HomeA-Z Program Guide → Top Online Automotive Training Schools

Top Online Automotive Training Schools

The modern automobile is an amalgamation of moving parts, hydraulic fluids, electrical wires and microchips. Even though many mechanics have honed their skills through years of work, that experience may not be sufficient to solve the problems that arise in these machines. Mechanics need special training and guided experience, not just with removing bolts but also with sophisticated diagnostic tools; automotive training classes require hands-on experience as well as classroom work.

Automotive classes can include mathematics and technical writing in addition to specific education on repair and maintenance, while workshops provide a hands-on opportunity for mechanics to put their skills to work. Workshops may follow the classes and reinforce the material learned in the classroom. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012), some automotive employers require their mechanics to gain certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and any mechanic working on refrigerants must be licensed by the EPA.

In order to qualify for ASE certification, automotive service technicians are required to prove their skills in diagnosing and understanding engine failures and fixing automotive problems; they also need to have some practical experience or an apprenticeship in the field. For mechanics working on small engines, such as motorcycle mechanics, ASE does not offer certification. These mechanics should seek certification from individual manufacturers such as Honda and Suzuki.

Online automotive schools can offer classes in electrical systems, batteries, starting systems, testing and diagnosis, instruments and gauges, brakes, suspension, heating and air conditioning and shop safety via 3D animations, 2D illustrations, streaming video instruction and live broadcasts. These classes could potentially substitute for the classroom and mechanical theory portions of some courses.

Some schools, such as the Lincoln College of Technology, may partner with local technical schools, service stations, vocational schools or community colleges to add practical hands-on distance learning to an online education and help prepare their students for the certification exam.

Organizations like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and College or the National Automotive Technician Education Foundation list programs approved for automotive training. The approximate ranking of the following schools is based on factors such as accreditation by the ACCSC or NATEF as well as low student-faculty ratios compared to total enrollment based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics:

  • San Jacinto Community College
  • Universal Technical Institute, Orlando
  • Universal Technical Institute - Motorcycle Mechanics Institute Division
  • Porter and Chester Institute, Stratford
  • Porter and Chester Institute, Branford
  • Wyo Tech, Blairsville
  • Lincoln College of Technology, Denver
  • Lincoln College of Technology, Toledo

Below are some of the focuses available from automotive training schools and colleges

Automotive mechanic

Automotive mechanics change the oil in your car, replace the tires, repair the engine or transmission when something goes wrong, and might even completely repair your car after an accident. While advancing technology can make outdated mechanical knowledge obsolete, these professionals cannot be outsourced and, with the proper training and certifications, they may even prosper: The BLS expects U.S. automotive mechanics to see employment growth of 17 percent from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012). This growth projection is based on the rising number of vehicles and the continued lifespan of late-model cars. The national median annual salary for an automotive mechanic was $36,180 in May of 2011 although the BLS reports that mechanics employed by dealerships and the government may earn more (BLS.gov, 2012).

An associate degree in automotive repair can typically be completed in one-to-two years and it may be possible to earn a certificate in six months, depending on the program and the time you have to dedicate. Potential classes are automotive theory, brake and transmission systems, collision repair, electronic diagnosis, EPA emissions compliance, electronics and alternative fuel systems. Additional classes could include mathematics, customer service, and reading and writing.

Heavy machinery mechanic

Heavy machinery requires special training even though many of the same parts are larger, more robust versions of those found on automobiles. In addition to understanding how engines and drive trains work, these mechanics may also need to understand hydrologic and air pressure systems and know how to weld. Heavy machinery mechanics are often charged with repairing farm and construction equipment and, according to the BLS, are often employed by the government or large equipment providers.

For many heavy machinery classes, a minimum number of hands-on repair hours are required. However, classes in mathematics, basic fluid dynamics, electronics and fuel systems may potentially be completed online, depending on the school or program. A certificate of completion may take a year to complete, or an associate degree may take two years to complete, depending on the program and the time you spend on your studies. As most heavy machinery uses diesel engines, diesel technology training may be covered.

According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), the national median salary in May 2011 for mobile heavy equipment mechanics (except engines) was $45,600 per year, with mechanics specializing in farm equipment garnering a lower national median salary than those specializing on other machines. Employment for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians is projected by the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) to grow about as fast as other U.S. professions and show 16 percent growth from 2010 to 2020. The growth is expected as a result of the expanded need for construction and farm equipment as well as railcars.

Diesel mechanic

While they may look similar, diesel engines are not the same as gasoline engines, and mechanics specializing in their repair require special training. As the systems for governing diesel engines are becoming more digitized to comply with EPA emissions standards and improve fuel efficiency, mechanics may need to have more specialized training to prepare them for maintaining future diesel vehicles.

Programs in diesel engine repair can offer certificates or associate degrees. The programs could be completed in anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the program. According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), after a mechanic enters the workforce, on-the-job training usually lasts three-to-four years. Certification in diesel repair requires specialization in various parts of a diesel vehicle and re-taking the exam every five years.

Certification is provided by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. In addition to completing a vocational course, a diesel mechanic may be required to have a commercial driver’s license if they are expected drive the vehicle during repair.

Some classes require 30 hours of hands-on experience per week. Exceptions may be made, so check with your school to find out if relevant work experience can transfer. Some courses may require students to weld.

According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), diesel mechanics earned a national median salary of $41,640 per year as of May 2011. Employment of diesel mechanics is expected to grow by 15 percent from 2010 to 2020, fueled by an increase in freight vehicles and non-commercial vehicles requiring environmental compliance (BLS.gov, 2012).

Motorcycle mechanic

Motorcycle engines, as with other small engines, vary considerably from manufacturer to manufacturer. The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reports that many motorcycle repair shops hire post-secondary educated mechanics to limit the amount of on-the-job training. You need to do your research to find the schools that provide this specialized education, and the training generally does not remove the need for on-the-job training.

Students may learn to inspect various brands of motorcycles and to troubleshoot and repair mechanical problems in electrical systems, carburetors and transmissions in addition to engines. As small engines are significantly more complex than larger engines, many manufacturers and dealers, such as Yamaha, provide a two-week training course on the engines they produce. Many of these certifications are required for warranty and manufacturer-specific work.

Unlike mechanics that specialize in diesel engines or other automotive repairs, there is currently not a single small engine or motorcycle certification to display professionalism or skill, such as the ASE. Small engine mechanics who want certification may seek it from individual manufacturers such as Honda, Harley Davidson and Suzuki.

Work experience may be highly valued, and programs may require lab attendance or an internship before awarding a degree or certificate. Some schools also offer placement services to help students find employment upon graduation.

The BLS expects small engine mechanics to experience employment growth of up to 24 percent nationally from 2010 to 2020; this projection reflects the future maintenance demands expected for the current growing number of registered motorcycles. The national median salary for motorcycle mechanics was $32,410 in May of 2011, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012).

Learn more about automotive training programs

When researching online colleges and universities, make sure to verify that your choice of school is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council or by another accrediting agency that is approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or both. DETC and CHEA both provide a searchable list of approved schools.

The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, a nationally recognized accrediting body, provides a searchable list for institutions carrying its accreditation. The National Automotive Technician Education Foundation also provides a searchable list of accredited programs.


Sources and further reading:

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation

The U.S. Department of Education

The Distance Education and Training Council

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

O*NET Online

The National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence

The National Automotive Technician Education Foundation

ASE Certification