Schools for Aspiring Locomotive Engineers: How to Choose

Locomotive engineers are skilled technicians who operate passenger or cargo trains. Many engineers receive on-the-job training, but railroad operations training programs are also available at select schools around the country.

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Aspiring locomotive engineers can enroll in undergraduate training programs offered by community colleges, technical schools and professional organizations.

Schools with Locomotive Engineer Programs

The following schools offer locomotive engineer programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)*
Dakota County Technical College Rosemount, Minnesota 2-year, Public Certificate $5,027**
Bucks County Community College Newtown, Pennsylvania 2-year, Public Course $650**
Gateway Community College New Haven, Connecticut 2-year, Public Associate's $4,032 In-state
$12,096 Out-of-state
Penn State Altoona Altoona, Pennsylvania 4-year, Public Bachelor's $14,610 In-state
$22,344 Out-of-state
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Champaign, Illinois 4-year, Public Certificate, Master's $15,054 In-state
$30,214 Out-of-state
Sacramento City College Sacramento, California 2-year, Public Certificate
$1,104 In-state
$7,440 Out-of-state
Johnson County Community College Overland Park, Kansas 2-year, Public Certificate
$2,730 In-district
$3,180 In-state
$6,420 Out-of-state
Michigan Tech Houghton, Michigan 4-year, Public Minor $14,286 In-state
$30,250 Out-of-state
Carl Sandburg College Galesburg, Illinois 2-year, Public Certificate
$4,250 In-district
$6,014 In-state
$7,078 Out-of-state

Sources: *NCES College Navigator, **School websites

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School Selection Criteria

Consider the following when looking for locomotive engineer schools:

  • Would-be engineers who want a comprehensive college education may select a 2-year associate or 4-year bachelor's degree program in railroad operations that requires general education courses in addition to practical skills training.
  • Other types of training programs may be much shorter, lasting 1-6 months and providing the minimum training that leads to mandatory licensure by the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
  • Those interested in becoming locomotive engineers may seek a program that's affiliated with the industry.

Railroad Conductor and Engineer Certificates

Engineer and conductor training certificates can take 1-6 months of part- or full-time study to earn, depending on the program's academic scope and focus. Certificate programs can be found at community colleges or trade schools, or they may be offered in conjunction with professional organizations. Curricula are often designed to help the student earn required federal licensure as a locomotive engineer from the FRA. Internships or field experiences are also commonly required.

Associate Degree in Railroad Operations

Associate degree programs in railroad operations provide similar career and skills courses to those found in certificate programs. However, programs also provide liberal arts courses, such as business administration, economics, technical math and communications. Internship opportunities may also be available. Such 2-year programs are designed to provide comprehensive instruction for professional maintenance and operations personnel in the railroad industry.

Locomotive engineer programs are available at the certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree levels. These training programs concentrate on railroad operations, safety, and operating rules.

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