How to Become a Railroad Conductor

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Railroad trains are essential vehicles in transporting passengers and freight to many different distances across the United States. Railroad conductors are trained professionals that operate many different railroad trains for a variety of purposes.

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What does a railroad conductor do?

Railroad conductors organize all of the activities of passenger and freight trains. They supervise crew and passengers, review schedules, and maintain records of freight and cargo. They make sure passengers are comfortable and safe, collect fares, tickets, and make required announcements. They organize all the activities of the crew to ensure a successful trip. They are also responsible for the operation of freight cars and the tonnage distribution in the train. Railroad conductors make sure the train’s timetable and route are confirmed before departing and they monitor equipment and correspond with traffic control centers during their runs to discuss timing, delays, stops, locations of other trains, and rail obstructions. They inspect the train cars and make sure all the operating systems are working properly. They also make sure train cars are removed or added at certain points of their trips.

What kind of training does a railroad conductor need?

Railroad conductors must have at least a high school diploma. Many railroad conductors complete formal training programs offered by railroad companies or community colleges. Training programs provide instruction on railroad history, mechanical operations, conductor services, railroad equipment, railroad operations rules, and railroad safety precautions. Some aspiring railroad conductors participate in internships or part-time jobs on railroads to gain practical experience. Most employers provide extensive on the job training that includes classroom and hands-on training. Some employers require new railroad conductors to pass tests that assess their knowledge of signals, operating procedures, and timetables. Railroad conductors must also pass a physical examination and background check.

What are the prospects for a career as a railroad conductor?

Employment of railroad conductors is expected to grow as fast as average for all professions, increasing 9% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Job growth will be driven for the continued demand of train operators.

Job prospects should be favorable especially for railroad conductors with advanced training and extensive experience. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace railroad conductors that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do railroad conductors make?

As of November 2009, the middle 50% of railroad conductors earn annual salaries between $34,166 and $51,103. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $59,314 (2).

A career as a railroad conductor is a great choice for people with a strong interest in conducting passenger and freight railroad trains. Railroad conductors must have a solid knowledge of train operations and be able to make good decisions. Good eye-hand coordination, mechanical aptitude, manual dexterity, physical stamina, good hearing, and good eyesight are necessary characteristics. Railroad conductors must also have excellent communication skills and be able to work flexible hours.

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