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Job Description for a Signal Maintainer

Signal maintainers require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and skills required to find out if this career is right for you.

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A signal maintainer works in the rail industry and is responsible for the regular servicing of a track's electrical equipment, such as switches, wires, and lights. They must have a solid understanding of circuitry, electronic rail devices, communication systems, and general machinery used on railroads. Signal maintainers might service freight or passenger tracks, or they may perform repairs on underground subway systems.

Essential Information

Signal maintainers ensure that the electrical components on railway tracks are in good working order and serviced regularly. To perform their jobs, these workers must be well versed in circuitry, communication systems, safety and electronics. Individuals who want to obtain these skills might participate in apprenticeships or study electrical technology at community colleges or vocational schools.

Required Education Apprenticeship or 2-year degree in electrical technology or electrical engineering
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) -1% to 1% (for all signal and track switch repairers)*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $63,840 (for all signal and track switch repairers)**

Sources: O'Net Online*; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics**

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Signal Maintainer Job Description

Signal maintainers service the electrical equipment on and alongside the tracks of railroads and subways. They may install and test wires, mechanical components and track switches. When parts on the track malfunction, signal maintainers are called in to inspect and repair them. For example, signal maintainers may replace faulty wiring, repair lights and lubricate gate crossings.

Training

To perform their jobs, signal maintainers must be knowledgeable about railroad machinery, electronics, transportation and public safety. Although prospective signal maintainers don't need to attend college, they might find it helpful to complete a vocational education or community college program in electrical technology or electrical engineering. In addition, work experience, either as a trainee or an apprentice is extremely useful in pursuing signal maintenance employment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most transportation companies offer training programs for their new hires (www.bls.gov).

Workplace

Signal maintainers may work outdoors on freight and passenger train tracks, as well as underground on subways lines. Signal maintainers may be required to work irregular hours. The work can be dangerous, due to environmental conditions, transportation safety and high voltage equipment.

The job can also be highly physical and may often include climbing and crawling. Signal maintainers must be prepared to lift, move, assemble and disassemble heavy equipment and objects. They may also operate forklifts and large power tools.

Salary and Outlook Information

Although O'Net Online doesn't provide definitive job outlook information for signal maintainers alone, it does report that employment opportunities for signal and track switch repairers as a group are predicted to experience little or no growth over the 2014 to 2024 decade. The median salary for these workers was $63,840 as of 2015, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Although a postsecondary education is not required to become a signal maintainer, some form of vocational training in a subject like electrical technology might be beneficial when seeking employment. Completing an apprenticeship can be another useful way for aspiring signal maintainers to gain first-hand experience in this field. The job may require working in hazardous conditions and call for physical strength and stamina.

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