How To Become A Railroad Conductor

A railroad conductor works aboard the train and coordinates the daily activities of train crews. A conductor is responsible for overseeing the loading and unloading of cargo onboard a freight train. They are the managers of a train.

This is a physical job, requiring railroad conductors to work in all kinds of weather, lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects on the train lines. In order to become a railroad conductor, a person must have a high school diploma and receive on the job training.

Why Become A Railroad Conductor

A railroad conductor has many responsibilities. They inspect the train cars and all of the equipment on board to make sure that it is in proper working condition. They make sure that the train is in compliance with all orders, signals, rules and regulations. They receive information through the radio about what is currently happening on the rail lines and pass that information to other conductors and train stations.

They assist train crews with connecting cars, making repairs, and operating switches. They operate train equipment, by use of remote control devices. Overall, train conductors are the authority on board the trains. This is a great job for somebody who enjoys being in charge of a train, likes working with trains, and is good at working with their hands.

Railroad Conductors must possess the following qualities and skills:

Railroad Conductor Work Environment

Conductors work on both passenger and freight trains. They work on train lines across the United States and Canada. Those conductors that work on freight trains may have to deal with dirty conditions, noise, and heavy lifting of cargo. Conductors working on passenger trains must deal with passengers on board the trains.

Conductors work at all times of the day. This is because trains run at all times of the day. Railroad conductors will be expected to work nights, weekends, and holidays to meet the demands of train schedules. At the same time, there are federal regulations that require a minimum number of hours train conductors must rest in between shifts.

Being a train conductor means that a person will be traveling long distances, all over the state and country. They are often gone from home for long periods of time. Passenger trains tend to have more predictable schedules. Freight trains have longer routes and more irregular schedules.

Seniority determines often who receives the most desirable shifts. Those who have extra years of experience and training will be able to receive more desirable shifts, including working less holidays and night shifts. Some conductors are hired only on a temporary basis, working only when a railroad needs an extra worker on a route.

Railroad Conductor Salary

The median annual salary for railroad conductors was $60,300 in 2017, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Compensation for railroad conductors is typically determined through their union. Most railroad conductors belong to a union, and the union helps set their salary through a contract. The contract also includes benefits such as health insurance, disability insurance, pensions and more.

As railroad conductors become more experienced, they have the opportunity to increase their salary. They also have the ability to apply for more advanced positions, such as traffic coordinator, or locomotive engineer, which pay an even higher salary.

Railroad Conductor Career Outlook

Employment for railroad conductors is expected to decline from 2016 to 2026, according to the United States Bureau of Labor. About 1,000 jobs will be lost during this time period.
There is decreasing demand for items such as coal and oil, and this will cause many railways to decrease employment in order to become more efficient. Many power plants now use natural gas instead of coal.

Still, there will always be railroads. A person who is determined to get into this field should start with on the job training and apprenticeships in order to get a position as a railroad conductor.

Railroad Conductor Degree

Railroad conductors are required to have a high school diploma. They receive 1 to 3 months of on-the-job training, provided by the company that they work for. Amtrak, a passenger train company in the United States, provides its own training programs. Many freight railroad companies also have their own training programs. Smaller railroad lines may send railroad conductors to a central training facility, rather than carrying out their own program.

Railroad conductors on passenger trains learn about ticketing systems and the people skills necessary to work on those types of trains. Conductors on freight trains learn how to properly load and unload different types of cargo and equipment.

Railroad Conductor Coursework

Many railroad companies offer their own training programs. Other railroad employees decide to attend community colleges to learn more about becoming a railroad conductor. There are certificates and degrees available at select community colleges for railroad conductors. Below is an example of some of the classes that one might take.

Railroad Safety and Standards: In this course, students will learn about the basic safety precautions that must be taken when operating trains on a railway. They will learn about safety rules and how to keep trains, crew and passengers safe.

United States Railroad History: Students will learn about the history of trains and railroads in the United States, how they have changed, and how they are used today to move both people and goods.

Railroad Conductor Field Experience: Railroad conductors will get real live experience. They will work on railway lines, on passenger and commuter trains, learning what it is like to work in the field.

Railroad Conductor Career Path

If you are interested in the railroad industry, you are probably wondering what kinds of careers you can get in this field. Luckily there are many careers to help you advance in this industry. Below is one of the most likely careers that railroad conductors make as an advancement in the railroad industry.

Career Overview Responsibilities Education Required Benefits
Locomotive Engineer An engineer is the person who drives the train. Engineers are responsible for knowing rules and regulations, timetables, switch lists, navigating in any kind of weather conditions. On the job training is required for this position. This is the most advanced position that somebody can have as part of a train crew. Locomotive engineers are responsible for driving the entire train.

Related Railroad Conductor Careers

Being a railroad conductor is a rewarding profession. If you are thinking about being a railroad conductor, there may be other careers you may want to consider as well. Here are some occupations which are similar to being a railroad conductor.

Truck Driver: A truck driver picks up, transports, and delivers packages and shipments within a certain region. They travel for long distances in order to transport goods. They drive large commercial trucks. They may travel within cities or even across the country.

Flight Attendant: Flight attendants provide services on flights. They instruct passengers on safety, provide refreshments, and maintain passenger comfort onboard the flight.

Bus Driver: Bus drivers transport people between various places. Often bus drivers work for school districts, transporting students to school. They may also work for commuter and city bus companies. Bus drivers may drive regular routes, or take people on tours.

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