In the half century since its debut in 1972, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) has become the standard bearer for certifying professionals in the automotive industry. Just like certifications in any other industry, becoming an ASE Certified Master Technician or earning other credentials can help automotive industry professionals advance their careers. Also, like other certifications, earning those credentials takes time, work, and money.
With the current nationwide mechanic shortage continuing to increase, there is a pressing need for qualified technicians. This guide will tell you how to become ASE certified, along with the costs and benefits of doing so.
How to Get ASE Certified: Step by Step Process
The details of becoming an ASE Certified Mechanic vary somewhat depending on the credentials you’re seeking and other factors. However, the steps you need to take to get certified are still very similar across the board. The process outlined below is based on obtaining Master Technician status, but can also serve as a guide for other certifications.
1. I worked as an auto technician for two years
You need two years of experience as a mechanic to be eligible for ASE certification. If you don’t currently have that experience, you’ll need to get it before you do anything else.
If you don’t have the relevant education or experience, in some cases you can find employment at a repair facility where you can learn on the job from professionals. However, you will usually find it easier to find a job if you have some formal training first.
Many local community colleges offer auto repair courses and associate degree programs. These courses may also count toward your time requirement.
2. Choose the certifications you want
Master Technician status is the ASE certification that works for most auto repair professionals. To earn that certification, you’ll need to pass the A1 through A8 car and light truck certification tests. If you want to work on light trucks and diesel engines, you’ll also need to address A9.
However, if you want to further specialize or prepare for non-technical work, the organization has other types of certifications. You can find all the tests that ASE offers in more detail on their website.
If you’re not sure which certification you should get, talk to a manager or owner at a repair facility. You can also find tips online on forums like Reddit. Getting the wrong certification for your goals can be a waste of time and money, so make sure you know exactly what you need before signing up for your course.
Types of ASE Certifications
The most popular ASE credential, and the one that people tend to refer to when they use the term ASE Certified Mechanic, is the Master Technician status. However, the organization offers 58 certification exams in 18 different categories. Those categories include:
- Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) Specialist Certification Test (L4)
- Advanced Engine Performance Specialist (L1) Certification Test
- Alternative Fuels (F1) Certification Test
- ASE Military Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Certification Testing (MIL Series)
- Automotive Light Repair and Maintenance Certification Test (G1)
- Car and Light Truck (Series A) Certification Testing
- Car Service Consultant Certification Test (C1)
- Collision Repair and Refinish Certification Testing (Series B)
- Damage Estimation and Analysis Certification Test (B6)
- Diesel Engine Electronic Diagnostic Specialist (L2) Certification Test
- Light Duty Hybrid/Electric Vehicle Specialist Test (L3)
- Medium and Heavy Truck (T-Series) Certification Testing
- Assessments without certification
- Parts Specialist Certification Testing (P-Series)
- School Bus (S-Series) Certification Tests
- Transit Bus (H-Series) Certification Tests
- Truck Equipment Certification Testing (E Series)
- Undercar Specialist Exhaust Systems Test (X1)
3. Sign up for your courses
Once you’ve decided which certifications you want, you’ll need to search for and enroll in courses. Your local community college may offer the courses you need. But if you’re not sure where to sign up, you can use a search tool on the ASE Education Foundation website.
The costs of these classes vary according to the institution that offers them. Generally speaking, courses at community colleges are likely to be less expensive than courses at private institutions. However, private courses can offer some advantages, such as smaller classes and more flexibility.
If you need help paying for classes, you can apply for financial aid or loans. The amount you qualify for will depend on your current income. To apply for aid, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
4. Complete the coursework
After registering for your classes, you will need to complete the instructional hours and courses for your certification. Some or all of your coursework may be online, but in many cases it will have practical face-to-face components.
The time it takes to complete your classes depends on where you take them. Courses offered at a community college may span an entire semester or a summer session. Some private institutions may offer a more condensed schedule, so you may want to consider this option if time is a concern for you.
5. Schedule your exam and pay the fees
Finishing your coursework is only part of the equation. You will also need to pass the exam for each class to become an ASE certified mechanic.
ASE certification exams are held at hundreds of locations across the country. You can search for a test center near you using the Prometric tool and on the ASE website.
You will also need to pay the fees to complete your registration. The testing fee is $53 each for most tests. The exam costs for L1, L2, L3 and L4 are $106 each and the costs for the two Tactical Military Wheeled Vehicle (TWV) exams are $85 each. You will also need to pay a registration fee of $34 per order, regardless of the number of tests you sign up for.
6. Study for exams
You may retake your certification exam if you fail on the first attempt, or on subsequent attempts. But when you take the exam again, you will have to pay the registration fees and exam fees again. Taking the time to study properly for your exams can save you a lot of money.
Fortunately, ASE has plenty of study resources on its website, including practice tests you can purchase. While you can find many free study guides online, you can also purchase books and other resources to help you.
7. Take (and pass) certification exams
The last step in getting ASE certified is passing the exams. You should receive instructions before test day, often at the time of registration, about where and when to report. The exam will be taken on a computer.
ASE certification exams are timed. Most tests give you an hour and 15 minutes to complete about 60 questions. You must receive advance notice of the time limit.
You’ll receive your results instantly and know whether or not you passed before you leave the testing facility. If you pass, you have completed initial certification for this course and exam. If you did not pass, you can retake the exam after registering and paying the fees again.
How long does it take to get ASE certified?
It takes a little over two years to earn an ASE certification if you don’t have experience as an automotive technician. The time it will take also depends on when you can take the courses and when you can take the exams.
The certification courses themselves vary somewhat in length. However, most individual classes have seven hours of instruction. Depending on the certification you seek, you may need to complete multiple courses to become certified.
How much does it cost to get ASE certified?
The total cost of the ASE certification ranges from $87 to around $16,000. Certification exam costs are fixed and consistent across the country. However, the cost of the classes varies depending on where you take them and whether or not you receive financial aid.
For example, certification at a local community college can cost around $5,000 for tuition and fees, but many people qualify for full financial aid and may pay nothing. Private institutions can charge up to $16,000 for courses.
Getting ASE Certified: Is It Worth It?
The process of becoming ASE certified can be long and complicated, depending on where you are in your career. But for many, completing the process can be an important step in building a career in the automotive industry. Matt Lofton, owner and president of Strut Daddy’s Complete Car Care in Roxboro, North Carolina, told Automoblog that ASE certification is an important green flag for store owners and managers.
“[ASE certification] it shows that the certified person has a commitment to learning, is able to retain information, and has a general understanding of the system and its operations for which the person is certified,” Lofton said. “It also shows that an individual is motivated to improve their value in the industry.”
In addition to making a technician more attractive to employers, certification tends to come with a salary increase. According to some reports, ASE certified technicians earn 20-30% more than their non-certified peers. The national average annual salary for an ASE certified mechanic is $58,413 per year. That means earning your certification could increase your salary by $10,000 or more. Getting specialized training, such as certification to work on military vehicles, can earn you an even higher salary.
For individuals interested in a long-term career in auto repair, becoming ASE certified demonstrates the foundational knowledge and skills needed to succeed. It also provides a universally recognized path to advance and specialize in the industry. In many cases, that makes it worth the time, effort, and expense to get there.