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Career profile Railroad Conductor

Also known as Conductor; Conductor and Engineer; Conductor, Freight; Conductor/Brakeman; Freight Conductor; Railroad Conductor; Train Master; Trainman; Yardmaster

Railroad Conductor

Also known as Conductor; Conductor and Engineer; Conductor, Freight; Conductor/Brakeman; Freight Conductor; Railroad Conductor; Train Master; Trainman; Yardmaster

Interests Profile
  • Enterprising
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$43,430 - $90,520 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Speaking
  • Monitoring
  • Coordination
Knowledge Areas
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Transportation
  • Education and Training
Core tasks
  • Signal engineers to begin train runs, stop trains, or change speed, using telecommunications equipment or hand signals.
  • Confer with engineers regarding train routes, timetables, and cargoes, and to discuss alternative routes when there are rail defects or obstructions.
  • Instruct workers to set warning signals in front and at rear of trains during emergency stops.
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What does a Railroad Conductor do?

Railroad Conductors coordinate activities of switch-engine crew within railroad yard, industrial plant, or similar location.

In addition, Railroad Conductors

  • conductors coordinate activities of train crew on passenger or freight trains,
  • yardmasters review train schedules and switching orders and coordinate activities of workers engaged in railroad traffic operations, such as the makeup or breakup of trains and yard switching.

What kind of tasks does a Railroad Conductor perform regularly?

Railroad Conductors are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Signal engineers to begin train runs, stop trains, or change speed, using telecommunications equipment or hand signals.
  • Confer with engineers regarding train routes, timetables, and cargoes, and to discuss alternative routes when there are rail defects or obstructions.
  • Receive information regarding train or rail problems from dispatchers or from electronic monitoring devices.
  • Keep records of the contents and destination of each train car, and make sure that cars are added or removed at proper points on routes.
  • Receive instructions from dispatchers regarding trains' routes, timetables, and cargoes.
  • Direct and instruct workers engaged in yard activities, such as switching tracks, coupling and uncoupling cars, and routing inbound and outbound traffic.
  • Operate controls to activate track switches and traffic signals.
  • Arrange for the removal of defective cars from trains at stations or stops.
  • Direct engineers to move cars to fit planned train configurations, combining or separating cars to make up or break up trains.
  • Inspect each car periodically during runs.
  • Review schedules, switching orders, way bills, and shipping records to obtain cargo loading and unloading information and to plan work.
  • Confirm routes and destination information for freight cars.
  • Verify accuracy of timekeeping instruments with engineers to ensure trains depart on time.
  • Document and prepare reports of accidents, unscheduled stops, or delays.

The above responsibilities are specific to Railroad Conductors. More generally, Railroad Conductors are involved in several broader types of activities:

Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Materials
Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Performing General Physical Activities
Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.

What is a Railroad Conductor salary?

The median salary for a Railroad Conductor is $64,030, and the average salary is $65,440. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Railroad Conductor salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Railroad Conductors earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Railroad Conductors earn less than $43,430 per year, 25% earn less than $54,910, 75% earn less than $76,310, and 90% earn less than $90,520.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Railroad Conductors is expected to change by 5.5%, and there should be roughly 3,100 open positions for Railroad Conductors every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$43,430 - $90,520
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Railroad Conductors?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Railroad Conductor are usually higher in their Enterprising, Realistic, and Conventional interests.

Railroad Conductors typically have very strong Enterprising interests. Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.

Also, Railroad Conductors typically have strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Lastly, Railroad Conductors typically have strong Conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Railroad Conductor tend to value Support, Independence, and Working Conditions.

Most importantly, Railroad Conductors strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Second, Railroad Conductors strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Lastly, Railroad Conductors moderately value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Railroad Conductors must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, attention to detail, and integrity.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Railroad Conductors, ranked by importance:

Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.

What education and training do Railroad Conductors need?

Working as a Railroad Conductor usually requires a high school diploma.

Railroad Conductors need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Railroad Conductors

  • 2.2% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 39.4% completed high school or secondary school
  • 34.6% completed some college coursework
  • 10.6% earned a Associate's degree
  • 12.0% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 1.2% earned a Master's degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Railroad Conductors

Railroad Conductors may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as public safety and security, transportation, or education and training knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Railroad Conductors might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Public Safety and Security
Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Law and Government
Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

Important Abilities needed by Railroad Conductors

Railroad Conductors must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Railroad Conductors need abilities such as oral expression, oral comprehension, and problem sensitivity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Railroad Conductors, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Far Vision
The ability to see details at a distance.

Critical Skills needed by Railroad Conductors

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Railroad Conductors frequently use skills like speaking, monitoring, and coordination to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Railroad Conductors, ranked by their relative importance.

Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.