The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that there are about 2 million rail workers in America today. They include conductors, engineers, brakemen/women, switch tenders, and yardmasters.
But what does it take to become a train conductor? We talked to three people who work in the industry to find out.
Requirements To Be A Train Conductor
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced Thursday that it had finalized new regulations for train conductors. These new regulations require train operators to ensure that their employees meet certain qualifications before they’re allowed to operate trains.
Applicants must be at least 18 years old, hold a valid driver’s license, graduate from high school with a high school diploma, and possess a clean driving record. They must also prove that they’ve worked at least 2 years in another occupation that required similar skills.
Other duties that will make you more competitive in the field include the ability to work with large machinery and experience working varied shift schedules.
You can expect to spend the initial six to eight weeks engaged in a company-sponsored training course. At the end of the course, you may have to take the Conductor Certification which demonstrates knowledge of safety rules and guidelines provided by the FRA. You’ll be expected to attend annual training courses to learn about regulatory updates and changes in safety procedures.
Railroad Conductor Duties & Responsibilities
A conductor is responsible for overseeing the safety of passengers while ensuring that trains run on schedule. They are also responsible for making sure that freight cars are loaded properly and unloaded safely. Conductors must check tickets, ensure that passengers pay for their trips, and assist people who need help getting to their destinations.
Conductors typically work for one railroad company for many years. However, some conductors move around to different companies as needed. In addition, there are a number of different types of conductors. Some are train engineers, who operate locomotives; others are yardmasters, who oversee the movement of trains into and out of depots; still, others are traffic controllers, who keep track of where each passenger is traveling.
Skills & Competencies Required
Being an effective railroad conductor typically involves some of the same soft skill sets needed in other customer service roles, such as hospitality, retail, healthcare, etc., but there are some physical demands too. Conductors must be able to communicate effectively both internally and externally and must have communication skills to be able to handle challenges with passengers, coworkers, and management alike. They must be able to work under pressure and deal with emergencies without losing composure. Finally, they must be able to keep up with the pace of a busy schedule while maintaining good health habits.
How to Get An Entry-Level Position As A Railroad Conductor
To become a conductor, you’ll need to start out in one of the following positions: brakeman, switch tender, yardmaster, or train dispatcher. These jobs require a high school education and some experience working in the field. You won’t necessarily need a college degree, but it helps. Most Class I railroads offer apprenticeship programs where you can work while earning money toward a degree.
The average starting salary for conductors is $39,000 per year. After about five years, you’ll make around $50,000. The average train conductor’s salary is roughly $77,080 per year.
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