What’s the difference between a maintenance technician and a mechanic?

Some argue that the difference between a maintenance technician and a mechanic is a matter of semantics—that people only use the word “technician” to try to make the job sound more impressive, but it doesn’t actually mean anything.

However, there is a real difference between maintenance technicians and maintenance mechanics. It’s not that a mechanic wouldn’t be able to perform the same repair tasks as a technician—they generally can—it’s just the nature of a technician’s training will give them insight into why that work needs to be done.

The core roles of each position look something like this:

  • Mechanics are trained to perform repairs as needed
  • Maintenance technicians are trained to diagnose problems, prevent them, and resolve them

A maintenance technician’s role focuses more on diagnostic testing than that of a mechanic, allowing them to know the “why” behind their tasks.

That said, the path to becoming a maintenance technician doesn’t look too different from that of a mechanic, at least on the surface. As far as qualifications are concerned, both include the following:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • A year of on-the-job training
  • Mechanical skills
  • Troubleshooting skills

While these paths look similar, there are still some differences in terms of additional education or advancement opportunities.

It’s true that both can benefit from vocational training and certification. Industrial maintenance training programs typically last two years, and numerous certification opportunities exist for maintenance technicians. Mechanics may also have certification opportunities based on their industry, such as ASE Certification for auto mechanics.

Higher education isn’t often necessary for either position. When it is, it’s maintenance technicians who generally need it. For instance, wind turbine technicians need at least some technical education prior to being hired.

Maintenance technicians generally have opportunities for advancement. Technicians can advance to become supervisors by mastering their craft, familiarizing themselves with the needs in their industry, and actively seeking learning opportunities. Mechanics, on the other hand, would likely need more formal education in order to advance in their field.

Ultimately, a technician would usually have more technical savvy than a mechanic, and that presents them more opportunities and a deeper understanding of their tasks.