Railroad Inspector: Employment Info & Requirements

Mar 12, 2019

Learn the job duties and education and training requirements for railroad inspectors. Find out the employment outlook and salary potential for jobs in this field, as well as alternative career options.

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Career Definition of a Railroad Inspector

A railroad inspector works in rail yards and at repair shops inspecting railroad equipment. Railroad inspectors inspect steam, electric and diesel locomotives, as well as signal and safety equipment. They also review railroad operations for compliance with safety standards. Knowledge of standards and regulations set by both state departments of transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration is required.

Educational Requirements High School Diploma
Job Skills Strong problem solving and communication skills, good physical condition, good interpersonal skills and knowledge of standard transport regulations
Median Salary (2017)* $72,140 (transportation inspectors)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 6% (transportation inspectors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Experience is the key element in the education of a railroad inspector. Most railroad worker jobs require a high school diploma and a minimum of one year in the railroad industry is typically required for most positions. However, in some cases, a bachelor's degree in mechanical or electrical engineering, or engineering technology, may substitute for this requirement.

Skills Required

Railroad inspectors should have strong problem solving, communication, and decision-making skills. They should be in good physical condition, since this job requires walking, bending, crawling, and climbing ladders. Interpersonal skills are also important, because railroad inspectors work closely with other railroad personnel, including managers, engineers, and rail yard employees.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed transportation inspectors, including railroad inspectors, is expected to increase by 6% from 2016 to 2026. Transportation inspectors had a median annual wage of $72,140 as of May 2017, per the BLS. Aspiring railroad inspectors might find the most opportunities in metropolitan areas, such as New York City or Chicago.

Alternative Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:

Railroad Conductor

Those who are interested in working with trains but prefer to have contact with passengers and railroad personnel may want to consider working as railroad conductors. Railroad conductors schedule trains, take tickets, provide information to customers, and ensure rail-passenger safety. While there are no formal post-secondary education requirements, most railroad conductors complete 1-3 months of on-the-job training and must be certified. The BLS projects that this occupation will decline by 2% from 2016 to 2026. Railroad conductors earned a median annual salary of $60,300 as of May 2017, according to the BLS.

Construction and Building Inspector

Like railroad inspectors, construction and building inspectors ensure that safety standards are met, but for buildings, instead of trains. Only a high school diploma is required, but building inspectors must have enough education or experience in the construction industry to understand the types of construction systems they are inspecting. Certification, licensure or both may be required for these inspectors. The BLS projects that employment for construction and building inspectors will increase by 10% during the 2016-2026 decade and that as of May 2017, construction and building inspectors earned a median annual salary of $59,090.

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