Schools for Aspiring Railroad and Train Engineers: How to Choose

Students who study railroad engineering can expect to learn about the practical requirements of operating a train. Students can expect to learn about railroad equipment, operations and safety.

Students who would like to become railroad or train engineers can find training programs at community colleges and technical schools. These programs are usually offered at the undergraduate level.

Schools with Railroad Operation or Engineering Programs

These schools offer relevant programs for individuals who want to work in the railroad industry:

College/University Location Institution Type Programs Offered Tuition (2016-2017)*
Gateway Community College New Haven, CT 2-year, Public Associate $4,168 in-state
$12,504 out-of-state
Johnson County Community College Overland Park, KS 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate $2,790 in-district
$3,300 in-state
$6,600 out-of-state
Wayne County Community College Detroit, MI 2-year, Public Certificate $2,838 in-district
$3,107 in-state
$3,842 out-of-state
Michigan Technological University Houghton, MI 2-year, Public Courses,
Minor
$14,634 in-state
$30,968 out-of-state
Penn State University - Altoona Altoona, PA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $14,828 in-state
$22,834 out-of-state
Sacramento City College Sacramento, CA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate $1,104 in-state
$7,704 out-of-state
Coastal Pines Technical College Waycross, GA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate $4,785
Mountwest Community and Technical College Huntington, WV 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate $3,888 in-state
$9,672 out-of-state
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 4-year, Public Certificate $14,062 in-state
$37,890 out-of-state

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Students should consider the following when selecting a program:

  • Prospective students should evaluate the program's curriculum to make sure that it is consistent with their career goals. For instance, some programs train engineers to operate a train, while others provide training for railroad workers who are interested in track and train design or equipment servicing and maintenance.
  • Individuals who have a particular interest area in the field may look for programs that allow for specializations, such as the electromechanical aspects of railroad technology or the signaling/communications aspects of the field.
  • Before enrolling, students should consider whether they are suited to a job that has strenuous physical demands.
  • Prospective railroad engineers and engine drivers may want to look for accredited programs that prepare them for Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) certification and any additional certification or licenses they may need to work the railways.

Certificate Programs

A few certificate programs specifically address railroad engineering. Some certificate programs take less than a year to complete, while others require 1-2 years of study. In general certificate programs, courses cover the rules and regulations of the railway, as well as railroad equipment and mechanical operations. Some schools also offer certificate programs in specialized topics, like light rail engineering technology. In addition, there are schools that partner with a railroad organization or company to offer additional practical training and locomotive electrical, mechanical or conductor certificates. Students may be required to participate in an internship.

Associate's Degree Programs

A few community colleges and technical schools offer specific associate degrees in railroad studies. The associate degree takes up to two years to complete. They cover the same fundamental industry topics as general certificate programs, but students must also fulfill general education requirements. Additionally, students may learn how to operate trains and new train equipment, including learning how to manage the train's operation in extreme conditions. Students may also be required to complete field experiences where they apply what they've learned in the classroom to real-life situations.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree programs for aspiring railroad workers are available in topics such as rail transportation engineering. There are also schools that offer students the opportunity to minor in rail transportation. Students in these programs are introduced to the fundamental mathematical and scientific concepts that underpin railroad technology, as well as recent trends in the industry. General education courses are also included in the curriculum. Upon graduation, students are prepared for a wide range of jobs in the field, which can involve rail track design and maintenance, locomotive design and maintenance, rail network planning and operations, signaling or transportation logistics.

There are a variety of undergraduate-level educational options for aspiring train engineers and others who wish to pursue careers in the railroad transportation industry.

Search Degrees, Careers, or Schools