OCCUPATION: Auto Mechanic

Researched by Janice L. Jones

Name: Ed Outlaw

Company: Lou Bacca Chevron

Thumbs up: "I love people. I like helping them get their cars back on the road and knowing I did the best job possible. I took a two-week vacation recently and came back after one week because I missed the place."

Thumbs down: "Long hours. I put in 11- to 12-hour days, six days a week on a regular basis."

Next step: "I want to learn more about automotive computers."

Advice: "There's good money in this job, but you work hard for it. You must be willing to study in your spare time to keep up to date on new technology. Most shops require you to provide your own tools, so expect to spend about $3,000 initially and then $500 to $1,000 every year for new ones."

Salary range: Starting pay for mechanic's helpers is around $12,200. Experienced mechanics and service managers can make $30,000 to $50,000.

Fringe benefits: Most employees receive paid vacation, medical and dental insurance; many receive life insurance and retirement plans; some receive paid sick leave and vision insurance.

Educational and training requirements: Certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence is widely recognized as a standard of achievement. Employers stress the need for journey-level mechanics to be abreast of the latest techniques in automotive repair and service.

Size of work force: Large. 5,700 to 6,600 auto mechanics are employed in Orange County.

Expected demand: Steady. Most employers expect the need for mechanics to grow over the next three years.

Job description: Automotive mechanics adjust, repair and overhaul automotive vehicles. They may be designated according to specialties, such as brake repairers, transmission mechanics or front-end mechanics.

Major employing industries: New and used car dealers, automotive repair shops and service stations.

Advancement: Experienced mechanics may advance to shop supervisor or service manager, become automotive repair service estimator or open an independent repair shop.

For more information: Fullerton College (714) 992-7000 and Cypress College (714) 826-2220 provide instruction certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. NIASE may be reached at (703) 713-3800.

Source: California Employment Development Department

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