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Navigating Your Technician Career: Where to Find Automotive Scholarships and Training

POR: David Goldberg
Vocational students with an auto technician instructor

The auto industry faces a critical technician shortage that’s creating numerous openings to the tune of 100,000 positions a year, reports MarketWatch. This situation is ripe for aspiring individuals seeking a career in this tech-heavy industry. However, getting started requires a substantial investment in education and training.

Fortunately, would-be technicians don’t have to shoulder this financial burden alone—numerous resources are available to lessen specialized training costs. Keep reading as we explore the scholarships and educational tools that can launch and accelerate a career as an automotive technician.

The Fuel of Education: College Scholarships for Automotive Students

As with most advanced educations, pursuing automotive technician training comes at a cost. However, prospective students can take advantage of financial support programs to remove the stress of paying for instruction. Many organizations offer scholarships and other programs that let budding technicians focus on learning rather than finances. Scholarship offerings include:

Automotive Hall of Fame

Founded in 1939 to recognize the movers and shakers of the auto industry, the Automotive Hall of Fame issues $5,000 scholarships. The awards are based on academic achievement, financial need, and demonstrated passion for the automotive industry.

Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA)

Known for its influence in the automotive aftermarket, SEMA offers $5,000 scholarships to college and technical school students with a proven interest in the automotive field. The organization also provides a student loan forgiveness program for employees of SEMA-member companies.

Piston Foundation

Although lesser-known, the Piston Foundation serves the auto restoration community, offering almost two dozen scholarships in 2023. The organization aims to attract auto technicians to the car collector industry, opening the doors to a less-typical career path.

Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) 

Students already enrolled in a collision repair training program can apply for CREF’s scholarship and tool grant program, with awards up to $8,000. Eligibility conditions include career interest and financial need.

Pathways to Mastery: Automotive Training Programs

Automotive training programs are where the rubber meets the road for the prospective auto mechanic. Many educational institutions, training centers, and companies offer specialized programs created to set students on the right path with hyper-focused knowledge and hands-on experience.

Technical schools and community colleges are often the first stop on the journey to an automotive career. These institutions offer certificate courses covering the basics of automotive technology. Students can learn about the fundamentals of engines, transmissions, brakes, electrical systems, and other vital components. Instruction moves on to diagnostic techniques, allowing students to gain practical skills.

Some notable technical schools offering automotive programs include:

  • Universal Technical Institute (UTI) offers a comprehensive automotive technology program that combines classroom instruction with hands-on training in state-of-the-art facilities.
  • WyoTech provides a variety of automotive technology programs, including diploma and associate degree options, focusing on hands-on training and real-world experience.
  • Lincoln Tech offers automotive technology programs at several campuses across the U.S., providing students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the field.

Keep in mind that these are for-profit schools with tuition costs similar to traditional colleges, although financial aid is often available. Many community colleges offer more affordable technician training. Some programs may not be as comprehensive, but they can be a good, low-cost way of testing the waters before committing to a more extensive and expensive training program. Conduct an internet search for “automotive technology training at a community college near me,” and you should be able to find a program or two.

For those seeking a more advanced education, universities offer traditional degree programs in automotive engineering and technology. These options dive into broader areas like automotive design and manufacturing, preparing students for roles in research and development, product testing, and management within the automotive industry.

Some notable universities offering automotive-related degree programs include:

  • Kettering University offers a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Engineering, which combines classroom learning with hands-on learning experiences in the automotive industry.
  • Clemson University offers a Master of Science in Automotive Engineering, focusing on advanced topics such as vehicle dynamics, powertrain systems, and autonomous vehicles.
  • El University of Michigan offers a Master of Engineering in Automotive Engineering that prepares students for leadership roles in the automotive industry.

Revving Up Skills: Industry and Manufacturer-Sponsored Programs

Automakers have a vested interest in ensuring a qualified and abundant technician workforce. Today’s vehicles are more complex, so repairs require more skilled workers. At the same time, dealerships increasingly rely on their service departments to generate profits. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the typical new car retailer gets 49% of its profit from repairs and related services.

As such, manufacturers take automotive technician training into their own hands. Automaker-run programs, often in collaboration with educational institutions, prepare students for careers within the respective dealerships. This specialized training lets technicians become experts on unique technologies and vehicle models.

Ford ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training) partners with community colleges and trade schools to provide students with a comprehensive automotive technician education geared toward Ford products. The two-year program combines classroom learning with paid internships at Ford dealerships, allowing students to gain real-world experience while earning an associate degree in automotive service technology. Tuition is subsidized, keeping learner costs lower than traditional programs, and Ford offers scholarships.

Like Ford, GM partners with existing educational institutions to get prospective technicians thoroughly versed in the company’s vehicles. GM ASEP (General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program) provides comprehensive learning and access to the latest technology that may not yet be available at independent training programs.

Toyota follows a similar approach with its T-TEN (Toyota Technician Training & Education Network) effort. Students participate in classroom instruction and dealer-based internships while gaining status as certified Toyota technicians after two years.

Outside of manufacturer-supported training, industry organizations provide training and educational support for automotive professionals.

Industry organizations also play a significant role in providing training and education for automotive professionals. Certifications from the Instituto Nacional para la Excelencia en el Servicio Automotriz (ASE) are considered the gold standard in the industry. With specialized programs across several automotive disciplines, certificaciones ASE validate high knowledge and skill levels, leading to better job opportunities and higher wages.

El Automotive Service Association (ASA) (https://asashop.org/) is another industry organization that provides resources and support for automotive professionals. Although more suited for someone already in the industry, ASA’s training programs, workshops, and webinars are an ideal supplement to technical training. Topics include business management and soft skills education.

Tools for the Journey: Resources for Finding Scholarships and Training

One advantage of pursuing an in-demand career is that scholarships are usually plentiful. This is undoubtedly the case with financial support for automotive technicians. Here are some good starting places to investigate:

El TechForce Foundation provides scholarships for students pursuing careers in automotive technology and related industries. Established as the Universal Technical Institute Foundation, the organization was rebranded in 2016 as the TechForce Foundation to encompass the broader transportation sector.

Since 2007, the organization has awarded over $18 million in scholarships to more than 50,000 students, including veterans. There are programs for tuition support and other types of help. TechForce also administers the recently announced $2 million Ford Auto Tech scholarship program.

Think of the University of the Aftermarket Foundation (UAF) as a one-stop shop for scholarships. Current and prospective students can apply for a primary award, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, while the application process is forwarded to over 30 other organizations offering scholarships up to $10,000. UAF has awarded over $6 million over a quarter century.

El Scholarships360.com website brings together many lesser-known automotive-related scholarships. You’ll still need to do your homework to confirm eligibility and apply individually for each of the scholarship opportunities, but even one successful application can make a difference financially. Convenient descriptions and deadline information make focusing your efforts easier.

Scholarships.com is another platform that centralizes automotive scholarships, including ones already covered. Accessing scholarship details and requirements requires a few extra steps, but the site is comprehensive and helpful.

You’ll have to jump through a few sign-up hurdles with FastWeb.com, but the platform has a knack for uncovering more obscure scholarships, which can improve the odds of success. Be sure to fill out your profile, including possible majors (like automotive technician), for best results.

Training and Networking Resources

Choosing among the many available training programs can be overwhelming. The decision may be easier if a local community college or other institution meets your needs or you’ve always dreamed of working on Fords or Chevys. Other considerations include being a generalist or focusing on a specialty like diesel engines or collision repair.

Before finalizing any choices, examine “The Ultimate Guide to Professional Technician Careers” from TechForce Foundation. It’s a straightforward look at what technicians are expected to do and the different career path options.

Career-supporting training and networking resources depend on what and where you’re learning. You’ll get the most benefit from support that matches your education. For instance, participating in an online forum about diagnosing transmission problems won’t advance your career much if you’re studying collision repair.

Talk with professionals already working in your area of interest. Ask how they stay up-to-date on industry matters. Find out what resources they rely on and how they network with other technicians. Most schools will have a career services department that can also help. In addition, to make a point of connecting with other like-minded students, sharing the learning journey can be as rewarding as the actual training.

Your Next Pit Stop: Exploring Opportunities

Investing in your education is the key to unlocking your full career potential. Entering the automotive industry fully prepared not only makes your work more rewarding but also makes you more valuable to employers. Unlocking scholarships makes the career development process less stressful, enabling you to focus on learning rather than worrying about paying tuition. Even partial scholarships can reduce the burden.

At the same time, exploring alternative opportunities within the automotive industry can be equally rewarding. One example is working at Endurance, a leading provider of vehicle service contracts (also called extended car warranties or auto protection plans).

Endurance earned a 2024 USA Today “Top Places to Work” award and offers a variety of full-time and part-time job opportunities. Individuals with an auto repair background can use their skills in claims processing, while people-friendly professionals can succeed in the customer service or sales department. Our work-from-home approach opens rewarding positions from just about anywhere. Above all, Endurance provides opportunities for growth and advancement.

Join the best auto protection provider in the industry! Learn more about careers at Endurance.

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