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Point of View: Don’t Let Numbers Get In Way Of A Good Story

As journalists, we often use certain government studies and statistics to document points in a story. Over my time in the industry, I have written many an article concerning the need for a strong recruitment effort for technicians in this industry – a nearly disastrous shortage of trained techs to fill the service bays in this country. And, with most of those stories, I have relied upon the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to define the metrics regarding automotive technicians — how many are employed, the extent of current and future shortages in the number of trained techs available, and how much today’s technicians are paid doing a challenging job.

That’s why I took particular note of a recent press release from the International Automotive Technicians Network (iATN), which found that “the average 2012 salary for iATN member technicians working in the United States was $51,000, comparing very favorably to the $39,000 average salary reported by the BLS in May 2012, for all technicians and mechanics in the country.”

First of all, let’s not be too quick to discredit the BLS numbers or the overall credibility of its gathered statistics. I certainly know that is not the intent of the iATN study, nor does it make the BLS findings totally inaccurate.

According to the BLS website, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor is the principal federal agency responsible for measuring labor market activity, working conditions and price changes in the economy. Its mission is to collect, analyze, and disseminate essential economic information to support public and private decision-making. As an independent statistical agency, the BLS has provided essential economic information to support public and private decision-making since 1884. In brief, the data is what is reported by employers.

The iATN poll asked for responses from those working full-time as a technician, though responses from all members were permitted. From the 6,338 total responses received, 1,617 chose to abstain, and the average salary for the remaining 4,721 responses was $54,000. iATN further clarified the numbers by eliminating those not working in the United States and those with a title other than exclusively “technician,” leaving 1,420 responses. Accounting for differences in per-capita income by state using data from the 2010 U. S. Census yielded an adjusted average salary of $51,000.

“The results of this poll are not surprising to me, nor likely to any of our members,” said iATN president Scott Brown. “Although it’s difficult to make a direct comparison between our results and the data reported by BLS, due to differences in how the data was collected, it would make sense that there is a strong correlation between iATN membership and higher salaries.

“By virtue of their activity on iATN, our members have shown that they have a strong interest in staying at the leading edge of their field and learning the latest diagnostic techniques and trends in shop management. At every level, our members have a strong desire to improve our industry.”

And that’s the key difference in these stats. The BLS numbers are totally general, while the iATN results are reflective of its membership – quality techs who take pride in what they do and who are paid commensurate to their skills, experience and training. The take-away, however, is the same regardless of which set of numbers we utilize.

This industry presents real opportunities for those who are seeking a career that offers opportunities to earn a real living wage, with an abundance of positions available to those who will take the time to get the proper training. These numbers certainly give our industry a positive starting point in opening the career discussion with high school graduates, armed forces veterans or those looking to move beyond a job and into a lifelong and successful career path.

Editor’s Note: iATN was founded in 1995 and is the largest online community of automotive technicians, repair shop owners and other allied service professionals in the world with more than 76,000 active members from 160 countries. iATN members exchange technical knowledge with their peers around the globe, collectively sharing more than 1.8 million years of experience.


Gary A. Molinaro

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