With the economy still firmly entrenched in a difficult recession, you must think strategically about your career path. It’s not the best of times to follow your passions regardless of the realities of the marketplace, as the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans would probably tell you. Those who care about longevity and earning a respectable wage are taking the time to analyze their job security and prospects, both now and on into the future. And one fantastic option is becoming an auto mechanic. If you love working with your hands, have a knack for mechanical systems or just can’t get enough of cars, work as an auto mechanic can be both lucrative and fulfilling. Here are just a few of the benefits you’ll enjoy along the way.

Regardless of the current recession, the future in this industry is bright. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks job security and employment opportunities across all possible fields, auto mechanics can expect a 14% increase in opportunities over the next four years. There are a lot of baby boomers who’ve made a full career out of this work, and millions of them are now retiring. Beyond all of those additional openings that will be created, if you receive a postsecondary education in auto repair you will have a number of directions you can take this work.

You’ll also find solid wages accompany all of these opportunities. On average, talented auto mechanics can earn anywhere from $15 to $25 an hour. In addition, most full-time employment opportunities offer mechanics holiday and vacation pay, a 401(k) program to save money for retirement, and full health insurance coverage. It’s a solid living, especially when you consider that you won’t be buried under tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, as will those who pursued a traditional four-year degree program.

Professional auto mechanics also find that they are not tied down to specific areas. While some careers require you to live in specific parts of the country or work only within a small group of companies, the auto mechanic can find work anywhere. You’ll never have to move for work, and can relocate based on family needs or the desire for a change of scenery. People need repair work wherever you go, and skilled auto mechanics will always be in demand.

Since it is a career that uses a specific and detailed skill set, that also can give you a leg up over white collar workers or office management types. Auto repair will save you money, as you will be able to perform any required work on your own vehicle. You’ll avoid expensive towing due to a highway breakdown, as you’ll probably be able to solve many of the problems that would leave other people calling AAA. You can also use your skills to barter for things you need. Instead of having to pony up for expensive dental work or landscaping for your home, offer to handle auto repairs and you’ll find people more than willing to make the trade. It can be greatly satisfying, and you’ll rest easier knowing that if anything were to go drastically wrong with our economy, you would have a skill that will always provide for you and your family.

Finally, working as an auto mechanic will also give you experience within small businesses, that you can eventually use to start your own. Whether you live in Boston or the middle of nowhere, chances are there is a garage you can work in. After establishing a customer base that knows your skill and loves what you do, you could leave and start your own garage, probably taking some of those dedicated customers with you. It’s fantastic on-the-job training, which can lead to a lucrative second career as a small business owner.