A railroad conductor associate's degree program, though rarely available, is the most advanced degree program offered in this field. This 2-year program can be found at a few community colleges and technical/vocational schools.
This program includes career-oriented training in personnel management, fare collection, weight distribution management, locomotive technology use and traffic monitoring. Students also take a few general courses in business office technology, composition and logic. Most programs include opportunities for hands-on field experience.
Associate's Degree in Railroad Conducting
Applicants to railroad conductor degree programs are required to possess high school diplomas or the equivalent. Though not typically required for admission, prior education in computers, mathematics, and physics can be helpful in this field. These programs for aspiring railroad conductors provide students with broad knowledge of the technical, legal and service aspects of the job. Common courses include the following:
- Introductory railroad conductor service
- Railroad safety and standards
- General code of operating rules
- Railroad conductor mechanical operations
- U.S. railroad history
- Railroad conductor field experience
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were an estimated 45,100 railroad conductor and yardmaster jobs in 2014; that number was expected to decline 2% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). While increased demand for both freight and passenger rail was expected, the need for conductors was expected to be offset by increased automation in rail technology. As of May 2015, railroad conductors and yardmasters had median wages of $55,930, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Most new railroad conductors complete training programs offered by their employers. While locomotive engineers are federally required to hold licenses, railroad conductors are not. This is expected to change, however, because of recently enacted federal legislation. Future railroad conductor licensure may require passing a series of tests, similar to the process for locomotive engineers; this licensure process would test an individual's competence in areas including railroad operations knowledge, hearing, and vision.
Prospective railroad conductors can learn the techniques behind running a train through associate's degree programs. In addition to preparing students for employment, these programs might also help them pass licensing exams, should they become required.