Auto Industry Jobs

Auto Industry Jobs

Last Updated February 5, 2020 | Meghan Drummond

If you love automobiles, you’ve likely daydreamed about a career working with the vehicles you enjoy, whether they be Formula One racers, sleek electric cars, or rough and tumble off-roaders. There are a lot of career options, at every education level and every rate of pay, for people who love cars and trucks.

Learning about what career options are available will help you figure out what practical steps you can take next. Here are just some of the ways that you can apply your unique skills to an industry that you already have a passion for.

[click the infographic below]

A grid showing ten of the most popular careers in the auto industry

Assembler and Fabricator

About You

You’ve always been interested in blueprints and schematics, and you’re passionate about working with your hands. You prefer physically demanding work that also requires you to apply math and mechanical knowledge.

About the Job

Engines require assembly, and for that, you need an assembler. Using schematics, you take the components of an engine and put them together. Depending on the parts, you may need to cut and make adjustments as necessary.

Pros: Engines, transmissions, and many other automotive parts all need assemblers, and you’ll get to be hands-on with the intricate details that make cars run.

Cons: Assembly is physically demanding and frequently requires shift work.

Education: High school diploma. Licensing and certification available, but not necessary for all jobs.

Pay: Median salary for assemblers and fabricators of automotive parts is $41,210, but in some cases can reach up to $97,000 based on experience and skill.

Job Outlook: Fewer assemblers are required than were previously needed, but many of the most experienced assemblers are now retiring, which means there are significant opportunities for employment.

Automotive Designer

About You

You probably started sketching vehicles at a young age, and though at first you drew your favorites, you’ve started exploring different designs now. You’re starting to draw cars you wish you’d see rather than ones that already exist. You’ve always been a little analytical for an artist, or a little artistic for an analyst. You like practical art and are excited about tiny details of design.

About the Job

Automotive design requires taking practical needs and making them aesthetically pleasing. Though in previous decades this involved a lot of pencil sketching, now there’s a lot more digital art savvy required.

Pros: You get to blend mechanical and artistic skills and get creative with analysis.

Cons: This is a remarkably competitive field, and you’ll get little choice as to which topics you take on, especially early on.

Education Required: A bachelor’s degree in industrial design, architecture, or engineering. You’ll also need specific training in art, computer-design, CADD, and manufacturing methods.

Pay: Median wage is $67,790, and top designers get paid substantially more.

Job Outlook: Steady. Automotive designers are always needed, but a lot of people are interested, keeping the talent pool full and competitive.

Automotive Journalist

About You

Your friends may or may not be as into vehicles as you are, but they all love listening to you talk about them. You have a gift for transmitting enthusiasm and love researching strange tidbits of automotive history.

About the Job

Depending on the type of automotive journalist you are, you may spend a fair amount of time travelling to get to competitions, get exclusive interviews, or to see vehicles in action. Your deadlines are frequently pressing, and your time is limited.

Pros: You get to write about vehicles, share your enthusiasm, and even sway public opinion.

Cons: It’s a tough industry to break into, and the pay, at first, is mediocre.

Education Required: Bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, or communications, but some automotive journalists are able to get a start without post-high school education if they’re naturally talented writers.

Pay: Median salary is $59,580, with the important caveat that there is a large discrepancy between the low end (under $30,000) and the high end ($121,670).

Job Outlook: Steady.

Automotive Technician

About You

You love getting to the bottom of problems. Whether it’s dissecting an AC unit that isn’t functioning correctly or troubleshooting a program, you want to understand why something doesn’t work.

About the Job

Automotive technicians are like mechanics, but often have a specialty. Technicians might specialize in air-conditioning, brakes, drivability, or transmissions, but they tend to know everything about their specific area of expertise, as well as a lot about general automotive repair.

Pros: You get to learn everything about specific types of repairs and get hands-on as you find solutions to problems.

Cons: Can be physically demanding as well as requiring a fair amount of mental acuity.

Education: High school diploma required, and then technicians can follow one of three paths. An associate’s degree is often paid for by automobile manufacturers and car dealerships. Other shops offer technician helper or trainee technician roles that allow for on-the-job training. A third route requires completing a vocational program in automotive service technology.

Pay: Median salary is $42,116 a year. With experience, auto technicians tend to advance to supervising and training other auto techs, which brings a significant pay bump with it.

Job Outlook: High demand. It’s estimated that an additional 45,000 automotive technicians will be needed by 2026, in addition to replacing the existing techs who are retiring.

A pair of gloved hands work on a brake caliper

Body and Glass Repairer

About You

There’s something about a car with a dented bumper that makes you a little sad, and you love the feeling of taking something broken and giving it new life. You’ve always been good with your hands, and you enjoy solving problems.

About the Job

When people are involved in accidents, they usually have to take their vehicles into the body shop afterward to get the dents removed or panels replaced. The new panels are painted and installed to match the factory job exactly.

Pros: You get to take vehicles that are in bad shape, fix them, and help their owners get their lives back on track.

Cons: You’ll mostly be dealing with people who are more than a little frazzled, and the job can feel repetitive since most accidents are fairly similar.

Education: High school diploma. Apprenticeships are still one of the best ways to learn bodywork. Working at an existing body shop can help you learn more about the job specifics.

Pay: Median Salary of $41,330, with higher earning potential for repairers who have their own shop.

Job Outlook: Steady.

Detailer

About You

You have an eye for the little things that other people miss. You love the feeling of completing something entirely and don’t mind spending hours doing something right.

About the Job

Detailing is more than just washing a car. It’s washing, touching up paint, buffing to a shine, and returning a vehicle to like-new condition. It requires a lot of moving around and maneuvering, and the hours can be long, especially if you’re working in your own shop.

Pros: Detailing lets you see the results of your hard work immediately, and individuals can start a detailing business on their own with a relatively low start-up cost.

Cons: It’s hard work, and even with protective gear, you can end up getting sick from the chemicals and gunk you come into contact with regularly.

Education: Detailing is best learned by doing, preferably with a seasoned detailing professional.

Pay: Median income is $34,808 for full-time detailers, but it’s worth noting that many people detail cars as a part-time side job. Specialists, like those who detail Formula One cars or rare vehicles, make more.

Job Outlook: Steady.

Driver

About You

You love being behind the wheel of a vehicle. You’ve always had a knack for driving and have superb reflexes. You don’t mind competition and are seldom rattled.

About the Job

There are a lot of ways to be a professional driver. The obvious choice, race car driver, is very challenging to break into, but test-driving prototypes, driving the safety car in Formula One matches, or even being a valet will all give you the opportunity to drive professionally.

Pros: Driving can be a great career for people who struggle to sit behind a desk. Depending on what type of driving you choose to pursue, you can get the opportunity to see some incredible vehicles, and you’ll get a lot more outdoor time than many other professions.

Cons: The more desirable the driving job seems, the stiffer the competition will be. Driving, as fun as it is, can also be very dangerous, and driving continually increases your chances of being in a collision.

Education: No formal education, but lots of training.

Pay: Median salary for drivers is $34,450. Pay depends on what type of driving you pursue and a fair amount of luck. Professional motorsports drivers make very good money, especially if they have a personality that helps them attract endorsements.

Job Outlook: Steady.

Driving Instructor

About You

You love driving, but you’re too much of an extrovert to spend all day, every day, in a vehicle by yourself, no matter how great the vehicle is. You love the idea of helping others enjoy their rides as much as you love yours.

About the Job

Driver’s education classes and performance driving schools are both in need of people who can calmly explain what driving maneuvers are dangerous and which are preferred. You’ll need nerves of steel and a calm demeanor with a voice that practically hits the brake pedal for you when warranted.

Pros: You get to share a love of driving with others and maybe even inspire a few enthusiasts.

Cons: You may need to take on more responsibility than just teaching about driving, and it can be stressful to keep your fear in check so you can help others.

Education: To teach in public schools, you’ll need a bachelor’s and usually a teaching certification. In order to teach privately, you’ll need some way of establishing that you’re a better driving instructor than other applicants.

Pay: Driving instructors average $16 per an hour, or about $32,000.

Job Outlook: Steady.

Electrical Engineer

About You

You’ve always been interested in how things work, and when you’re interested in something, you’re eager to learn everything about it.

About the Job

Electrical engineering is important for every new car that rolls off the line. Anti-lock brakes, power steering, and cruise control are all dependent on electrical engineers. With electric cars increasing in demand, electrical engineers have a lot of opportunities.

Pros: These are some of the best-paid positions in the automotive industry that still allow you to spend a lot of time with the internal components of the vehicles.

Cons: Like an automotive designer, you don’t always get a choice as to what you’re specifically working on. Engineering the new Corvette engine might be your dream, but it’s just as likely that you’ll spend time engineering a new type of safety belt.

Education: Extensive. Minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Probable need for master’s degree for specific focuses.

Pay: Median salary for automotive electrical engineering is $75,560.

Job Outlook: Slight decline. While electrical engineering careers in general are expected to stay level, engineering roles in specific industries are declining as more engineering work is outsourced to engineering firms.

Graphic Designer

About You

You’ve always appreciated a well-designed website or how some images pull you in and create an energy that perfectly matched what they needed to represent. You don’t mind working on something until it’s perfect and know how to appeal to a lot of people.

About the Job

Website design, promotional material, informational handouts, and more are all made by graphic designers. By making information clear and attractive, you’ll help others understand the feel of a new vehicle.

Pros: You’ll get to create and share some incredible things and see first-hand how your design changes people’s perceptions.

Cons: It can be difficult to create for a vehicle you’re less excited about, and early on you’ll work on very small projects.

Education: A bachelor’s degree in graphic design, art, or other form of design.

Pay: Median Salary is $48,000, but can increase substantially over time.

Job Outlook: Steady.

Industrial Engineer

About You

You’re always trying to figure out the most efficient ways of doing tasks and are interested in the big picture of how systems work. You can communicate with a variety of people and are able to bring people on board with your ideas to improve efficiency.

About the Job

You’ll occasionally visit sites, but mostly to observe the problems and inefficiencies teams are encountering. Most of your work will be in an office and will involve conferring with many parties.

Pros: You’ll make life better for a lot of employees and will improve systems and operating procedures.

Cons: Not as much hands-on time with vehicles as some other professions.

Education: A bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, though other forms of engineering may be considered. Extensive math and science courses are a must.

Pay: Median salary is $84,310.

Job Outlook: Growing, and the transportation industry hires the most industrial engineers.

Machinist

About You

You follow plans to the letter and never start on a set of instructions before you’ve read the entire list. You’re precise and don’t mind doing the same task repeatedly.

About the Job

You read over blueprints, take those ideas, and then make them a reality, grinding and shaping metal until it’s the perfect shape. You may need to use hand tools as well as computer numerically controlled (CNC) tools.

Pros: Making a physical product is rewarding, and as machinists improve and specialize, they can be tasked with making unique, one-of-a-kind parts.

Cons: Early career can be repetitive, and work is physically demanding.

Education: High school degree required, two-year technical degree recommended.

Pay: Median salary for automotive industry work is $45,640.

Job Outlook: Steady. Though machinists’ jobs have become increasingly automated, that’s had little effect on number of machinists employed or job availability.

Market Analyst

About You

When you love something, you’re enthusiastic about it, and you’re able to transmit that enthusiasm to others. You enjoy analyzing data to see what your successes are and gain additional insight into others.

About the Job

When a new vehicle is about to launch or there’s a new feature that’s expected to increase sales, auto manufacturers turn to their marketing specialists. Using mediums ranging from social media to traditional print, marketers make sure potential customers know the highlights of the products they have.

Pros: Analytics data allows for immediate feedback for successes.

Cons: Requires creativity and analysis, less hands-on time with vehicles.

Education: A bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications, English, or a related field.

Pay: Median salary is $60,870.

Job Outlook: In demand. Marketing offers opportunities to increase sales and cut costs, two things every company wants.

Mechanic

About You

You like finding and fixing problems and rarely get frustrated. You listen well to others and have never minded getting your hands dirty. You take pride in a job well done and always look beyond the obvious.

About the Job

When people have trouble with their car, they bring it to you. Using customer explanations of unusual behavior, you troubleshoot, isolate the problem, and then address it. You also perform basic maintenance and explain potential problems to others.

Pros: You get to be hands-on, and every day is a little different.

Cons: Work can be physically demanding, and clients don’t always understand, or want to understand, automotive issues.

Education: High school diploma required; two-year technical degree recommended.

Pay: Median salary for mechanics is $40,710.

Job Outlook: Slightly faster than average. As people opt to keep their older vehicles on the road for longer, more trips to the mechanic are necessary.

Mechanical Engineer

About You

You love learning about the way things work and creatively thinking about how to make them work better. You’re a problem solver by nature, but are also good at collaborating with others.

About the Job

You look for ways to design, or redesign, existing mechanical systems such as suspension, aerodynamics, or possible fuels. Some engineers work as part of a team with programmers to develop driver assistance programs and sensors.

Pros: You’re on the cutting edge, dreaming up what’s next for automotive technology.

Cons: Most of your time is spent in an office, and during a crunch period you may work long hours.

Education: Requires a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, with master’s preferred. Students from accredited engineering programs are preferred.

Pay: Median salary of $87,370.

Job Outlook: Steady, and higher than average in fields like hybrid and electric car developments.

Painter

About You

You’re an introvert who can pay close attention to detail. When you start a job, you stick with it until the very end, and you’ve never handed in a project that had missing pieces or trailing ends.

About the Job

Painting cars frequently requires dismantling them, mixing paint by hand, and applying several coats while diligently sanding in between.

Pros: Depending on the job, you’ll get to work with beautiful cars, and make them even more visually striking.

Cons: You’ll need to be physically strong and comfortable standing in the same place for extended periods of time.

Education: High school diploma. Vocational schools may offer supplemental classes that can be beneficial.

Pay: Median pay in the automotive industry is $42,930.

Job Outlook: Steady. Repair shops in particular can expect a constant rate of hire since their work is harder to automate.

Photographer

About You

You’re a driven perfectionist, but with a talent for working with others. You know how to promote yourself and aren’t shy about shouting from the rooftops when you know something you’ve done is good.

About the Job

From photographing cars that are for sale to snapping promo shots for motorsports and marketing, there are a lot of opportunities for photographers who know how to take great pictures of cars. Because most photographers are self-employed or freelance to start, business savvy and self-promotion is a necessary skill.

Pros: Getting started is easy; if you have a camera on your phone you can get started today.

Cons: Can be tough to build contacts, and eventually more expensive equipment will be necessary.

Education: None to be self-employed, but most photojournalists have a degree or some formal training in photography.

Pay: The average is $16.35 an hour for photographers getting started, with nearly unlimited potential depending on skill and luck.

Job Outlook: Declining. Amateur photographers have made a huge impact on the demand for professionals.

A videographer captures an installation YouTube Video

Programmer

About You

You’re a collaborator who enjoys working with large teams to make something great. You’ve always excelled at making things work and thinking outside of the box.

About the Job

Automotive programming is increasingly important as more operations within vehicles become computerized. When people talk about self-driving technology, pedestrian detection, and blind spot detection, they’re talking about the collaborative work of mechanical engineers and programmers.

Pros: Programming is relatively simple to pick up and translates to a variety of industries.

Cons: Very little hands-on time for auto enthusiasts.

Education: Bachelor’s degree required in computer science or a related field. Experience may substitute for degree choice in some instances, but a college degree is almost always required for programming jobs in this field.

Pay: Programmers in manufacturing fields have a median salary of $82,710.

Job Outlook: The need for dedicated programmers is declining, but that shouldn’t indicate that programming knowledge isn’t valuable. Far from it. Instead, it’s becoming expected that more occupations can do some programming. Coupling computer expertise with additional skills can be a good way to bring extra value.

Restoration Specialist

About You

You love old cars. While your friends are excited about new features and new styling, you just prefer classics.

About the Job

Old cars are frequently struggling with issues like rust, dry rot, or UV damage. Restoration specialists, much like detailers, get down and dirty with these issues and return classic cars to their original condition. Unlike detailers, restoration specialists often need to be skilled with the older mechanical components in addition to the interior and exterior restoration processes.

Pros: You get to work on some of the rarest and most desirable vehicles of all time.

Cons: You’ll encounter a lot of unusual problems that are challenging to fix, and restoration specialists need considerably more hustle than most automotive fields.

Education: High school diploma typically required. Automotive technician training preferred, or at minimum an apprenticeship.

Pay: Median salary of $40,081, with most salaries falling between $30,000 and $50,000 annually.

Job Outlook: Steady. Vintage cars have time-tested appeal that doesn’t seem to be declining.

Salesperson

About You

You enjoy sharing your love for cars, and talking to strangers about vehicles excites you. You’re comfortable talking to a wide variety of people and know how to make others feel heard.

About the Job

Car sales is a wide field. You can work at a used car lot, matching people and their budgets to a wide variety of cars, or you can work for a brand that you specifically have a connection with. There are even people who just work to list vehicles for sale online or act as a matchmaker.

Pros: If you work in new car sales, you’ll be on the cutting edge, knowing about the newest cars and getting to look at (and drive) them before anyone else.

Cons: People can be very rude to car salespeople, and you’ll need to be able to be polite in spite of that.

Education: High school diploma required, but associate’s or bachelor’s degrees can be useful.

Pay: Median salary of $32,360 with a wide variance. If you get promoted to manager, that pay rate increases significantly.

Job Outlook: Steady. Car sales are one area where most people are more comfortable purchasing in person, where they can test drive and kick tires, rather than online.

Social Media Manager

About You

You’re all about connecting with others, and love to share things you’re excited about.You have a knack for starting conversations, and make people feel heard.

About the Job

Social media managers are in control of a brand’s public persona. They tweet, post on Facebook, maintain an Instagram, and more, all with an eye towards creating a constant tone and image.

Pros: No two days are ever the same; they can’t be. Your millions of followers expect variety and engagement.

Cons: Variety can be tough, and putting out social media fires before they turn into major disasters requires immediacy and tact.

Education: A bachelor’s degree in communications, public relations, business, journalism, or other related field.

Pay: Median salary of $49,149 with significant potential for advancement.

Job Outlook: Significant growth expected as car manufacturers start using social media to connect more frequently.

Welders

About You

You’re detail-oriented and physically strong. You’ve always been better at others at spatial reasoning, and love to make things with your hands.

About the Job

When metal meets metal, it needs a welder. Most welders today are arc welders, meaning you would use electrical currents to bond metal together. You have to know the equipment, know how to read blueprints, and be skilled at mentally calculating dimensions.

Pros: You get the experience of making something new every day while becoming a specialist.

Cons: A physically demanding job that’s prone to injuries.

Education: High school diploma and on the job training.

Pay: Median salary of $39,340. Significant advancement potential available by learning about new welding technology.

Job Outlook: Steady. Though the methodology has changed since the early days, as long as metal is a component of car construction, welders will be needed.

A person wearing a heavy metal facemask welds metal

Career Options for Everyone

Regardless of your personality type, educational level, or ideal job environment, there's a career in the automotive industry for you. If you've already uncovered a passion you want to pursue, you're already on your way to finding your perfect career. As the automotive industry grows and changes, new career paths open in the place of previous ones, but there will always be a need for dedicated enthusiasts.

If you're an educator, or have an auto enthusiast in your life that needs help thinking about potential careers, please feel free to share this pdf version of our infographic.

Auto Industry Jobs

If you're passionate about cars, you've likely wondered how you can turn that passion into a career. These are some of the top career paths for people who want to pursue working with automobiles for a living. Whether you're interested in working under the hood of classic cars or designing the latest and greatest vehicles, there are opportunities for just about every personality type and interest. Though the auto industry is evolving, the need for great minds and hard workers has never been greater.