15 Careers in the Automotive Industry To Explore
Updated January 17, 2023
This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach
Pursuing a career in the automotive industry can be a rewarding way to work hands-on with vehicles and technology. If you're considering a career involving cars, it's helpful to understand the responsibilities of various roles. Jobs in the automotive industry span many career segments, including maintenance, repair, design, development, sales and customer service.
In this article, we discuss 15 common careers across all sectors of the automotive industry.
Why work in the automotive industry?
If you love cars, hands-on work and technology, pursuing an automotive-related career can be a great way to apply what you love to your job. There are a wide variety of roles available, which allow you to apply your passion and skills to your chosen sector of the car industry. You'll also have the opportunity to work with a diverse mix of individuals who share your love of cars. Additionally, since forms of automotive transport are always in use, a career in the industry is likely a stable one.
Related: 16 Careers for Car Lovers
Types of careers in the automotive industry
Here are 15 common careers in the automotive industry:
Car rental agent
Auto body repair technician
Tow truck driver
Quality testing engineer
National average salary: $31,820 per year
Primary duties: Auto instructors teach high-school or college students about repairing cars, engines, mechanical features and electrical systems. They may specialize in one or two maintenance areas or teach the basics of all vehicle components. They typically work in a shop-style classroom where students are able to gain hands-on maintenance and repair experience. A state teaching license is required for all teachers, including auto instructors.
National average salary: $36,623 per year
Primary duties: Car rental agents administer and recommend rental cars to guests who need to temporarily use a vehicle. They take customer documentation and ensure vehicles in the rental fleet are well maintained. Car rental agents should be familiar with the operation and technological features of a variety of vehicle types and be comfortable driving them around their lot as needed.
National average salary: $36,946 per year
Primary duties: Tire technicians service, repair and replace car tires to create a fuel-efficient and smooth ride for the driver. They are knowledgeable about various tire types—including snow tires—and recommended treads for various road or off-road environments. Tire technicians can be employed by a tire specialty repair shop or as part of a bigger automotive technician team at a large auto body shop.
4. Car detailer
National average salary: $37,817 per year
Primary duties: Car detailers clean the interior and exterior of vehicles by washing, vacuuming, waxing and polishing the car. If needed or requested by the vehicle’s owner, they may also steam and deodorize the carpets, buff the painted surfaces, apply protective finishes to the exterior and shine the wheel rims. Car detailers interact with the customers to determine what services they need and drive vehicles around their shop to complete the work.
National average salary: $49,620 per year
Primary duties: The vehicle inspector is responsible for ensuring vehicles meet safety standards—reporting violations and recommending repairs. They check cars for damages and drive them to determine any malfunctions. The inspector also connects the vehicles to mechanical and electrical testing devices to examine the components for damage or incorrect settings.
Vehicle inspectors review cars’ emission levels and any customizations added to the vehicles and confirm the cars meet all required regulations. If any repairs are necessary, the inspector will review the cars after repairs are completed to ensure they meet quality standards.
National average salary: $54,636 per year
Primary duties: Auto body repair technicians are responsible for safely and efficiently fixing car frames, suspensions, dents, windows and wheel alignment after a vehicle has been damaged. They primarily focus on the exterior, non-mechanical components of the vehicle and make them look new again.
Auto body repair technicians often directly interact with customers in their repair shop and must have strong customer service and business skills to give the customer an upfront estimate of the cost and time required to repair their vehicle.
National average salary: $58,043 per year
Primary duties: Auto electricians are responsible for inspecting, repairing and maintaining a vehicle’s headlights, dashboard warning lights, alarm system, circuit boards and starter motor. They often work in mechanical and auto body shops with other technicians, but focus on the electric issues within the vehicle.
The auto electrician plugs the computerized diagnostic system into the car to determine the issue and develop a plan to fix it. The plan could include rewiring elements, replacing light bulbs or the entire electrical system.
Related: How To Become an Auto Electrician
National average salary: $59,632 per year
Primary duties: Auto mechanics are responsible for carrying out routine maintenance, diagnostic testing and mechanical repairs. They primarily work on motorized components including engines, drive belts, power steering, brakes and transmissions. Newer vehicles can be plugged into a computerized diagnostic testing machine, which tells the mechanic what repairs are required.
The mechanic may need to recalibrate a motor, rewire parts or replace the entire component. Auto mechanics are familiar with vehicle regulations and technological systems and ensure the vehicle is safe to operate when returned to the owner.
National average salary: $68,352 per year
Primary duties: Auto engineers research, develop and design the technical systems in vehicles. They work with the development and design team to utilize sophisticated technology in a safe and user-friendly way in the vehicle’s navigation, warning, control and fuel systems. The auto engineer can continue improving upon previous technologies used in their vehicle or develop new systems based on the current market trends.
Throughout the design process, they troubleshoot any problems that arise and guarantee that they are fixed before production begins. They also partner with the process engineer to plan and develop the manufacturing process for their technological components.
10. Car salesperson
National average salary: $71,650 per year
Primary duties: A car salesperson helps customers find the right car to purchase, explains the benefits and drawbacks of different models and begins the payment process. They build relationships with their customers to understand their vehicle needs and encourage repeat purchases with their dealership.
A car salesperson also partners with the marketing team to reach out to and engage new potential clients. They promote the sale of their vehicles by encouraging test drives and riding along with the customer while they drive to explain various features of the car.
Related: How To Become a Car Salesperson
National average salary: $73,433 per year
Primary duties: Auto sales managers lead a car dealership by forecasting vehicle demand and preferences for their area, maintaining inventory levels and managing the car sales team. They handle initiating and negotiating vehicle trades with other dealerships in the area. The sales manager also oversees and approves promotional discounts, public relations events and advertising campaigns. Their primary responsibilities are to ensure customer happiness and generate revenue for the dealership.
12. Tow truck driver
National average salary: $80,117 per year
Primary duties: Tow truck drivers work on call to attend to disabled or damaged vehicles on the road. They are responsible for safely securing vehicles to their tow truck by using a chain, winch, steering locks and affixing indicator lights on the disabled vehicles. They then transport the vehicles to the designated repair shop or junkyard.
Tow truck drivers should have a basic knowledge of vehicles and various car parts to effectively provide assistance and determine if the vehicle can be fixed without a tow. They might handle roadside repairs that include jump-starting the car, changing tires and reconnecting parts.
13. Process engineer
National average salary: $85,903 per year
Primary duties: Process engineers handle the engineering of the plant production process by maintaining automated systems and resolving technical issues. They have strong technical expertise in the automated manufacturing process and use creativity to further develop and pilot new production processes. The process engineers often work independently in overseeing the overall efficiency of the plant, but they also partner with plant personnel to understand what developments would benefit the production line the most.
National average salary: $87,337 per year
Primary duties: Quality testing engineers are responsible for testing all components of a vehicle to ensure proper function and safety. They typically specialize in a specific area of the vehicle, such as crash testing, electronics, system integration or wireless connectivity. They develop a test case, execute the test and resolve any quality defects. These engineers partner with their cross-functional teams regularly to ensure the entire vehicle meets the highest quality standards.
15. Auto designer
National average salary: $89,738 per year
Primary duties: Auto designers are responsible for developing the appearance of the interior and exterior of the car. They combine art, engineering and business to make the car visually pleasing, aerodynamic, functional and cost-effective. They use creativity to seamlessly incorporate all required mechanical, electrical, technical and comfort features into the vehicle.
The designer partners with the auto engineer to create and implement the technological systems in an efficient way. They also work with the process engineer to implement an efficient manufacturing process for the aesthetic components.
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