Diesel Locomotive Mechanics Training and Education Program Info

Aspiring diesel locomotive mechanics, also known as train mechanics, can study general diesel engine technology at the certificate and associate's degree levels.

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Essential Information

Individuals can receive training in diesel technology through certificate programs and associate's degree programs offered by vocational schools and community colleges. Diesel engines, due to their increased fuel efficiency and durability, are the most commonly used engines in heavy machinery and locomotives. In these programs, students learn about the diesel engines found in forklifts, trucks and other heavy equipment as well as trains. In both types of programs, students get a thorough overview of diesel systems and hands-on experience in maintenance and repair.

Prerequisites for diesel technology programs may include a state commercial driver's license and knowledge of U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. Students focusing on locomotives need to also learn rules specific to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Certificate Programs in Diesel Technology and Heavy Machinery

Students learn about engine design, brake systems and microcomputers in order to prepare to diagnose, rebuild and repair locomotives and heavy machinery. Programs provide students with practical experience with pliers, pressure gauges and socket wrenches. Diesel technicians working on automobiles are recommended to know how to drive a standard transmission car, in order to test drive cars and repeat operator-described failures. These programs require a 1-2 year commitment from students. Students are prepared to work on a wide variety of diesel-run machines, from farm equipment to oil rigs. Coursework includes:

  • Air brakes
  • Electrical systems
  • Internal combustion engines
  • Powertrain assemblies

Associate's Degree Programs in Diesel Technology and Heavy Machinery

These programs prepare graduates for entry-level positions as diesel or heavy machinery mechanics by providing a basic knowledge and understanding of engine reassembly, injection pumps and welding. Students use pneumatic wrenches, rebuild brakes using lathes and pinpoint electrical and mechanical failures with computerized testing equipment. Diesel mechanics who decide to work on buses and automobiles will need a state commercial driver's license to test equipment on public roads; no similar requirements exist for locomotive mechanics. These degrees are earned by completing 2-year programs. Coursework includes:

  • Electrical systems
  • Heavy-duty brakes
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Suspension systems

Popular Careers

Aside from working on trains, workers who've completed a certificate program in diesel technology or heavy machinery may also find jobs as:

  • Bus mechanics
  • Heavy equipment mechanics
  • Hydraulics technicians
  • Truck mechanics
  • Utility technicians

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists held 285,300 jobs in 2018 ( This occupational group includes rail transportation as well. Employment of all heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians was expected to increase by 4% over the 2018-2028 decade. The BLS records from May 2018 showed that the mean annual wage of bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists was $49,150. The top three industries employing these workers were general freight trucking, local government and automotive repair and maintenance. Rail car repairers earned a mean annual salary of $56,020 per year as of 2018.

Students who earn a certificate or associate's degree in diesel technology are qualified to work on locomotives and other heavy machinery run by diesel engines, including buses, trucks and forklifts. Both of these programs combine classroom learning with hands-on practical mechanic experience.

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