How do I Become a Railroad Engineer?

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  • Written By: Jessica F. Black
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 12 December 2018
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There a few ways to become a railroad engineer, and the first step should be to research all requirements in the country that he or she plans to work. A high school diploma is almost always required, and there may be an extensive training process needed to become a railroad engineer. Internet searches can assist potential operators in locating schools, courses, and online programs, but some positions may require hands-on training. Any additional experience in the field will increase the applicant's job options and opportunities for career advancement.

Operating a train involves more than just steering, and training courses will enhance the student's knowledge of battery voltage, air pressure, diesel-electric engines, and other mechanical components of trains. Students will need to be knowledgeable of train systems, tracks, stations, and all procedures involved in the safety of railroad travel in order to become a railroad engineer. Training courses supply the student with the necessary certification to operate a locomotive after successful completion. The length of time the certification process takes depends on the program. Some topics covered by the program may include air brake and handling, hazardous material, and safety procedures.


In addition to training courses, some colleges offer an associate's degree in railroad operations. This is typically a two year program that includes coursework in railroad track engineering, advances in railway technology, railroad system planning and design, railroad transportation engineering, and railway signaling and control. Students may benefit from expanding their education in the field, and a degree will significantly increase the chance to become a railroad engineer. A railroad operations degree is a somewhat rare degree, and extensive research may be necessary to locate a local school that offers this type of program.

Although students require certification and licensing, there may be limits on the type of work that they are able to perform. There are several classes of certifications, and each class has a specific job description. For instance, certified locomotive servicing engineers are only allowed to operate the train within the terminal area, whereas certified train service engineers are able to maneuver trains with or without additional cars on a longer stretch of track.

In order to become a railroad engineer, students must familiarize themselves with the various classifications, limitations, and continuing education programs needed to advance in this field. There is also a certificate renewal process in most jurisdictions, and employees are responsible for keeping their paperwork up-to-date. Most locations require renewal every few years, and employees are usually informed of the expiration date upon receiving their licenses.



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