Farm Equipment Mechanic

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Farm Equipment Mechanic

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$13.40 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Also known as service technicians, farm equipment mechanics service, maintain, and repair different kinds of farm equipment. In the past, farmers did their own repairs on the farm; but with more complex and advanced machinery, electronics, and hydraulics, farmers now use highly trained farm equipment mechanics to fix and maintain their equipment. Modern farming equipment uses electronics and computer technology, and mechanics must update their skills so they can service advanced equipment. Most mechanics work for machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers.

Mechanics not only service broken or malfunctioning farm equipment, they also perform preventive maintenance by testing, adjusting, cleaning, and replacing worn parts. They use computer monitoring equipment to test the function of equipment and systems, checking for leaks, malfunctions, or weak points.

In larger shops mechanics specialize in a particular kind of work, such as hydraulics, transmission repair, or diesel engine work. Others may specialize in dairy farming equipment, such as milking or irrigation machines, or in combines or tractors. In smaller firms mechanics usually possess a more generalized technical knowledge.

Education and Training Requirements

Farm equipment mechanics have a high school diploma or GED. They also must complete a formal training program, which is offered at professional technical and vocational schools and two-year colleges that teach diesel technology.

Most formal programs run between six months and two years; two-year programs usually grant an associate degree.

Prospective mechanics are then hired as helpers, and are trained in repair and maintenance procedures through on-the-job training. As a helper, an individual will start out making minor repairs and advance to work on more complex ones. During this three- or four-year training program, mechanics learn how to repair and service farm equipment, fix electrical systems, and service brake systems on heavy farm equipment.

The military is considered to be an excellent source for training. Working as a mechanic in the armed forces trains individuals on a variety of equipment and vehicles, which is invaluable for this occupation.

Getting the Job

Information on job opportunities for aspiring farm equipment mechanics can be found through college job placement centers. Having experience working on a farm would provide an advantage, as would any experience fixing or maintaining equipment. Military experience as a mechanic is also advantageous in this field. Internet job sites, newspaper want ads, and agricultural job fairs are also good sources.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Farm equipment mechanics advance from helpers or trainees to experienced mechanics, who are responsible for complex service projects. Mechanics can also supervise other mechanics. Some take jobs in other repair fields, such as automotive service technicians or industrial machinery repairmen.

The job outlook for farm equipment mechanics is poor, as employment growth in this field is expected to grow at a slower than average rate through 2014.

Working Conditions

Farm equipment mechanics usually work indoors, in shops that are relatively comfortable and well ventilated. Some mechanics may travel to farms to work on equipment onsite. Work may be seasonal, as with many agricultural occupations. During the planting and harvesting seasons, mechanics often work six days a week, ten to twelve hours a day. In the off-season, work schedules will be much lighter.

Mechanics work with grease, fuel and oil, antifreeze, and hydraulic fluid, and they must take safety precautions when working with and disposing of these harmful substances. They must also take great care to avoid burns from hot engine parts and cuts from sharp metal. There is also a chance of injury working with heavy equipment supported on jacks or by hoists.

Where to Go for More Information

Association of Equipment Management Professionals
P.O. Box 1368
410 20th St., Ste. 102
Glenwood Springs, CO 81602
(970) 384-0510

Earnings and Benefits

The median salary for farm equipment mechanics is $13.40 per hour. Experienced mechanics can earn more than $19.40 per hour.