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Career profile Railroad Engineer

Also known as Car Repairman, Engineer, Railcar Switcher, Railroad Engineer, Switchman, Transportation Specialist, Yard Engineer

Railroad Engineer

Also known as Car Repairman, Engineer, Railcar Switcher

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
  • Investigative
Pay Range
$35,980 - $81,010 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Operation and Control
  • Monitoring
  • Operations Monitoring
Knowledge Areas
  • Transportation
  • Public Safety and Security
  • Administration and Management
Core tasks
  • Observe and respond to wayside and cab signals, including color light signals, position signals, torpedoes, flags, and hot box detectors.
  • Inspect engines before and after use to ensure proper operation.
  • Apply and release hand brakes.
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What does a Railroad Engineer do?

Railroad Engineers drive switching or other locomotive or dinkey engines within railroad yard, industrial plant, quarry, construction project, or similar location.

What kind of tasks does a Railroad Engineer perform regularly?

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

  • Observe and respond to wayside and cab signals, including color light signals, position signals, torpedoes, flags, and hot box detectors.
  • Inspect engines before and after use to ensure proper operation.
  • Apply and release hand brakes.
  • Signal crew members for movement of engines or trains, using lanterns, hand signals, radios, or telephones.
  • Confer with conductors and other workers via radiotelephones or computers to exchange switching information.
  • Inspect track for defects such as broken rails and switch malfunctions.
  • Observe water levels and oil, air, and steam pressure gauges to ensure proper operation of equipment.
  • Couple and uncouple air hoses and electrical connections between cars.
  • Drive engines within railroad yards or other establishments to couple, uncouple, or switch railroad cars.
  • Inspect the condition of stationary trains, rolling stock, and equipment.
  • Read switching instructions and daily car schedules to determine work to be performed, or receive orders from yard conductors.
  • Receive, relay, and act upon instructions and inquiries from train operations and customer service center personnel.
  • Spot cars for loading and unloading at customer locations.
  • Operate track switches, derails, automatic switches, and retarders to change routing of train or cars.
  • Report arrival and departure times, train delays, work order completion, and time on duty.
  • Drive locomotives to and from various stations in roundhouses to have locomotives cleaned, serviced, repaired, or supplied.
  • Perform routine repair and maintenance duties.
  • Pull knuckles to open them for coupling.
  • Provide assistance in aligning drawbars, using available equipment to lift, pull, or push on the drawbars.

The above responsibilities are specific to Railroad Engineers. More generally, Railroad Engineers 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.
Controlling Machines and Processes
Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment
Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or watercraft.
Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.

What is a Railroad Engineer salary?

The median salary for a Railroad Engineer is $51,720, and the average salary is $55,200. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Railroad Engineer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Railroad Engineers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Railroad Engineers earn less than $35,980 per year, 25% earn less than $42,340, 75% earn less than $64,970, and 90% earn less than $81,010.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Railroad Engineers is expected to change by 2.4%, and there should be roughly 400 open positions for Railroad Engineers every year.

Median annual salary
$51,720
Typical salary range
$35,980 - $81,010
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
2.4%

What personality traits are common among Railroad Engineers?

Interests

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 Engineer are usually higher in their Realistic and Conventional interests.

Railroad Engineers typically have very 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.

Also, Railroad Engineers typically have moderate 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.

Values

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 Engineer tend to value Support, Relationships, and Independence.

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

Second, Railroad Engineers moderately value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Lastly, Railroad Engineers moderately value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

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 Engineers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as attention to detail, dependability, and cooperation.

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

Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Adaptability/Flexibility
Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.

What education and training do Railroad Engineers need?

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

Railroad Engineers 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 Engineers

  • 1.6% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 37.6% completed high school or secondary school
  • 36.5% completed some college coursework
  • 10.3% earned a Associate's degree
  • 11.8% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 1.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.3% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Railroad Engineers

Railroad Engineers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as transportation, public safety and security, or administration and management knowledge.

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

Transportation
Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
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.
Administration and Management
Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Mechanical
Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
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 Engineers

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

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.
Far Vision
The ability to see details at a distance.
Control Precision
The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
Reaction Time
The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.

Critical Skills needed by Railroad Engineers

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 Engineers frequently use skills like operation and control, monitoring, and operations monitoring to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Railroad Engineers, ranked by their relative importance.

Operation and Control
Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Monitoring
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Operations Monitoring
Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
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.