Diesel mechanics work on a variety of vehicles, including buses and trucks with diesel engines. Using diagnostic tools, as well as their training and experience, they identify problems with diesel engines and repair them when possible. Diesel mechanics generally earn a decent salary and are sometimes eligible for benefits and overtime to increase the overall amount they're paid.
A high school education is the minimum education required to become a diesel mechanic in many cases. Certification and associate’s degree programs significantly enhance a mechanic’s chances of finding a well-paying job. These programs are usually offered in community colleges and vocational schools and last from several months to two years.
Having a certification in an area of diesel mechanics from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE, also helps a mechanic find a job that pays better. This certification is offered in different areas, such as brakes and electrical systems, and certification has to be renewed every five years. Those who are certified must also have two years of relevant work experience.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary of a diesel mechanic in the U.S. as of May 2009 is $41,590 a year, or $20 per hour. Those in the 25th percentile for salary earn $15.70 an hour, or $32,660 a year, and mechanics in the 75th percentile earn $49,680 per year, or $23.89 an hour. Those in the 90th percentile earn $59,700 per year, or $28.70 per hour.
Where a mechanic lives and works also affects his salary significantly. The cost of living in different places means a mechanic’s salary is going to vary according to where he's located. For example, the highest-paying state for a diesel mechanic is Alaska, where the annual salary is $56,370. The fifth highest-paying area among the states is Washington, D.C., where the pay averages $48,290 per year.
The more experience a mechanic has, the higher her salary is over time. According to the Search-Colleges.com website as of March 2011, the beginning salary of a diesel mechanic in Birmingham, Alabama, is $30,000. With some experience, this salary increases to about $37,000 per year. With certification and more experience, that salary can increase to $46,000 per year.