Railroad Operations Degree Program Information

An associate degree program in railroad operations prepares graduates for entry-level railroad careers with education in safety issues, environmental concerns, track information, and procedural regulations. Students also gain technical expertise in switching tracks, using airbrakes, and attaching cars.

Essential Information

Some railroad operations programs emphasize training and skills to become a railroad conductor. These 2-year programs typically require applicants to hold a high school diploma and complete a background check and physical exam.

  • Railroad Operations Program Fields: General operations; Conductor
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; Background check; Physical exam
  • Program Length: Two years

Associate Degree in Railroad Operations

The day-to-day systems designed for efficiency in railroad operations are extensive. Associate degree training covers administrative responsibilities, equipment and technical components, environmental affairs, safety regulations, and industry issues. A railroad operations degree program requires students to purchase specific clothing, footwear, and safety gear to be worn during hands-on coursework. Often, program curriculum includes the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR), the rules used across the U.S. to enhance railroad safety. Students may be kept from moving forward in the program if they fail an exam on the GCOR. Courses involve the use of railroads presently and historically, the importance of safety and practical skills, such as getting on and off moving platforms. Other coursework may entail:

  • Safety and working hazards
  • Operational regulations
  • Administrative duties
  • Use and rules of airbrakes
  • Communication
  • Computer business programs

Associate Degree in Railroad Operations: Railroad Conductor

An associate degree in railroad operations with a railroad conductor emphasis combines business administrative functions with the technical expertise of operating and managing a train. The education that prepares a student to become a railroad conductor involves computer skills, technical math, business communications, and safety measures. Hands-on training and classroom lecture are intertwined throughout the program so students may use their combined skill set for practical application in railroad operations. The conductor emphasis associate degree program first covers the computer skills, math, and business aspects of conductor training. Later in the program, students get real-world education in the day-today technical responsibilities of being a conductor. Classes may include:

  • Railroad economics
  • Technical writing skills
  • Safety regulations
  • Conductor technical operations
  • Conductor responsibilities
  • GCOR

Popular Careers

An associate degree in railroad operations qualifies a person for entry-level positions with one of the 650 railroads in the United States. Positions may include:

  • Switch operator
  • Yard master
  • Manager of train operations

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The conductor is an entry-level position according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and is projected to show below-average growth at a 3% decline over 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Conductors made a median wage of $54,770 annually in May 2014.

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