What is an Automotive Electrician?

Working in the electrical field provides opportunities to specialize. Automotive electricians are specially trained to work with the electrical systems in cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles in the transportation industry. Working with car electrical systems may not necessarily require becoming a fully licensed electrician, but it depends on employers and location. To get started, find out more about what it means to be an automotive electrician.

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What Automotive Electricians Do on the Job

The work of automotive electricians is much the same as residential electricians, but it is all done in vehicles instead of in homes. These electricians install wiring and electrical components; they maintain the electrical systems in vehicles; and they determine what is causing a problem and make fixes to wiring and electronics in cars.

Electronics are used in many parts of cars, including ignition systems, lighting, instruments, heating and air conditioning, anti-theft systems, anti-lock brakes, fuel injection systems and the transmission, among others. Automotive electricians work on all of these. They use tools and instruments, like meters, to inspect and maintain electronics. They also read and interpret technical diagrams, use welding tools to make repairs and sometimes speak with customers about needed repairs and maintenance.

Work Environment

Automotive electricians typically work indoors, often in garages. They have to stand much of the time or get into uncomfortable positions to reach areas of vehicles where work needs to be done. These electricians must be physically fit and able to stand, squat and squeeze into difficult spots throughout the day. There are some risks and dangers of working in this career, but they are minimal. The risks include being shocked, suffering burns or being injured by tools and equipment.

Employers of automotive electricians include mechanic and repair shops and car dealerships. These electricians are also hired to work in specialty shops, for parts manufacturers, transportation companies and industrial companies that use heavy equipment and need electricians to maintain those vehicles.

Education and Training for Automotive Electricians

There are several options for becoming an automotive electrician, but in all cases you will need some amount of education and training. For instance, you may consider starting out with a degree in electrical technology or an electrician apprenticeship. Both will give you the foundational knowledge needed to get into this specialty area. You will also need some on-the-job training specifically in automotive electrical work. You may be able to get this through your electrician apprenticeship, or you may need to find an additional specialty apprenticeship position.

Alternatively, you may want to complete a program for automotive service technicians or mechanics, specializing in electronics. Some schools have specific programs that offer specialty certificates in things like electrical work. You may also choose to earn a general auto mechanic degree and to follow that up with on-the-job training in working on electrical systems, like an apprenticeship.

Salary and Job Outlook

Electronics are increasingly important in transportation, especially with growth in the electric vehicle sector. A need for trained, qualified professionals to work on these cars and any vehicle’s electronics is growing. Electricians in general are in demand, and the field is experiencing nine percent growth. There is also strong growth for mechanics, so where these fields overlap, you can expect many job opportunities.

Salaries are good for this career too, and they reflect the amount of specialized training needed. Electricians earn $54,110 per year on average, while mechanics make $39,550. The salary for an automotive electrician can vary a lot depending on skill level, degree of training and education, and employer, but is generally between these two averages.

A career as an automotive electrician is a great opportunity for anyone interested in a skilled trade. It’s a specialty area that will continue to be in demand, providing excellent job security and great incomes for dedicated workers.

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