Common Types of Railroad Jobs

Because of the diversity of the varied positions available working for a railroad company, many people find that the skills they bring from other positions they’ve held work well to enhance their employment.

As each employee gains more experience in their field, they are able to apply for more demanding positions offering higher pay and higher levels of responsibility. Most railway employees have some form of classroom training to teach them the skills they’ll need in their chosen job.

As with any transportation job, mandatory drug testing and periodic screenings are the norm when employees are on the job. Background checks and physical exams are also part of working for a railroad company.

Working Your Way Up

While most employees start out working as laborers, many quickly move on to becoming brake operators or conductors after completing classroom training covering signals, timetables and related areas of the job. Full-time conductor positions are usually awarded based on seniority and the experience of the employee.

Engineer positions are almost always given to those employees who have shown that they have an excellent knowledge of all aspects of railway operations. Many locomotive engineers still require specialized railroad training in order to do their jobs.

The education required for all applicants is minimum high school diploma or the equivalent with the majority of training done in classroom and on-the-job following a company’s specialized training program.

Brake and signal operators are generally trained at off-site training facilities following company guidelines and programs. The programs last anywhere from a few weeks to several months and can be administered by company employees or other qualified instructors.


Locomotive engineers can earn as much as $29.88 per hour with conductors and yardmasters earning $25.70 hourly wage. Brake, signal and switch operators can generally earn up to $23.49 per hour, which is still a very good wage for workers in the transportation industry, where the average pay is $12.40 an hour.

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