PSU Auto Tech programs draw students from across the nation — and internationally 

Visit with students in Automotive Technology at Pittsburg State University and you’ll immediately see a unique trend: many of them are not just from out of state — they’re from FAR out of state.  

And senior Juan Cavero? 

“I’m from Peru, South America,” he said. 

That’s 5,000 miles away. 

Numbers of out-of-state students have increased significantly this year. All of them say it was the department’s reputation that drew them here. 

Auto tech students

Wyatt Wilm, of North Dakota, is a senior in the Cat ThinkBIGGER program — a companion program for those who have completed Caterpillar’s accredited Dealer Service Technician program known as ThinkBIG.  

ThinkBIG graduates can transfer up to 64 college credits to PSU and in as little as two years can earn a bachelor's with an emphasis in diesel and heavy equipment. 

“I came here last August and it feels like a dot on the map, but it is the only Caterpillar program in the world,” Wilm said. “I definitely feel like there are big benefits to being here, from the teachers to the technology to the learning the business side of things.” 

Jordan Gonzales came here from North Carolina for the CatThinkBIGGER program after continually hearing graduates of PSU recommend it. 

“It’s got a reputation,” he said. 

They’ll have no shortage of job opportunities: labor reports show the industry is facing a shortage of technicians and positions in other automotive specialties. Heavy demand is expected to continue until well beyond 2026. 

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Program Manager John Thompson said students can choose from a two-year degree in automotive service technology, or a four-year degree in automotive technology. They can then choose from among seven emphasis areas: advanced vehicle systems, collision repair and insurance management, dealership and corporate transportation management, diesel and heavy equipment, automotive mechanical design, automotive technical, and Caterpillar ThinkBIGGER. 

The department also offers two minors — diesel and heavy equipment, and automotive technology — and two certificates — automotive service technology and diesel and heavy equipment — for those who wish to mix-and-match to customize their degree. 

Patrick Murtland, who came here from New Jersey, said that diversity was a selling point: he chose PSU because he wanted to be well-rounded in the automotive industry, and to be able to earn a bachelor’s degree, not an associate’s degree. 

“There are so many options here — diesel, automotive tech, collision repair — all in one degree,” he said. “I visited many other schools, and Zoomed with a lot, too, and they just didn’t have as many options. In my opinion, this is the only school with the best equipment, best teachers, best resources, the best facility.” 

Eric Trevor-Roberts, of St. Louis, Missouri, said it was the only logical university to attend for an education in diesel and heavy equipment. 

“The variety of teachers here and the knowledge they have from working in industry before teaching — you just can’t get any better than this,” he said. 

Dillon Cuthbert, a junior in the 2+2 bachelor’s degree track, who transferred here from Illinois Central College in Peoria, agreed. 

“There’s been a pretty steady line of guys in that program to say this is the place with a reputation,” he said. “The facilities are unmatched, the labs, the equipment, the technology — they know what they’re doing at Pitt State.”

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