Buckle Up for Auto Industry Scholarships

Car enthusiasts may be able to find money to fund their college education.

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Auto mechanic examining tires on lifted car

When Henry Ford started churning out America's first affordable automobile in the early 1900s, automotive repair shops began popping up in just about every town across the country. With this came a need for talented mechanics, not to mention engineers, technicians, and salespeople. Today, this need has only multiplied: 95 percent of American households have at least one car, and most have two or more.

If you've been tinkering with cars before you even had a driver's license, a career in the auto industry could be right up your alley. But getting the necessary training, whether it's attending a four-year college for engineering or enrolling in a trade school to become a mechanic, isn't free or cheap—unless, of course, you turn to scholarships.

We've put together a handful of scholarships for those of you interested in the auto industry. For more opportunities, check out the scholarships offered by specific schools you are interested in; most offer generous scholarship opportunities that could help you save your money for your next sweet ride instead of a student loan bill. 

[Check out the U.S. News Best Cars rankings.]

The Automotive Hall of Fame, appropriately located in Dearborn, Mich., offers scholarships valued up to $20,000 to incoming freshmen and current college-level students who are interested in pursuing a career in an automotive-related field. To apply, check out the scholarship application on their website. You must also submit a cover letter expressing your interest in an automotive career. Scholarships are awarded every August.

Another excellent scholarship opportunity you should consider is the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, managed by Scholarship America's own Scholarship Management Services division. Funded by the GM Foundation, the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program is designed to help students who are leaders in both the classroom and their communities, but who may not have the financial means to attend college.

The scholarship program awards 100 renewable scholarships for up to $25,000 per year and 1,000 non-renewable scholarships for $2,000 per year, and is open to high school seniors or college undergraduates who plan to major in one of the following: technology, engineering, math, business administration, finance, marketing, or design, and who also have an interest in a career in the automotive or related industries.

If you have the passion to succeed—especially in fields of study important to the automotive and related industries—we encourage you to apply beginning early 2013.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) recognizes that college is expensive—whether you're attending a traditional four-year college or a trade school—and it's doing its best to help with expenses through two scholarship programs. The SEMA Memorial Scholarship Fund awards $1,000-$2,000 scholarships to students interested in every kind of automotive career—engineering, manufacturing, and even racing. The SEMA Loan Forgiveness Program helps recent grads get a successful jump on their career without the burden of student loan debt by offering $1,000 loan forgiveness grants for employees of SEMA member companies.

[Learn how some employers assist with student debt payments.]

In today's world, you certainly don't have to be a male to enter into the automotive industry. The Automotive Women's Alliance Foundation is dedicated to the advancement of women in automotive fields, fulfilling its mission by offering education scholarships to female North American citizens who have a passion for an automotive career. Their scholarships aren't limited to AWAF members, and in fact, non-members are encouraged to apply. Scholarships are awarded quarterly, so check back often for the latest information.

If you're interested in a car-related career, you may also already be working at repair shop. Make sure to talk to your employer about any scholarship opportunities offered. (For example, every year, AutoZone awards 15 employees or their children with $3,000 scholarships.)

Lastly, the UTI Foundation, whose mission is to "support and encourage technical education for the automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle, marine, NASCAR and other transportation industries," offers a ton of scholarships, which are listed on their website. Most of the scholarships are region- or school-specific, so we encourage you to check out the list for yourself. There's a good chance you qualify for at least a few of them.

Michelle Showalter joined Scholarship America in 2007 and is an alumna of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.