Today’s auto mechanics are working with computer technology that requires far more education than ever before. Auto mechanics are professionals and like all career fields, this profession certifies its workforce with certification programs. Even if you learned your way around a wrench twenty years ago and have hands-on experience, certification will up your credentials for a higher paying job. If you are a shop owner, earning credentials reinforces your legitimacy as a professional. We review several new Auto Mechanic programs, many of which are online like Penn Foster College, to compare education and training options.
What Is Penn Foster College Auto Mechanics?
Auto mechanics require significant knowledge, much of which is hands-on but some of which results from traditional classroom learning. Several colleges for auto mechanics include online coursework to help students get their classes completed quickly and efficiently, and Penn Foster College is one of them. Penn Foster College provides a range of courses and they streamline the sign-up process and fee-paying schedule.
Who Attends Online Automotive Colleges?
Online learning is a time-efficient learning method. It does not require commuting, getting to class at a certain time, getting in group projects, or buying hefty and expensive textbooks. Instead, online learning gives the student access to libraries, professors, and structured courses that are usually self-paced. The reason online learning has become so popular is that it’s more affordable and more convenient than any other method. For auto mechanics, online learning that includes videos, simulations, and labs in great preparation for learning in the shop. Beginners and experienced mechanics use online training to stay current.
Challenges of Online Education
While online learning is usually less expensive and always more convenient, for some student it presents unique challenges. It’s impossible to ask questions and get real-time replies if learning a video demonstration, for example. Some students also like interaction with other students, even briefly. Working completely independently can also be difficult as it requires adherence to a self-imposed regular schedule. Before considering an online class, be realistic about how much effort you are willing to put into keeping yourself on track.
Educational Program Details
Penn Foster College (also called Penn Foster Career School) offers a complete program that prepares individuals for ASE certification. The ASE certification is integrated within the coursework and instructional support is available throughout. Penn Foster College is a typical online program that offers 24/7 online access and textbooks are included. The program also gives up to two ASE Certification Practice Test vouchers. An additional program called Snap-On Excellence is offered along with deep discounts on Snap-On products.
Penn Foster College offers a discount for payment in full (about $750) and somewhat more if monthly automatic ($800) or monthly mail-in ($830) pay options are selected. It is about as affordable as most online auto mechanics colleges. Most colleges that teach technical subjects will allow for full pay or monthly pay because they want students to finish the coursework and expect most students to be just out of high school. Penn Foster College has staff who exclusively handle payments and who can assist in setting up a monthly pay plan.
How They Compare
We picked a few similar programs and certifications available on the market to see how they compare overall. On this list are two colleges with full ASE preparation programs and two alternative online learning methods. Costs are comparable for the two colleges: around $700 for the full program. Both colleges offer a course of study from four to six months. Considering these similarities, it can be difficult to distinguish between Penn Foster College and its near competitor, Ashworth College.
Penn Foster College Auto Mechanics
Image From Penn Foster College
This college offers diplomas in Auto Repair Tech, Small Engine Repair, Diesel Mechanics/Heavy Truck Maintenance, and Motorcycle Repair.
Between $750 and $830.
Penn Foster College offers a short, contained program that is an excellent first step toward ASE certification and offers two other options for certificates in HVAC or auto transmissions. They have been in business several years and have a substantial online presence.
This school has a standard package that is transparent; you know what you are paying for, so it’s perfect for beginning to intermediate students.
ASE Certification preparation is the only certification offered, and it still requires taking the ASE certification test. Besides prep for ASE certification testing, there are two other offerings: the Automotive HVAC Essentials Certificate and the Automotive Transmissions Essentials Certificate.
This program can be completed in as little as six months. For some students, it may take a little longer, but there is no pressure to finish in a specific time period.
Image From I-Car
I-CAR stands for Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair. If collision repair is an area of interest, this online program meets the mark in every category. I-CAR includes a professional development program that prepares students for certifications.
This training institution is among the cheapest, primarily because cost depends on how many classes the student opts to complete. Costs begin at $100 and go up from there.
The I-CAR system is a well-oiled online educational machine. By using virtual reality simulations, the course work is at the very top level. Instructors are experienced and have years of expertise.
This school, which is really more of an online hub for auto body training, has an excellent reputation.
The certification preparation is excellent but limited to knowledge of collision damage and repair, so the focus is on auto body repair. The other downside is that this program is ideal for intermediate to advanced students and doesn’t serve as an entry-level program.
Duration depends on how many classes are taken and whether certification is a goal. The student can spend as little as one month using the online resources or enroll in a comprehensive six-month program. Pricing comes on two levels: Gold Class for $38/credit hour and Standard for $46/credit hour.
Image From AshWorth College
Ashworth is a fully online auto mechanics program similar to Penn Foster College. The program offers a diploma in auto repair through use of various on-line learning platforms including interactive web-based shared student communication, one-on-one communication with professors, video instructions, and labs. This college offers job placement assistance and courses ranging from Automotive Engine Basics to Wheels and Tires. Included in the curriculum are Engine Repair, Transmission, Brakes, Steering and Suspension, and Electrical Components.
Ashworth is a private college and therefore somewhat more expensive than community college options, but with prices still in keeping with the automotive industry’s commitment to keeping training accessible to entry level students. Ashworth costs $700 for full pay, or $800 if the monthly pay option is taken. If the monthly option is the best choice, it requires only about $50 per month over sixteen months.
The program provides preparation for the ASE and an introduction to auto mechanics basics for new students. It does not offer as many options as Penn Foster College and doesn’t have the same level of expertise as I-CAR, so the recommendation doesn’t quite reach the full five stars.
Ashworth has a reputation for a solid program that provides beginning students with the essentials in learning their way around a car. Classes cover all necessary academic area for students new to the field as the preparation for more intensive learning or hands-on learning after course completion. While not on par with Penn Foster College, Ashworth is a solid alternative.
Ashworth is a preparation program for eventual ASE certification, but it only provides a foundation. Students need to continue learning in a hands-on environment. A diploma is awarded which helps with finding work in an auto shop that will provide necessary hands-on learning.
The complete preparation program at Ashworth College can be completed in four months, which is quicker than some other full programs on this list.
Image From Bergwall
This auto mechanics online training isn’t the same as Penn Foster College or Ashworth College and doesn’t issue a diploma. The course offerings are targeted to a particular student type. Like I-CAR, students can mix-and-match to create their own course of study. The approach Bergwall has taken is to offer key topics in a four module series. Module I is ASE Prep, Module 2 is called Shop Talk, Module 3 is Shop Safety and Math, and Module 4 is OBD-II. Within these modules, students can take as many or as few courses as they need. The cost is by monthly subscription. Bergwall is also called Bergwall on Demand.
Bergwall has a highly accessible tuition since students pay monthly and are able to do as much training as they can master in one month for only $10. If they want more time, a yearly subscription is $100, so payment can be made one month at a time or a full year can be purchased. The yearly option is excellent since the cost is still low, and there is no rush to complete each module.
Bergwall has a terrific program, but it isn’t for everyone. The courses require a great deal of independence and are built for individuals who are self-disciplined and able to complete projects they start. Since there is no diploma or certificate at the end of their educational journey, they have to rely on themselves to study in order to master the concepts. For some students, this is perfect. For others, it’s difficult to stay on task.
Bergwall has an excellent reputation for providing quality online instruction in the form of short video tutorials. The site has been around long enough to establish a strong customer base and has been providing online instruction for an astounding 45 years.
Bergwall is not designed to offer certification, but it is an excellent resource for ASE certification prep.
Technically, Bergwall isn’t a program but a series of topics. Each topics covers a fundamental aspect of auto repair, and the similar format for each topic means the student knows what to expect. Rather than hunting online for the right video tutorial, the student access the website and find the right video and answer a question or review a topic. Rather than a program, Bergwall is a resource for auto mechanics who are just starting out and for those who want a refresher. Even the home mechanic can benefit from the many topics Bergwall offers.
We compared Penn Foster College and Ashworth College as two alternatives for auto mechanics education. The world of auto mechanics is transforming, so automotive techs and mechanics must be able to adapt to new technology. We recommend a comprehensive ASE preparation program and prefer Penn Foster College as a one-stop shop program; however, we also recommend using Bergwall On Demand because it is not only a great supplement at an affordable price, but it can also be used to help study for a full-length program. Penn Foster College gets five stars overall, and we highly recommend it.