Railroad Engineer Degree and Training Programs

A railroad engineer degree program would teach you how to design the elements of a railroad. You can also find related training programs for locomotive engineers, who inspect and drive the trains. Keep reading to learn more about these options, what you'd learn and whether you could complete some coursework online. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Railroad Engineer Degree and Training Programs Can I Pursue?

There are different degree and training programs for different jobs in the rail industry. Railroad engineers, who design and build the bridges and track systems, typically earn a degree in civil or transportation engineering. Some of these programs include courses in railroad engineering, and a few schools have railroad engineering departments that research railroad issues and work to promote education in railroad engineering. You can earn a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in civil engineering. Transportation engineering is typically offered as a concentration within a civil engineering degree program. Additionally, there are seminars and courses in railroad engineering geared toward those already in the field. These might cover bridges, safety and other industry-specific topics.

If you'd rather ride the rails, you might be interested in becoming a locomotive engineer or conductor. In general, locomotive engineers drive the trains, while conductors oversee details like schedules and passenger safety. Transportation companies typically hire locomotive engineers and conductors from within their rail yards, and many require locomotive engineers to first serve as conductors. You'll also have to earn a federal license. You can find training programs at community colleges, technical schools and other institutions around the U.S.

Program LevelsBachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in civil engineering; professional training in railroad engineering; training programs for locomotive engineers and conductors
Course TopicsCivil engineering: urban planning, engineering theory, bridge building
Locomotive engineer and conductor training: railroad operations, safety, equipment
Online ResourcesMaterial through journals and unions

What Will I Learn?

In a civil engineering bachelor's degree program, you'll likely receive a broad education that covers construction concepts, urban planning, bridge building, transportation planning and other infrastructure-related topics. Some programs might include railroad-specific courses in their curricula. Civil engineering master's programs generally blend theory, research and application. You'll take advanced-level courses and might have to complete a thesis. Additionally, some schools offer railroad engineering courses that will teach you about bridge engineering for trains and other high-level concepts in railroad engineering. Doctoral programs require more research, and you'll probably have to write a dissertation that presents new research.

Locomotive engineer and conductor training programs typically take only a few months to complete. They can prepare you to enter a company's on-site training program. Courses might cover railroad infrastructure, safety, operations and equipment. According to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a union for railroad employees, rail companies provide training programs that meet federal licensing standards. You'll also be regularly tested for vision, hearing and drug use.

Can I Study Online?

You'll have a hard time finding online education opportunities for both railroad and locomotive engineering. Both occupations require extensive hands-on training and in-person learning. You can use the Web to find lots of railroad-related information, though. There are journals, groups and unions that provide online resources that you might find useful as a prospective student and as a professional.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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  • Penn Foster High School

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  • Washington-Holmes Technical Center

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    • Kansas: Topeka
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    • Utah: Roosevelt
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    • Louisiana: Lafayette
  • Somerset County Technology Center

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    • Pennsylvania: Somerset
  • The University of Montana

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    • California: Orange