Shifting Gears: Job Change Advice for Auto Technicians

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Car dealership garage (Wikipedia photo by Christopher Ziemnowicz)
(Wikipedia photo by Christopher Ziemnowicz)

Change is more than inevitable, and sometimes it is desirable. For auto technicians, changing jobs may bring higher pay, new training opportunities, improved benefits and better career options.

As a job applicant -- even one with proven skills and experience, moving from one employer to another will require effort. But how much effort depends on your training, current position, and what you want to do. This is especially true for dealership technicians who want to change brands. It's also true for general repair technicians wishing to advance by specializing in a single make in a dealer's service department.

Related: Search for Auto Technician jobs.

Making the Leap

There are ways to make the transition easier. If you are a skilled technician in a multi-brand dealership, switching from servicing one make to another, while remaining with the same company, may be much easier than changing both your brand specialty and employer.

A variation on this approach is to take a job at another dealership that sells both the make you currently service and the one you want to. You could start by working on the make you know and then switch to the new brand when the opportunity arises.

The switch may not be without complications, however. Some automakers require that dealership technicians attend brand-specific training sessions and achieve certification before they undertake any repairs in the dealership's shop. Other automakers have this requirement for the technicians performing any warranty repairs.

Related: To apply for jobs that match your skills, visit the Military Skills Translator.

Another reason dealership service managers are slow to hire even skilled technicians inexperienced in their brands is time. Even technicians with a proven track record need to get up to speed on the service procedures and problems unique to the new brand, says John Nielsen, director of vehicle repair for AAA. That's why familiarity "can make a technician far more efficient and valuable from the perspective of the employer," he says.

The good news is that getting up to speed on a new brand may not require classroom training. Laurence Eiden, automotive technical consultant for the vocational-technical school system in Connecticut, suggests that "some dealer service managers may be willing to allow a potential hire to take a manufacturer's online training programs," which are becoming increasingly common. Given the proper Internet access codes, an applicant could complete these programs at home before actually making the change from one employer to another.

Attending such classes in person, however, would be difficult for a job applicant. Even ignoring the issues of pay and employment laws, these sessions are expensive and space is limited. And the classes are usually filled by employed technicians currently working on the brand.

Where There's a Will

For technicians who want to move on to a dealership, but whose only experience consists of working in general repair facilities, the same online training options are often possible. ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification is also a plus in the eyes of most potential dealership service managers.

With the industry needing more skilled technicians every year, one representative for an upscale European automaker suggested that any skilled and competent technician who wanted to change brands would be able to do so. It might take some effort, but it would be possible. Where there's a will, there's a job working on a Volvo or Mercedes.

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