Railroad Conductor Schools and Training Programs: How to Choose

While many conductors learn on the job in entry-level rail yard positions, some attend technical schools and complete railroad conductor programs that will give them the hands-on, practical experience needed to land a job with a rail company.

How to Choose a Railroad Conductor School

Railroad conductors are in charge of rail operations, scheduling, recording and monitoring the traveling cargo or passengers and overseeing safety. Prospective railroad conductors may find it useful to peruse potential employers' job postings and requirements prior to choosing a training program or school. Most employers and some schools require students to be physically fit and able to work with heavy machinery, as well as passing color blindness, drug and background checks. Additionally, even though educational programs may not be rigorous or time-consuming, students should understand that most companies require conductors to work on-call, 12-hour shifts through all weather conditions as well as being away on jobs for days at a time.

Other factors to consider when choosing a railroad conductor school include the following:

  • While conductors don't generally need to be licensed, prospective students may want to check with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for any additional state certification or licensure requirements for conductors and look for schools and training programs that will meet these requirements (
  • Candidates might want to find schools that offer hands-on experience with train equipment, such as train simulators and sample train tracks, and also provide students with internships at local and national railway lines for added experience.

Railroad Conductor Program Overviews

Certificate in Railroad Conductor Technology

Some technical schools and community colleges offer certificate programs in railroad conductor technology. These programs typically take 1-2 years to complete and include an internship or work experience as part of the graduation requirements. In addition to studying the mechanics behind railroad equipment, student conductors learn:

  • Railroad operations
  • Conductor duties
  • Railroad safety

Associate of Applied Science in Railroad Operations

Associate degrees pertaining to railroad transportation may not be as easily accessible as certificate programs or on-the-job training by railroad companies. That being said, these few associate programs take up to two years to complete and include meeting all college general education requirements. Conductors are taught how to work with timetables and work orders as well as coupling trains and switching cars. Courses cover such topics as:

  • Railroad operations
  • Safety
  • Operating rules

10 Schools With Railroad Conductor Programs

College/University Institution Type
Dakota County Technical College 2-year, Public
Johnson County Community College - National Academy of Railroad Science 2-year, Public
International Air and Hospitality Academy - Northwest Railroad Institute Less than 2-year, Private for-profit
Michigan Technological University 4-year, Public
Colorado State University - Pueblo 4-year, Public
Coastal Pines Technical College 2-year, Public
Gateway Community College 2-year, Public
Tarrant County College 2-year, Public
University of Denver 4-year, Private not-for-profit
Sacramento City College 2-year, Public

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