How Long Is Diesel Technician School? What Can I Expect?

Albert Einstein supposedly once said, “When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.” So when you try to piece together how long diesel technician school is and what you can expect from the experience, you need to keep in mind your attitude. If your heart is in diesel mechanics, the time will fly by. If you are attending diesel technician school for other reasons, the time may seem to stand still.

Your Time in Diesel Tech School: A Non-Relative Answer

You will likely need 19 months, or around 75 weeks, to complete a high-quality, rigorous course in diesel technology from a good school. Expect to attend four days (or nights) or so a week. You may find a shorter course, but to make the program any shorter, the school delivering the curriculum may have to take some shortcuts.

Your goal in getting an education at diesel technician school should be to graduate with the necessary skills and knowledge to pass the ASE exams related to diesel mechanics:

  • A9—Light vehicle diesel engines
  • H2—Diesel engines (transit bus)
  • L2—Electronic diesel engine diagnosis specialist
  • S2—Diesel engines (school bus)
  • T2—Diesel engines (medium-heavy truck)

This is because the ASE stamp of approval gives you a competitive edge when shops are hiring. Good mechanics with ASE certifications have already demonstrated the necessary knowledge to work in the specific areas tested. A shop manager faced with two applicants, one who is self-taught and “works on trucks on the weekend,” and another who went to school, graduated, and is ASE certified, will pick the ASE technician every time.

Trade School: What to Expect

Attending diesel technician school is a mix of theory and hands-on work. Expect to get dirty, but expect to clean yourself up for classroom studies, too. Again, your experience depends on the quality of the institution you attend. Does the school publish its curriculum? Do you know graduates from the school? What are the graduation and employment rates?

At a high-quality, reliable school, your curriculum may look like this: 

  • Fundamentals of Technology
  • Basic Gasoline Engine
  • Vehicle Electrical & Electronics I and II
  • Steering & Alignment
  • Brakes
  • Drivelines I and II
  • Environmental Comfort System
  • Automotive Diagnostics & Fuels
  • Advanced Diagnostics & Emissions
  • Four Cycle Diesel Engines
  • Diesel Fuel Systems
  • Advanced Diesel Fuel Systems
  • Hydraulic Systems

You should expect to be tested in hands-on applications, in a real shop, to demonstrate you know how to diagnose and repair any diesel engine. You may encounter truck, bus, or marine diesel engines, and you can be challenged to solve interesting diagnosis problems on engines weighing up to 12,000 pounds.

Rudolph DieselIn classes you may enjoy guest speakers, such as local shop managers, but please do not expect a visit from Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of diesel technology. Diesel died at sea in 1913, crossing the English Channel, in his 50s. Unlike you, he never had the opportunity to attend diesel technician school (because, you know, he had to invent the engine first).

Where It Takes You: Diesel Tech Pay & Job Outlook

The world’s oldest working diesel engine, built in 1903, does not go anywhere. It is housebound at the University of Applied Sciences Ostwestfalen-Lippe (that’s in Germany) and is a showpiece. No, you cannot depend on an individual diesel engine to take you anywhere, but with the knowledge and skills you gain at diesel technician school, you can go far working on many diesel engines.

Diesel Mechanic SalaryThe Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says diesel technicians do very well, financially, for the investment of time and energy. As of May, 2014, the median annual wage for diesel service technicians and mechanics was $43,630

This annual income is nearly $10,000 a year above the average of all occupations, and more than $4,000 above the average of all mechanics. Clearly diesel technicians have a pay advantage over other mechanics.

The BLS also reports that job growth for diesel service technicians is expected to grow 12 percent through 2024. This means you have plenty of time to attend a high-quality trade school, get your diploma in automotive diesel technology, pass your ASE exams, and still tap into the strong demand for diesel technicians.

Where to Go: Finding a Diesel Technician School

Trident Iceni R

The Trident Iceni, the world’s fastest road legal diesel car

The fastest road-legal diesel car is the Trident Iceni, which can hit 190 miles per hour. You may not need it to get yourself over to Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), but you could arrive at school in style if you had roughly $137,054 to pay for one. If you lack the Iceni, contact ATI by other means to learn more about the Automotive/Diesel Technology diploma program. In return for 75 weeks of study, you can be on your way to a great career as a diesel technician. As Albert Einstein might say, that is a relatively short time to learn a lifelong skill.


I’m so happy I choose to attend ATI. The instructors are amazing, I’ve learned so much, and I’ve met some of the greatest people here. I want to go back soon for welding.

Posted by Stevanie Lively on Friday, March 11, 2016

Diesel/Heavy Vehicle Mechanic Training

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