employed. If you want to work on aircraft, look into power plant mechanics or FAA airframe certifications.

Career Path & Outlook

Perhaps more importantly than the question "how much do mechanics make" is "how much education is required to be successful and how does the job market look?" Here is the job market outlook for certain types of mechanics:

Automotive Mechanic

How much do mechanics make working on cars? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they make a median of $37,850 per year. However, the barrier to entry is marginal. You only need a high school diploma, and your can substitute on-the-job training even for this.

For example, many high school mechanic programs allow you to work for a real car dealership making excellent money before you even graduate. Licensure and certifications are required, but a good employer will pay for these on your behalf. The projected job growth between 2014 and 2024 is only 5%.

Bus and Truck Mechanic

Similar to an automotive mechanic, bus and truck mechanics require only a high school diploma or on-the-job training. However, the projected job opportunity growth rate is 12%, including for diesel engine specialists. The median annual salary is $44,520 and additional certification is optional.

Aircraft Mechanic

The requirements to be an aircraft mechanic are just as loose as all the other types of mechanics' positions, but the median salary is $58,370. You may choose between on-the-job training or an FAA-approved training program, and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) certification is not required. However, landing this job is going to be tougher due to the fact that projected job growth over the next decade is being estimated at only 1%.

Industrial Machinery Mechanic

There is an 18% projected job growth rate for industrial machinery mechanics, with no licensure or certification requirements; only a high school diploma is required along with on-the-job training. The median salary is just under $50,000. This is the best field to get into due to the low barrier of entry, excellent job opportunities, and high median salary.

How Much Do Mechanics Make across the U.S.?

The answer to "how much do mechanics make" depends on a variety of factors, including job experience, education, any additional skills you have, if you keep your certifications current, geographical location, and whether you are working for a body shop or a car dealership.

How Much Do Mechanics Make: The Highest Paying States

Here are the five best states for you to live in if you want to make a career out of auto mechanics:

Washington, D.C.

$64,560

Alaska

$54,440

Maryland

$47,100

New Jersey

$47,010

California

$46,650

These are just the median numbers. You can make much more depending on which company you work for. Furthermore, you want to pick a state with a low COL (cost of living) so your dollar stretches further. Fuel, housing and healthcare will be more expensive in California than Alaska, for example. Use a cost-of-living calculator to determine how much you will need to make to support your lifestyle in any state you are considering living in.

Aircraft mechanics make a median wage of $26.25 hourly assuming a 2,080-hour work year. Industrial machinery mechanics make an average of $23.89 hourly. The bottom 10% of automotive mechanics make $10.11 per hour. How much do mechanics make if they work on cars, but are in the top 10% of earners? They make $30.45 per hour or more, compared to the average of $18.20 per hour.

Finally, bus and truck mechanics make a median of $21.40 hourly with the middle 50% of earners making between $16.96 and $26.90 per hour. These may include local government jobs, auto repair, and maintenance shops or freight trucking jobs.

How Much Do Mechanics Make: The Best Paying Cities

Here is how much mechanics make by highest paying cities in the country:

Fairbanks, Alaska

$57,420

San Francisco

$55,890

Anaheim, California

$54,720

Ann Arbor, Michigan

$54,620

San Jose, California

$53,620

It is not hard to commute from a lower cost-of-living town to a large city for work. However, consider the income tax the state charges you and property taxes if you plan on owning a home.

How Much Do Mechanics Make: Te Best Paying Fields

Here are the highest paying fields for mechanics:

  • Telecommunications
  • Natural gas distribution
  • Electric power generation
  • Transmission and distribution
  • Couriers and express delivery services
  • Scientific research and development services

Land a job in one of these top paying fields and expect to earn a median salary of over $52,120 per year. Work in a less-desirable field and you may earn less than $28,140.

How Are Mechanics Paid?

The question "how much do mechanics make an hour" is a little flawed. This is because they are paid by billable hours. You may have a project that takes you 10 hours to complete. However, if the project is only quoted at 2 billable hours, you only get paid your hourly rate times two. For example, if you made $25 per hour, you would be paid $50 for this 10-hour project.

By the same token, if changing transmission fluid is billed as a one-hour job, but it takes you 15 minutes, congratulations! You just earned a rate of $100 per hour for your work. If this hard-to-predict cash flow does not suit you, look for an employer that lets you get paid a in salaried terms.

In California, there is protection for this called "unapplied time" where you get paid for the time you are at the shop even if you are not working on a car. In other states, you may earn a percentage of the shop's daily earnings based on how many hours you work. Look for a business that will pay you an hourly rate for when you are in the shop, plus a higher rate for when you complete billable hours.

Conclusion

Luckily, the job outlook for mechanics projected over the next 10 years looks solid. The highest paying fields for mechanics include natural gas distribution and electric power generation. The trouble with working as an auto mechanic is the pay can be unsteady depending on where you work and which company you work for.

To mitigate this, look for an employer who will allow you to take an "advance on your paycheck." In other words, you borrow from your future earnings during slow weeks to even out cash flow. If you make a weekly minimum, such as $1,000, you get the entire thing. However, if you make $900 this week, you can still get paid $1,000. Next week, when you earn $1,150, you only get paid $1,050 because you took out a paycheck advance.

The bottom line is, if you want to be a mechanic you are looking at a great career path: but choose the state you work in wisely. A higher paycheck may not equal a higher quality of life because of factors such as taxes and cost of living. To command a higher-than-average pay, take additional training and certification courses to give you a leg up against your competition.

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