Cars are sewn into the very fabric of the United States, and many of us grow up admiring what amazing machines they are. If you are among the nation’s gearheads, it can be attractive to make a career out of your passion in cars. The question, then, is where to start?

Breaking into the automotive industry might seem daunting because it’s a large field with many niches and disciplines. But to succeed, you need to find something that really speaks to you. There are a few different directions you can go, so here are our suggestions.

Start by Cleaning Other People’s Cars

If you want to be around lots of different cars and possibly even get a chance to drive them, getting a first job as a detailer or car washer is a good idea.

These jobs are easy to get and you’ll learn a useful set of skills that you can use in the future to care for your own cars. Also, people who have nice cars like them clean, and you might get some good chances to speak to fellow gearheads and look for the opportunity to move up in the auto world.

Help Out at the Local Garage

Plenty of the world’s wrenches got their starts at small garages before attending a trade school or becoming certified mechanics. You might have to start by mopping the floors and doing odd jobs around the shop, but don’t get discouraged. After a while, you’ll get your chance at turning some wrenches. Before long, you’ll be a full-on member of staff. The connections you build here can really begin to inform your career.

Make Friends and Network

If you’re comfortable with the physical demands of being a mechanic, you can squeeze a lot out of those early jobs at shops. The people you’ll work with can tell you how they’ve been able to advance in their career.

If you’re someone who dreams of having their own operation in the future, you can talk to the shop owner about how to get there. If you’re interested in getting certified to work on a certain marque or system — transmissions, for example — you can get an entry-level job in a shop that specializes in it and then learn about the path upward from there.

Learn to Sell Cars

Don’t rule out the prospect of working at a dealership. Cars will always need to find their way to customers, and the practice of selling cars is evolving thanks to new technologies and customer expectations. New online configurators and direct-to-customer operations are shaping the industry every day. There’s also the used car market, which brings its own unique set of challenges.

Similar to working as a mechanic, your first dealership job can inform how your career will evolve in the future. Specific marques have development programs to move people up in their dealership operations from sales jobs to management. Eventually, you could even run your own dealership. That’s selling a whole lot of cars!

You’re Ready to Begin Your Journey

There’s a multitude of specialty jobs that exist inside and outside of the categories we’ve mentioned. What aspirations do you have for your career in the world of cars? Do you have a suggestion for how inexperienced “car people” can get their start? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington and is an automotive journalist who has written for dozens of auto sites, including Yahoo Autos, Hooniverse, GT Spirit, The Mustang Source, and more. Scott's website, www.OffTheThrottle.com, and YouTube channel are popular automotive destinations.

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