Railroad Operations Degree Program Information

Oct 13, 2019

Essential Information

The day-to-day systems designed for efficiency in railroad operations are extensive. Associate degree training covers administrative responsibilities, equipment, and technical components, environmental affairs, safety regulations, and industry issues. Some railroad operations programs emphasize training and skills to become a railroad conductor. These 2-year programs typically require applicants to hold a high school diploma or the GED equivalent and complete a background check and physical exam.

Associate Degree in Railroad Operations

A railroad operations degree program requires students to purchase specific clothing, footwear, and safety gear to be worn during hands-on coursework. Often, program curriculum includes the General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR), the rules used across the U.S. to enhance railroad safety. Students may be kept from moving forward in the program if they fail an exam on the GCOR. Courses involve the use of railroads presently and historically, the importance of safety and practical skills, such as getting on and off moving platforms. Other coursework may entail:

  • Safety and working hazards
  • Operational regulations
  • Administrative duties
  • Use and rules of airbrakes
  • Communication
  • Computer business programs

Associate Degree in Railroad Operations: Railroad Conductor

An associate degree in railroad operations with a railroad conductor emphasis combines business administrative functions with the technical expertise of operating and managing a train. The education that prepares a student to become a railroad conductor involves computer skills, technical math, business communications, and safety measures. Hands-on training and classroom lecture are intertwined throughout the program so students may use their combined skill set for practical application in railroad operations. The conductor emphasis associate degree program first covers the computer skills, math, and business aspects of conductor training. Later in the program, students get a real-world education in the day-to-day technical responsibilities of being a conductor. Classes may include:

  • Railroad economics
  • Technical writing skills
  • Safety regulations
  • Conductor technical operations
  • Conductor responsibilities
  • GCOR

Popular Careers

An associate degree in railroad operations qualifies a person for entry-level positions with one of the 650 railroads in the United States. Positions may include:

  • Switch operator
  • Yardmaster
  • Manager of train operations

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of conductors and yardmasters is projected to decline by 1% over 2018-2028 ( These professionals made a median wage of $62,930 annually as of May 2018.

Both associate degrees in railroad general operations and those with a conductor emphasis are available to students who are seeking employment in the locomotive operations industry. These degrees equip graduates with practical training and technical expertise involving all aspects of train function and railway transportation.

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