How to Become a Locomotive Electrician: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 11, 2020

Find out how to become a locomotive electrician. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career as a locomotive electrician.

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Should I Become a Locomotive Electrician?

Locomotive electricians install, service and repair circuits, motors and other electrical devices for railroad cars and mass transit systems. Duties may include replacing blown fuses and monitoring fluid levels as well as more complex work like rewiring electrical connections and repairing cooling fans. Safety guidelines must be followed and protective gear should be worn to prevent injuries and accidents. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2018, the median annual salary for electricians was $55,190.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; postsecondary training may be beneficial
Training 4 years of apprenticeship training is common
Licensure Required by most states
Key Skills Knowledge of analytical, computer-aided design, and project-management software; familiar with complex electrical equipment like voltage detectors and hydraulic conduit benders; ability to work in cramped spaces and travel to sites; color sight; ability to read blueprints and determine locations of equipment or components in need of repair
Median Salary (2018) $55,190 (for all electricians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

To become a locomotive electrician, you don't need a degree, but post-secondary training may be beneficial. It's most common to complete 4 years of apprenticeship training. Licensure is required by most states. You'll need to have knowledge of analytical software, computer-aided design programs, and project-management software; be familiar with complex electrical equipment, like voltage detectors and hydraulic conduit benders; and have the ability to work in cramped spaces and travel to sites; to distinguish between different colors; to read blueprints; and to determine locations of equipment or components in need of repair.

Steps to Become a Locomotive Electrician

Let's now go over what steps you have to take if you want to be a locomotive electrician.

Step 1: Consider Postsecondary Education

While college coursework is not mandatory for this career, aspiring locomotive electricians can start their education by earning a certificate or associate's degree in locomotive electrical systems. A certificate program in this subject may include classes in engine theory, alternating current and safety procedures. Students who complete such postsecondary education may be able to apply their credits to count toward their apprenticeship training.

Step 2: Complete an Apprenticeship

Locomotive electricians, like other electricians, often gain their training through 3- to 4-year apprenticeship programs. Applicants for apprenticeships typically need to be at least 18 years old, have high school diplomas or GEDs, be drug free and meet math/aptitude requirements. These programs may be available through unions, industry organizations or railroad companies, and they combine in-class and on-the-job training in locomotive systems, maintenance, troubleshooting and repair. Apprentices typically work under the direct supervision of more experienced journeymen. Upon completion of the program, apprentices become journeymen before moving on to electrician status.

Step 3: Obtain an Electrician's License

The BLS notes that electricians are typically required to obtain state licensure. Licensing requirements vary by state, so aspiring locomotive electricians should consult their state's electrician licensing board for specific regulations. In North Dakota, for example, both journeymen and master electricians must be licensed. Journeymen need 8,000 hours of apprenticeship training, while master electricians need one year of experience as a journeyman.

Step 4: Advance with Experience

Locomotive electricians can find employment with railroad companies, mass transit lines and other transportation services companies. After getting hired, these workers may undergo additional supervised on-the-job training for a few months, taking on more responsibility as they demonstrate proficiency. With experience, locomotive electricians can advance to supervisory positions, such as foreman or manager.

To become a locomotive electrician, you need to go through an apprenticeship program and obtain the required license.

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