The automotive industry is one of the most innovative in the world. We’re seeing the future arrive in the form of experimental self-driving cars and mass-produced electric vehicles. More importantly, the industry is still experiencing growth and allows you to apply your talents at many levels. It continues to generate a wide variety of jobs, but the best-paying and most numerous tend to be technology related. Here are some of the best tech-related jobs in the automotive industry.
Working as a mechanic or car repair technician is no longer something you can learn in your parents’ garage. Computers play an increasingly important role and pretty much every system in vehicles now will have some sort of electronic element.
To work as an automotive technician these days, you’ll at least need an associate’s degree or better in automotive technology. That’s the only way you gain the knowledge necessary to troubleshoot a malfunctioning car’s control center or infotainment center.
These jobs will continue to exist even if truckers and drivers are no longer in such high demand. For example, self-driving cars will still malfunction and break down, and robots aren’t going to be able to diagnose and repair the issue. Or you could cultivate transferable skills, such as the ability to repair either diesel trucks or diesel generators. Another option is being able to do basic work on either cars or watercrafts. Here are some of the things that you’ll be expected to do as an automotive technician:
- Identify issues, often through the use of computerized diagnostic equipment
- Plan procedures using technical manuals, charts, and experience
- Test systems and parts to make sure they they’re working properly
- Make sure that all-important parts are examined by following checklists
- Perform basic maintenance and care including checking fluid levels, rotating tires, and changing oil
- Repair or replace wheel bearings, brake pads, sensors, and worn parts
- Perform repairs to customer and manufacturer specifications
- Explain automotive repairs and problems to clients
If you hold a bachelor’s degree in automotive technology, you could work in car design, safety upgrades, or conversions of cars from one fuel source to another. You’ll learn how to run diagnostics related to the drivability of a car or be able to move into manufacturing management.
Automotive design has been dominated by mechanical engineers for decades. However, other advanced skill sets are in demand. For example, designing an electric car design requires far more electrical engineers than the next generation of diesel trucks.
The question many may ask is how you can qualify for these jobs. One option is to earn a master’s degree specifically related to electric and autonomous vehicles. Kettering University Online has a one-of-a-kind MS Engineering-ECE-Advanced Mobility degree. More importantly, their online program allows you to earn this master’s degree without leaving home or quitting your job. The degree covers:
- The integration of electrical and computer systems
- Artificial intelligence
- Advanced mobility applications
- Transportation systems
This unique degree, therefore, prepares you to work with drones, self-driving cars and electric cars, and it provides the foundation for working in almost any mobile robotics application.
One of the most in-demand and lucrative careers is self-driving car engineer. As a matter of fact, they can earn as much as $275,000 per year in some parts of the country, and they have a skill set that is still very rare.
“People think that there is this thing called ‘self-driving vehicle’ technology,” says teacher Sudha Mathe. “But self-driving vehicles have all kinds of different levels of tech, from engineering, design, and software, which is what makes it so beautiful. People in this field have a wide range of experience and skill,” she added.
Most self-driving car engineer jobs require applicants to have linear algebra and calculus skills, a deep understanding of machine learning and AI, and even things like camera work. In addition, they’ll also need a knowledge of programming languages such as C and C++, Python, MatLab, and Java among others.
We’ve already mentioned how artificial intelligence and smarter tech is being built into cars at every level. This is why computer science is one of the most in-demand fields in the automotive industry.
You may work with the sensor networks tracking the location of cars on the highway and automatically charging them tolls. You might work in the lab improving the control of the engine to improve fuel economy and reduce pollution.
You could create the next generation of AI in infotainment centers. This is seen or rather heard when people talk to their car, asking for directions to a chosen destination or seeking recommendations for a restaurant along the way.
Or, you could study machine learning, which is going to be essential as self-driving cars get smart enough to identify and cope with obstacles, and it is already being applied in iterative design methods.
A few ways to get this process started include:
- Taking advanced math like calculus and linear algebra
- Study probability and statistics
- Joining robotics club
- Learning how to program in several languages
- Working with cars to understand how they work
This gives you a foundation in the math that AI uses to learn and design software uses to optimize the flowing curves of the car’s exterior. It gives you a good overview of the hardware you’ll be programming later.
A decent starting place is taking art classes. However, you’re going to need to master computer-aided design and simulation. Once you have these skill sets, you can capture the plans being drawn up by engineers and test designs in the simulated environment to find ways to improve it.
Scientists in the autonomous vehicle field are always trying to find ways to improve electric vehicles and make them efficient. Both material and chemical scientists have to work together to find ways to make batteries more long-lasting for instance. Material scientists also need to find new materials that will make vehicles less energy hungry and efficient.
Another aspect that scientists are constantly trying to improve with electric vehicles is charging time. Batteries on electric vehicles can take hours to recharge, while gas-powered vehicles can be refueled in minutes. This is one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of electric vehicles, and one the automotive industry is working hard to remove.
In order to work on original research, you will usually need to have a related doctoral degree. However, you can reach some scientific positions with a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.
There are also tons of manufacturing-related jobs in the automotive industry, but many involve working with electric vehicles, or related equipment. For instance, there is a great demand in manufacturing for charging stations, and the demand is expected to grow as more electric vehicles get on the road. Here are some of the other positions in manufacturing you could consider:
- Electromechanical equipment assembler
- Electronic and electric equipment assembler
- Team assembler
- Computer-controlled tool operator
- Industrial production manager
Electromechanical equipment installers are responsible for building and assembling electro-mechanic parts that are often found in electric vehicles. This includes things such as generators, gasoline engines, and electric motors. While it is somewhat similar to what electronic and electric equipment assemblers do, they focus more on the mechanical parts.
Electronic and electric equipment assemblers are more involved with things like computers, sensors, electric motors, and electronic control devices. In many cases, these items have to be assembled by robots as they may be too fragile for human assembly.
Engine and machine assemblers, on the other hand, work specifically with engines. They may be asked to construct or assemble motors that are found in hybrid cars.
Computer-controlled machine tool operators are responsible for fabricating plastic and metal parts of vehicles. They will download software into machines and start them so they can perform their tasks. They may also be asked to perform some routine maintenance on machines and make sure that they work properly.
Machinists are not involved in the assembly of vehicles. Instead, they are responsible for creating the parts themselves. They use equipment such as lathes, grinders, and drilling machines to create precision metal parts. Mass production of certain parts might be partially or fully automated, and machinists are responsible for quality control.
At the managerial level, industrial production managers are responsible for looking after the activities of the plant. They not only have to make sure that the quality goals are met but output as well. They have to identify and fix bottlenecks and correct any problems that may occur. Depending on the plant’s size, they might oversee a part of it or the whole plant for smaller production vehicles.
As you can see, the automotive industry has tons of opportunities for tech-oriented students. If you want to learn more about these positions, we strongly suggest you look into them in detail and don’t hesitate to talk to a counselor to see if any of these would be the right choice for you.