By PublisherLast Updated May 11, 2022
An auto mechanic school can help you prepare for a reliably in-demand trade.
After all, with more than 24 million registered vehicles on Canadian roads, the need for skilled technicians who can repair and maintain them is not going away anytime soon. You can develop the expertise and skills required to take your place in this dynamic field through specialized training at automotive schools and colleges.
An automotive career allows you to do challenging hands-on work. Learning how to become a mechanic means becoming adept at diagnosing and repairing problems with various vehicle systems and components. You get to perform a diverse range of tasks and experience the satisfaction of seeing results.
Read on for more info on this trade, including what kind of training you need, how much auto mechanic courses cost, where you need certification, and how much you can earn.
Automotive Training and Career FAQs
- What is a Mechanic?
- What Do Mechanics Do?
- What Is the Median Auto Mechanic Salary?
- How Do I Become an Automotive Mechanic?
- What Are the Benefits of Mechanic School?
- What Are the Requirements for Automotive Certification?
- Where Can a Mechanic Work?
- What are the Benefits of an Automotive Career?
- What is the Job Outlook for Mechanics in Canada?
What Is a Mechanic?
It's crucial that the cars, trucks, and buses that carry us where we need to go operate safely and reliably. That's why they must be inspected, maintained, and repaired by qualified people with the skills to perform such work correctly.
An auto mechanic is a tradesperson with the skills, knowledge, and qualifications to service today's complex motor vehicles using special tools and diagnostic equipment. Auto mechanics are also sometimes called:
- Automotive service technicians
- Automotive repair technicians
- Automotive mechanics
- Motor vehicle mechanics
- Motor vehicle service technicians
What Do Mechanics Do?
Automotive technology continues to advance rapidly. Today's mechanics do more than you might think with all the ongoing changes in the industry. So, just what does a mechanic do?
What mechanics do on a typical day depends a lot on where they work, their level of skill, and whether they specialize in any aspects of the trade. But, in general, auto mechanics carry out tasks such as:
Inspections and Troubleshooting
- Inspecting vehicle engines and systems—through sight, sound, and smell—for any signs of trouble or to verify the extent of any damage
- Testing the performance of various automotive components and systems using computerized diagnostic equipment
- Test-driving vehicles to understand and troubleshoot problems or verify the quality of repair work
Consultations and Routine Maintenance
- Consulting with vehicle owners about necessary maintenance or repairs
- Estimating repair times and costs
- Performing oil changes, coolant flushes, spark plug changes, lubrications, wheel alignments, tire rotations, and many other routine maintenance jobs
- Replacing worn-out parts or damaged components
- Making necessary repairs to engines, electrical systems, transmissions, exhaust systems, steering, drivetrains, fuel systems, brakes, and other automotive systems
- Tearing down and rebuilding engines, power systems, or other sub-assemblies when required
- Ordering parts
- Assisting with inventory management
Multiple paths exist in the automotive trade for those who want to match their interests to their careers. So, what does an auto mechanic do when they want a more distinctive career?
Some auto mechanics choose to specialize in specific automotive work like:
- Maintaining high-performance vehicles
- Rebuilding engines
- Fixing or installing transmissions
- Testing and repairing electrical systems
Once they've gained a suitable level of experience, other mechanics choose to focus their careers on servicing vehicles from particular manufacturers or regions (e.g., North American, European, or Japanese makes and models).
What Is the Median Auto Mechanic Salary in Canada?
Most auto mechanics get into the trade because they like cars and want to work with their hands. That said, many mechanics make a good living. So, how much does a mechanic make in Canada?
According to the Government of Canada's Job Bank, the wages of automotive service technicians break down like this (as of April 8, 2022):
- The Canada-wide median hourly wage is $23.75, which translates to yearly pay of about $49,400 for full-time work.
- Entry-level, or the lowest median wage is $15.73 ($32,718 per year).
- The highest hourly wage is $35.58 ($74,006 per year).
When looking at such estimates, it's important to understand that it is possible to encounter higher wages than those reported.
How Mechanics Are Paid
Another thing to be aware of about pay in the automotive trade is that wages aren't always paid on an hourly basis. Many repair shops operate a pay structure based on "piece work," which means mechanics are paid a flat rate for each maintenance or repair job. The result is that staying busy and being fast at work can earn you more money.
Take-home wages are also affected by how much overtime is worked. However, most auto mechanics work a typical week of about 40 hours, Monday through Friday.
How to Become an Automotive Mechanic
Like electrician or HVAC training, learning to become a professional mechanic in Canada generally requires completing a registered apprenticeship. Mechanic apprenticeships usually combine actual work experience at an auto repair shop with classroom and technical training at a vocational school. (You won't find four-year auto mechanic degree programs in Canada; you will find certificate or diploma programs that last two years or less.)
An automotive apprenticeship generally takes four years to complete. Depending on individual circumstances, some people can complete their apprenticeships in as little as one year or as many as five.
First Steps and Requirements
If you want to become an auto mechanic, then the first thing you should do is contact a mechanics trade school or your province's apprenticeship office. This is because each province is different in how it handles getting people into skilled trades like automotive repair. Some provinces have stricter regulations and requirements than others.
For people with little or no prior experience in the automotive trade, becoming a mechanic generally requires:
- Finding an employer who is willing to sponsor your mechanic apprenticeship
- Registering your apprenticeship with your province
- Logging a specific number of work hours in your sponsor's shop
- Enrolling in a provincially approved training program at a vocational school
- Completing four levels of classroom and hands-on training (which usually takes four years)
- Passing all required exams at each level of training
- Being awarded a certificate of qualifications (or similar credential) by your province
- Passing an interprovincial exam to earn Canada-wide journeyman status (optional)
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Here are some other essential points to know:
You Can Go to School First
- Since it can sometimes be challenging to find an employer willing to sponsor you without prior training or experience, provinces generally provide an alternative path of entry to an apprenticeship.
- By enrolling in an auto mechanic training program at a trade school for one year or more, you can earn the first level of classroom and work-based credits. Then, armed with your new skills, you'll have a better chance of finding an employer willing to take you on as an apprentice.
- Your actual apprenticeship will be shorter by earning first-level credits at a trade school.
As an Automotive Apprentice...
- Employers who sponsor apprenticeships generally help to cover classroom and training costs since they often receive financial incentives from their provinces for taking on apprentices.
- You can earn a paycheque while you learn.
- You may be asked to provide your own tools, pay for your books and supplies, and cover miscellaneous school fees.
- Work-based training generally accounts for 80 to 85 percent of an apprenticeship. The remaining amount is a combination of classroom learning and in-shop auto technician training at a trade school.
You could be eligible for apprenticeship grants or other financial incentives from the Government of Canada if you meet the necessary criteria.
For example, the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant (AIG) is a taxable cash grant of $1,000 per year—up to a maximum of $2,000—for apprentices registered in designated Red Seal training programs who have completed their first or second levels of apprenticeship training.
In addition, the Apprenticeship Completion Grant (ACG) is a taxable grant of $2,000 for registered apprentices who complete their entire training program in a Red Seal trade.
And the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant for Women (AIG-W) is a taxable grant of $3,000 per year for up to two years for female Red Seal apprentices in male-dominated trades who complete the first or second year of their training.
The federal government and many provinces also offer tax deductions or tax credits to registered apprentices and tradespeople to help cover the costs of training and new tools.
What Are the Benefits of Mechanic School?
Enrolling in auto mechanic courses can allow you to:
Get a Head Start
- The more automotive service technician training you receive before approaching employers, the better your chances of landing a great job or apprenticeship.
- Most auto mechanic training combines classroom learning with hands-on work under the supervision of experienced instructors. This means you can build a good foundation of knowledge and practical experience, and familiarity in an auto repair environment.
- Many programs offer full-time, part-time, and online options, so you can likely fit your training into your current lifestyle.
- Your time in school could qualify you to skip your first level of apprenticeship, which can shorten the time it usually takes to earn full mechanic qualifications.
- They teach you the basics of repair and maintenance on your terms to hit the ground running when you decide it's time to pursue employment or an apprenticeship.
Develop Highly Marketable Skills
- In Canada, more job openings exist in the automotive trade than qualified mechanics to fill them, and that trend is expected to continue in the coming years.
- Many automotive programs allow you to learn and get practical training in the testing, repair, and maintenance of vehicle components, such as:
- Brake systems
- Steering systems
- Drive trains
- Electrical systems
- High-performance systems
- Fuel systems
Expand Your Opportunities
- Many Canadian mechanics seek Red Seal endorsement after their training, which helps them be recognized by employers anywhere in Canada. And that means they can take their skills wherever the best opportunities exist.
- Many automotive schools provide job placement assistance for students and graduates, which can help you take advantage of opportunities you might otherwise miss.
- With the right qualifications, you can go to work for employers like:
- Auto repair shops
- Vehicle dealerships
- High-performance automotive shops
- Organizations that have their own fleets of vehicles
- Auto-racing teams
Canadian Automotive Certification Requirements
In regulated provinces, you generally must be a registered apprentice, hold provincial certification (for that province), or possess a Red Seal endorsement of any provincial certification to perform work as a mechanic.
Although other provinces may not have such strict regulations, they often provide qualifications certificates to those who complete formal apprenticeships that meet their recommendations.
It's also important to understand that, unless you have a Red Seal endorsement, your mechanic's license or certification from one province may not be accepted in another.
Where Can a Mechanic Work?
Canadian auto mechanics work in a variety of settings, including:
- Car and truck dealerships
- Automotive service shops
- Auto parts stores
- High-performance auto shops
- Companies and organizations with their own vehicle fleets
- Service stations
- Auto-racing teams
- Salvage yards
Each type of employment setting has benefits and drawbacks. For instance, dealerships can be an excellent place to begin a career, but they often can't provide the broad experience that a more general automotive shop can offer.
After gaining plenty of experience and business knowledge, some auto mechanics choose to open their own repair shops.
Benefits of Being an Auto Mechanic
For the right kind of person, being an auto mechanic can provide rewards such as:
- A sense of accomplishment—Auto repair involves solving problems, which can be both challenging and fun. It may be a physical job, but a solid mental component is required to be a good mechanic.
- Variety—Experienced auto mechanics get to do so much more than just routine maintenance. Plus, with continually evolving technology to stay on top of, you'll always have more you can learn and more skills you can gain.
- The potential to work for yourself—Who doesn't dream of being their own boss? After gaining some experience and a little business know-how, you could open your own auto repair shop.
- Portable skills—With a Red Seal endorsement, you can use your skills anywhere in Canada. So if you ever need to move, you'll know you have what it takes to find employment near your new home.
Canadian Job Outlook for Auto Service Technicians
According to Job Bank data, for fully qualified auto mechanics, the job outlook in most regions of Canada is fair. Since the early 1990s, the general employment trend in the automotive trade has been rising.
Between 2019 and 2028, the number of mechanic job openings is projected to total 39,100. So plenty of opportunities will exist.
Most of the job openings in Canada will occur due to older mechanics retiring.
Prepare Well for the Opportunities
Competition for available jobs could be strong. That's why you'll need to have the right qualifications. You'll also need to stay on top of the technological advances that will come about in the automotive sector.
So, as you consider a career as an auto mechanic, keep in mind that you can enhance your employment prospects if your training and experience include areas like:
- Onboard computers
- Electronic systems and engine components
- Electronic testing and troubleshooting equipment
The bottom line is this: With the right skills, qualifications, and attitude, you should be able to find employment as an auto mechanic in most Canadian provinces.
Job Bank, Government of Canada, website last visited on April 24, 2022.
Statistics Canada, website last visited on April 24, 2022.
Canada Post, Marketing Research Group Fact Sheet: Automotive Industry and Aftermarket, website last visited on April 24, 2022.
Automotive Industries Association of Canada, website last visited on April 24, 2022.