How to Become a Mechanic in Canada: What You Need to Know
By Luke Redd
| Last Updated July 24, 2020
Are you a car enthusiast who wants to take your interest to the next level? Learning how to become a mechanic is an important first step. But every province and territory has its own rules and regulations. For instance, even if you know how to become an auto mechanic in Ontario, you might be surprised to learn that the process is somewhat different in British Columbia or Nova Scotia. It's important to know what's required in the area you want to work in.
According to the Government of Canada's Job Bank, about 119,300 Canadians worked as automotive service technicians, truck and bus mechanics, or mechanical repairers in 2016. And according to IBISWorld, the auto mechanics industry generates $11 billion in Canada each year. With the right training, you can prepare to take your place in this exciting and dynamic field.
Read the following information to learn what it takes to become a mechanic, which provinces require certification, and how much you can earn after your training. And be sure to check out our tips on how to land an apprenticeship.
What Do You Have to Do to Become a Mechanic?
In Canada, to become a mechanic, you generally have to complete a registered apprenticeship that combines paid hands-on work experience with classroom training at a vocational school. Typically, it takes about four years to learn to be a mechanic. While the process varies somewhat between provinces and territories, these are the general steps:
- Get hired by an employer who agrees to sponsor you as an apprentice.
- Register as an apprentice with your provincial trade certification body.
- Enroll in an approved training program at a trade or vocational school.
- Log a prescribed number of work hours in your employer's auto repair shop and complete a designated amount of in-school training.
- Pass all exams that are required.
- Receive your Certificate of Qualification or equivalent credential from your province and become a fully qualified journeyman.
Keep in mind that being certified in one province doesn't necessarily mean you can work as a mechanic in another province. If you want maximum labour mobility, you can choose to take the interprovincial exam. If you pass the exam, you'll receive your Red Seal endorsement, which allows your credentials to be recognized anywhere in Canada.
What Are the Certification Requirements?
Each province and territory sets its own certification requirements. In British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, certification for automotive service technicians is available, but is not legally required. You can still go through the steps above to complete an apprenticeship and receive a Certificate of Qualification (or similar credential), but it isn't mandatory that you do so.
In the other provinces, learning how to become a mechanic without school is impossible. That's because in those areas, the automotive trade is a compulsory trade. That means you do need a licence to be a mechanic. Here are the training requirements for the provinces that strictly regulate auto mechanics:
Learning how to become a mechanic in Ontario requires completing an apprenticeship comprised of 6,500 hours of real-world experience and 720 hours of in-school technical training. Registered apprentices must be members in good standing of the Ontario College of Trades, the governing body that regulates the skilled trades in Ontario. Apprenticeships typically take four years to complete.
Colleges and community agencies throughout Ontario offer pre-apprenticeship training to those who don't have the skills or experience to get hired as an apprentice. The training tends to be about one year long and often includes an eight-to-12-week work placement that counts toward your apprenticeship. Books and tools are frequently provided.
Students in Grade 11 or 12 can also complete co-op work placements and earn credits toward their apprenticeship through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP).
The Co-op Diploma Apprenticeship program allows you to receive apprenticeship training while earning your college diploma. Over the course of two years, you can complete all the in-school requirements of your apprenticeship as well as a portion of the practical training. When you graduate, you will have a college diploma and be well on your way to completing your apprenticeship.
To become an automotive service technician in Alberta, you must complete a four-year apprenticeship. Each year will include at least 1,560 hours of on-the-job training and eight weeks of classroom technical training. You may need to supply your own tools.
High school students can earn credits toward their apprenticeship through the Registered Apprenticeship Program. It's also possible to take a two-year college program that allows you to earn a diploma and accumulate work credits toward your apprenticeship.
Upon successful completion of your apprenticeship, you receive an Alberta Journeyman Certificate.
There are two ways to become a mechanic in Quebec. The first option is to complete a Diploma of Vocational Studies (DEP) in automobile mechanics, then register with the Parity committee of the automotive services industry (CPA) for your area. The CPA will review your education and experience and issue your first competency card as an apprentice.
The second option is to find an employer willing to mentor you and go straight into an apprenticeship. Automotive service technicians must complete an apprenticeship that is divided into three parts (generally three years) of 2,000 hours each. At the end of each part, you must apply for another competency card. When you have completed your apprenticeship and passed the qualification exam, you receive a Certificate of Qualification and become a journeyperson.
Automotive service technicians must complete a four-year apprenticeship to qualify to work in New Brunswick. In total, the apprenticeship requires 7,200 hours of combined on-the-job and classroom training. Upon completing your apprenticeship and passing the final exam, you receive a Certificate of Qualification (and in most cases, your Red Seal endorsement as well).
Nova Scotia requires its automotive service technicians to complete a four-year, 7,200-hour apprenticeship. Apprentices must register with the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency. You can also choose to take a short automotive service program at a vocational college and apply the credits and experience gained through the program to your apprenticeship.
Students aged 16 to 19 can also register as youth apprentices and begin their training in the automotive trade before they finish high school.
Prince Edward Island
You must be a registered apprentice or have a Certificate of Qualification to work as a mechanic in PEI. An apprenticeship consists of 7,200 hours of combined in-shop and in-school training.
How Much Do Mechanics Make?
According to Job Bank numbers, a car mechanic makes anywhere from $27,040 to $110,667 a year, depending on his or her experience and province or territory of residence. Nationally, automotive service technicians earn a median annual salary of $49,920, which means that half of the people who are employed as mechanics make more than that amount and half make less.
However, salaries for automotive service technicians vary widely across the country. The highest median salaries can be found in the Northwest Territories ($78,478), Nunavut ($65,832), and Alberta ($62,400).
It's important to note that some mechanics don't work on salary. Instead, they may receive a flat rate for each repair job they do. In that case, working quickly and efficiently can lead to a higher income. Mechanics may also earn extra money for overtime work, although most of them put in a standard 40-hour week.
4 Tips on Getting an Apprenticeship
Getting into the automotive trade is a bit of a chicken-or-egg situation: You have to find an employer willing you to take you on as an apprentice, but it can be hard to convince anyone to sponsor you if you have no training or experience. Here are four things you can do to boost your chances:
1. Start young (if you can).
Many provinces offer youth apprenticeship programs that allow older teens to start getting hands-on work experience even before they finish high school. These can be a great way to make contacts in the industry and get a head start on your apprenticeship.
2. Go to college first.
Many vocational colleges and trade schools across the country offer pre-apprenticeship training or similar programs that can introduce you to the work of a mechanic and give you the foundational skills you'll need to impress a potential apprenticeship sponsor. Most programs are no more than two years long and provide hands-on training that can be credited toward your apprenticeship requirements.
3. Network, network, network.
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to uncover opportunities. Talk to family members, friends, teachers, or anyone else who might know someone in the trade who can point you in the right direction. Go to job fairs and chat with company representatives who commonly hire apprentices. You can also visit your local union hall to see what resources they have to offer.
4. Develop the right attitude.
Employers value workers who follow directions, take safety seriously, and demonstrate a commitment to ongoing learning. Be sure to dress professionally when you meet with potential sponsors and thank them for any help or advice they offer. The way you present yourself can have a big impact on the way employers perceive you.
Advance Your Ambitions
Now that you know how to become a mechanic, it's time to focus on getting the training you need to reach your career goals. Vocational colleges, technical institutes, and trade schools offer convenient career-focused training that can help you enter the automotive field. And it's easy to find them. Just enter your postal code into the following search tool to discover training programs near you!