How to Become a Diesel Mechanic – The Complete Guide


Do you love working with your hands? Do you enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together? Have you always had a fascination with heavy equipment? If so, a career as a diesel mechanic may be right for you.  

What Does a Diesel Mechanic Do? 

Diesel mechanics are specialized technicians who inspect, maintain and repair diesel engines for shops, garages, dealerships, company fleets and more. They work on large vehicles like trucks, buses, boats, heavy equipment and even some lightduty cars, trucks and vans. Different from gas-powered engines, diesel engines have unique service needs and requirements. Diesel mechanics do everything from routine oil changes to diagnosing issues to fully rebuilding engines.  

Typical daily duties can include:  

  • Diagnose problems 
  • Inspect parts of the engine  
  • Change oil 
  • Replace broken or old parts 
  • Clean engines  
  • Maintain engine parts and systems 

Every day as a diesel mechanic will be a little different, as duties will depend on the types of vehicles coming into the shop and the issues they are experiencing. There is a lot of variety in the job, and mechanics work together as a team to diagnose, repair and maintain the engines they are responsible for.  

Diesel mechanics can also pursue careers as service technicians, fleet maintenance mechanics, farm equipment mechanics, heavy equipment maintenance specialists, marine maintenance specialists, and more. After gaining some experience, they can move into supervisory roles, management roles, purchasing roles or sales roles.   

Diesel Mechanic Education and Training Requirements 

After high school graduation – a minimum requirement for the job – there are two common paths to become a diesel mechanic and one less-common path. One is to pursue a certificate, the other is to pursue a degree. A certificate program is short and focuses only on teaching you the skills you need to perform the job well. You don’t have to take additional, “general education” classes as part of a certificate program. These programs are ideal for people who want to get working as quickly as possible, however, certificate programs do limit your ability to move up the ladder in your career. 

The second path is to pursue a degree as a diesel mechanic. These are typically associate’s degree programs that provide a more well-rounded education. These programs include general education requirements and dive deeper into the math and science of diesel engine maintenance and repair.  

It can also be possible to learn to become a diesel mechanic without formal education by learning on the job. However, it is often difficult for these mechanics to earn more and move up. It can also be a challenge to find a job outside of the company that conducted the training.  

Many diesel mechanics also choose to pursue certification, either through a national body like The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) or from diesel engine manufacturers. Certifications are not always required, but they are often preferred, and they can help new mechanics “prove” their expertise to potential employers.  

How Long Does It Take to Become a Diesel Mechanic? 

It can take anywhere from a few months to several years to become a diesel mechanic. Certificate programs range from six to nine months, associate’s degree programs are usually two years if the student attends full-time, longer if the student attends part-time; and on-the-job training can vary by employer. Choosing to pursue a certification after graduation will tack on a few extra weeks to even a few extra months, but it is possible to land a job and then pursue certification.  

Diesel Mechanic Skill Requirements 

Diesel mechanic jobs are skilled careers that require specific skill sets. Here are some of the most important skills that diesel mechanics should have:  

  • Technical ability: Diesel-run machinery is driven more and more by technology. Diagnostic tools are all technology-driven and the amount of electronics in a modern diesel engine seems to grow by the year. Mechanics and service techs must be able to work with the technology that runs the engines they repair.  
  • Math Skills: Diesel mechanics need to be comfortable working with basic calculations, decimals, and fractions. Advanced math isn’t necessary, but a firm grasp of these basic concepts will be important to your everyday work.  
  • Analytic abilities: While you will rely on diagnostic tools to help you in your job, many problems will require you to take a step back and evaluate the entire picture of what’s happening in the engine at any given time.  
  • Attention to Detail: Trucks, cars and heavy equipment are complex pieces of machineryA tiny loose wire or something as simple as a missing bolt can be the root cause of bigger issues. A good diesel mechanic will need to have an eye for detail when dealing with engines and their parts. 
  • Patience: Few service processes go exactly and planned. From major issues to something as small as a rusted bolt, it takes patience to work through a problem. This is especially true if your work requires you to have contact with customers who can be extremely frustrating 
  • Communication Skills: Similarly, diesel mechanics must have strong people skills in order to work well as a member of a team.  Mechanics’ main responsibilities are under the hood but in reality, you’ll be working as part of a unit. You also may have to interact with drivers, customers, vendors, suppliers and more. You will have to explain technical concepts to people who might not understand them, you may have to provide clear direction, and you must also be an excellent listener.  
  • Stamina: Diesel mechanics often have to stand for long periods of time, sometimes in hot, cramped or awkward spaces. They cannot let fatigue impact the quality of their work. 
  • Willingness to learn: Ongoing training is essential for keeping up with changes to engines and the technology that run them. Mechanics must have a commitment to education and development, and they must also be willing to learn from more experienced mechanics they work with.  

What is the Average Salary for a Diesel Mechanic? 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national median annual salary for diesel mechanics is around $47,350Indeed salary data for diesel mechanics in Pennsylvania cites a similar median figure of $47,424Glassdoor lists a lower median annual salary in Pennsylvania of $41,516. It is important to remember that Indeed and Glassdoor data are only drawn from jobs listed on their websites, which could account for the large difference in Glassdoor salary information.  

Always keep in mind that salaries listed on these sites are averages. Senior diesel mechanics and those in supervisory or management roles can make much more than new mechanics. Salary can also be impacted by the city or town in which the job is located and a host of other factors. For example, the oil and gas industry boasts some of the highest diesel mechanic salaries in the country, followed closely by the marine industry. 

What is the Career Outlook for a Diesel Mechanic? 

According to data from BLS, employment for diesel mechanics and diesel service technicians is expected to grow nine percent through 2026, as fast as average for all occupations across the country. However, the BLS also notes that job prospects are best for mechanics who have completed formal, postsecondary training in diesel engine repair.  

Looking for Diesel Mechanic Jobs in PA? 

Skilled diesel mechanics are in high demand in Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to evaluate jobs to determine whether it is right for you. If you are a new or experienced diesel mechanic looking for exciting job opportunities in PA, an expert recruiter can help you shorten your search and increase your odds of finding a great job.  

At Integrative Staffing Group, our specialty and focus is on making job placements for skilled workers, including diesel mechanics and diesel service technicians. We partner with hundreds of employers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and across the country that are looking for reliable, skilled mechanics and we can put you to work quickly at a job where you will earn a great living and make valuable contributions.  

Why Choose ISG For Your Diesel Mechanic Job Search?  

Diesel mechanics have a lot of options when it comes to choosing recruiters to help them find great jobs. However, mechanics and technicians in PA choose to partner with ISG because of our commitment to their career success.   

  • ISG recruiters look at more than just your resume. We learn about who you are as a person and a professional so we can match you with your ideal jobs.  
  • At ISG we are industry experts and local market experts. We know the challenges you face in a job search and help you overcome them so you can get to work at a great job, fast.  
  • ISG provides access to jobs that have not been advertised to the public, giving you a competitive advantage.  
  • We always have a variety of flexible, well-paying job assignments available for talented diesel mechanics. 
  • We make great matches. Over 70% of our short-term assignments have gone direct hire. 

At ISG, we are also committed to providing our workers with excellent benefits Eligible employees can receive holiday bonuses, vacation pay, 401(k) plan, referral incentives, tuition discounts, and medical benefits.  If you’re ready to take a step forward in your career, contact our team today. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals.

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