Let's face it, the best career involving four wheels and an engine block is a race car driver or a big shot engineer. But if you don't have Speed Racer driving skills or a Henry Ford brain, plenty of unique and fun automotive careers are still abound. You just have to know what you're looking for.
Perhaps the most obvious career path to take if you want to be hands-on with autos is becoming a mechanic. The average salaries for mechanics across the U.S. are trending upward, according to U.S. News. The median salary for a mechanic has steadily risen from just more than $30,000 in 2004 to almost $40,000 in 2012.
Mechanics are in high demand in cities like Detroit, San Francisco and Fairbanks, but a mechanic can go just about anywhere there are vehicles and find a job.
Many people love getting under the hood as a hobby and learn mechanic skills on their own, but getting proper training can't hurt your odds of landing a good job either. Schools like Penn Foster offer accredited auto repair technician programs with hands-on training that can lead to a job with a reputable repair shop or dealership or give you the skills and know-how to open your own garage.
Being a mechanic in today's world means knowing some electrical work, too. Vehicles are becoming more complex and mechanics need to understand the wiring and programming. Thus, picking up some electrician classes during your training will provide you with the well-rounded skills you'll need to be able to work on today's cars.
The sky's the limit as to what you want to do with an automotive repair certification, be it enhancing your hobby, owning your own business or nailing that dream job of working on race cars.
If pulling out an engine and bloodying your knuckles under the hood isn't quite your thing, perhaps tapping into your inner Picasso is. As a custom fabricator and painter, you can make a priceless four-wheeled beauty into a one-of-a-kind collector's item, putting the vehicle in a class of its own with slick accessories and a whole new paint job.
Earning an education as a custom fabricator arms you with multiple skills. You can train as a welder, custom painter and a specialty shop technician along with learning fabrication, arming you with multiple skills that up your chances of landing a good paying job.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor states the outlook for job growth in this area of expertise is trending upward by 4 percent. The median pay for automotive fabricators is $28,580 per year, but the top tier of fabricators earn more than $74,000. Custom painters earn a little more — $32,850 per year on average — and have the same outlook as fabricators do through 2022.
Cracking into this field as a career will give you the opportunity to work with any types of vehicles you want and allows you to be creative, as long as you can carve out a name for yourself as a good fabricator and custom painter.
So you love cars and trucks but aren't too crafty when it comes to fixing them up or modifying them, at least not enough to make it a career. But if you know enough, and are curious enough to learn more, you could become an automotive journalist.
An automotive journalist can test drive new vehicles, rub shoulders with the elite auto minds and get the scoop on the latest and greatest trends in the automotive industry. But just because you know vehicles, doesn't mean you know how to communicate that well enough to the masses. As exciting as it sounds to be able to talk shop as a career, one needs know how to write, take photographs and market a story to the public, both general and niche.
Earning a four-year degree in journalism will certainly equip you with the skills and knowledge to be an automotive blogger or work for a newspaper or niche automotive magazine. The beauty of this career is you can work from almost anywhere in the modern world and there are endless topics to write about. Automotive journalists, on average, make about $34,000, but that number can increase with more experience.
One knock on this career field is that print publications have declined over the years, cutting down the number of available jobs. However, online writing jobs are likely to increase as more and more newspapers and magazines make the transition from print to going completely online.
This is the Michaelangelo of automotive careers. To land a job as a test driver, it takes multiple skills and a lot of knowledge. Having a mechanical engineering background is a good place to start, but you should also have a good knowledge of design and manufacturing and obviously know your way around the garage and under the hood.
Oh, and there's that driving skills thing. A test driver just doesn't get to drive a souped-up car from point A to point B. He needs to push the car to its limits and test its vehicular fortitude, which means you need to know what you're doing behind the wheel. Being an experienced racer would help, too.
Test driving isn't in high demand, thus the few jobs that are available will be in high competition. The average salary for test drivers can vary from state to state, but earning $40,000 a year isn't out of the question, according to Salary Expert.