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Railroad Conductor: Job Info & Career Requirements

Learn what railroad conductors do and the skills required to become a conductor. Find out about education, training and licensure requirements, as well as some alternative careers.

Career Definition for a Railroad Conductor

Railroad conductors can work on either passenger trains or freight trains and might be employed as a service conductor, passenger agent or yard conductor. Generally, railroad conductors who work in the railroad industry for several years may request promotion to locomotive engineer.

Duties for railroad conductors include collecting passenger tickets or train fares and coordinating the transportation of freight and train crews. They also review freight documentation and maintain records and reports pertaining to arrival and departure times, tickets and fares, train movements and unscheduled stops and delays.

Education Some employers require earned certificate
Job Skills Communication, hand-eye coordination, leadership, decision making
Median Salary (2015)* $55,930 (all railroad conductors and yardmasters)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -2% (all railroad conductors and yardmasters)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

For the most part, hands-on experience in the railroad industry is the best education for a railroad conductor. Some train companies require those wishing to become a railroad conductor to complete a formal 5 or 6-week training program offered by a technical school or community college. These programs often lead to a certificate in railroad conductor technology. Courses in the certification program include rules of operation, safety, signals, rail equipment and railroad conductor duties.

Skills Required

Railroad conductors should have strong mechanical, clerical and customer service skills. Good speaking, organizational and decision-making abilities are also vital. Interpersonal skills are important since railroad conductors work closely with train crews, engineers, supervisors, passengers and yard crews.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for railroad conductors are expected to decline by 2% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for railroad conductors and yardmasters was $55,930 in May 2015. In some cases, railroad conductors might be paid according to miles traveled or hours worked, which could result in higher wages. States in which the most railroad conductors were employed in May 2015 included New York, Texas, and Illinois.

Alternate Career Options

Other jobs that involve public transportation include train engineer and bus driver:

Train Engineers

Train engineers, also called locomotive engineers, are responsible for driving trains safely to their destination. These workers don't often have direct contact with passengers like a conductor does, but they are in close contact with other train workers, such as conductors and brake operators. On-the-job training is required to become a train engineer. Additionally, locomotive engineers must be certified by the Federal Railroad Administration. According to the BLS, job growth for locomotive engineers is expected to decline by 2% during the 2014-2024 decade. In May 2015, the BLS reported that locomotive engineers earned an average salary of $56,240.

Bus Drivers

Those who like the customer-service aspect of railroad conducting but prefer an occupation in transportation that is more likely to have job openings may consider becoming a bus driver. Bus drivers operate all types of buses, including school buses, transit buses and tour buses. These workers may be required to go through training specific to the type of bus they will drive, and they must obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). Jobs for bus drivers of all types are expected to increase by 6% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. In May 2015, the BLS reported that school bus drivers earned an average salary of $29,490, while transit bus drivers earned an average of $38,290.

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