Justin Miller knew by the time he finished high school that he was interested in an automotive career. His passion for cars and engines and for fixing things, including machinery on the family farm, led him to a degree in auto tech. His first year in college, he started working at Champion Auto, mostly in retail parts sales, and he hasn’t looked back. Today, about 20 years later, he manages the Glencoe location of Auto Value, a large North American automotive aftermarket company. On a typical day, he has a variety of responsibilities, from paperwork to unpacking shipments to helping both retail customers and auto shops find parts in person or over the phone.
Position: Parts Professional
Job description: Handles parts purchases by wholesale and retail customers
Salary: Median salary for a parts professional is $45,4001
Job outlook: Faster than average.
Education: High school diploma required. Auto-specific degree or certificate preferred.
Character traits: Knowledge of mechanics and auto parts. People and customer service skills.
Benefits: Sense of satisfaction when helping a customer find auto parts.
Justin’s favorite parts of the job are working with people and tracking down hard-to-find parts. He is happy that he could turn his automotive hobby into a career, and being a parts professional is less physically strenuous than working as an auto tech day in and day out. That will be especially important as he gets older.
The right personality is very important, particularly on the retail side, working with customers all day long. Justin says, “You have to be a people person. You have to be a good listener and care about what the customer is saying, so that you can help them figure out what parts they need. It’s important to keep an open mind—sometimes the customers teach you.”
Justin graduated from Ridgewater College/Hutchinson Vo-Tech with an auto tech degree. An automotive degree is helpful but not absolutely required. On-the-job training is not unusual. Some employers offer continuing education for ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification.
Justin says, “Anything is possible in this industry. If you want to be management, you can.” While the internet makes it easier than ever to find parts today, even discontinued parts, inventories are also becoming larger. Vehicles are becoming more complex and harder for the average person to repair. Not all vehicles take the same parts, and manufacturers may use different names for similar parts. For stores like Justin’s, it will continue to be challenging to compete against dealerships that both sell vehicles and carry OEM parts.