From the time you were old enough to say the word “car,” you’ve been fascinated by nearly anything with engines. If you’ve spent hours studying everything there is to know about cars, tinkering under the hood while your friends hung out at the mall, and dreaming of the day when you could turn your passion into a paycheck, there are plenty of options for breaking into a career in the automotive field.

Research the Field.

Sure, you may have changed your vehicle’s oil on your own for years or you can tell the difference between different car models by the sound of their engines, but that doesn’t mean that you’re ready to open your own garage or restoration shop. Whether you want to be a general mechanic or shop owner, or specialize in a particular type of car, do some research into the requirements for the profession in terms of education and training – and the market for your expertise. There isn’t much of a call for a Ferrari mechanic in farm country, for example, so be prepared to move to pursue a passion for exotic cars.

Pay attention to the trends in the field as well. These days, hybrid and electric technology are increasing in popularity, leading to heightened demand for trained professionals who can work on these types of vehicles.

Get Educated.

While some mechanics are self-taught and have successfully worked on vehicles by watching others or following directions in a manual, that’s usually not enough to land a job or open your own business. Consider enrolling in an automotive repair technician education program (preferably one that will help you prepare for the Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE, examination). Another option is to study your passion part time, while you work in a shop. Some shops or car dealerships will hire enthusiasts with less experience to work as service writers or parts runners, giving you the chance to get on-the-job training.

Even if you earn a diploma or degree, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your education is done. As your career progresses, you can earn additional certifications and develop skills in using specific equipment, that will increase your marketability both to employers and to customers.

In addition, if you plan to go out on your own, it’s not a bad idea to take some courses or workshops in operating a business. At the very least, understanding the local requirements for opening a shop in your area can save you a lot of headaches and money, in the end.

Build Your Toolbox.

Many people don’t realize that most mechanics supply their own tools, even when working for someone else’s shop. If you plan to open your own business, you’ll need to supply all of your own tools, and the larger equipment required to work on vehicles, such as an automotive lift and computer diagnostic systems. Some schools will provide students with discounts on such tools.

Seek the Right Opportunities.

Chances are, unless you have a substantial amount of money in the bank already, it’s going to be difficult to start out on your own, right off the bat. In addition to buying your tools, you’ll need space to work, insurance and money to cover marketing and paying employees. One option for new entrepreneurs is an automotive repair or maintenance franchise. You’ll likely need significant cash resources and experience to qualify for a franchise, but you’ll get support in everything from finding a site for your business to advertising.

If owning your own shop isn’t your cup of tea, there are still plenty of opportunities for knowledgeable and experienced mechanics. Develop a resume that specifically details your experience, especially that with specialized functions, such as computer diagnostics or hybrid vehicles. If you want to work with a particular type of car, seek a job at a dealership or specialty repair shop that will allow you to build your skill base in that area.

There’s a saying that as long as people drive cars, there will be a need for someone to fix them. Experts say that demand for experienced mechanics will continue to grow, and experienced mechanics can make well over six figures each year. So if you’re passionate about cars, consider combining your hobby with your career.

This post was written and contributed by Brian Bronzino. Brian has been a mechanic for over ten years, and in his free time he writes about the automotive repair industry for ASEdeals.com