Train Engineering Degree Program and School Options

Find out about the education and training you'll need to become a train engineer, a job title that can refer either to a conductor or to someone who designs train systems. Explore the topics covered in training programs, find out about requirements for licensing as a train operator, and see if online study is an option. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

A train engineer is an individual who operates and controls freight and passenger trains on the railroad. More recently, the term ''train engineer'' has come to define more than just someone who drives trains. It can also refer to those who plan and design train routes and systems. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), potential train engineers must typically work as train conductors before moving up to engineering positions (www.bls.gov). Additionally, you must have successfully completed a training program.

Degrees Bachelor's in railroad engineering or civil engineering; associate's degrees and certificate programs are also available
Courses Track inspection, safety standards, track maintenance, railroad transportation engineering, railroad track engineering, railway signaling and others
Training Train driver's training program and other hands-on training

What Kind of Schooling Do I Need to Become a Train Engineer?

There are no formal educational requirements in place for the operation of a train other than completing the training program. A higher education degree isn't necessarily required. However, to work on the planning and design of railroad systems, a bachelor's degree in railroad engineering or civil engineering is typically required.

To become a train engineer who designs railroads and train systems, you can earn a bachelor's degree in railroad engineering; however, civil engineering degree programs are more common. As a civil engineering student, you can specialize in trains and railway systems.

What Are Training Programs Like?

To drive a passenger or freight train, you do not need a degree. However, you may be required to have training, either through your employer or before applying. Many colleges and universities offer railroad training courses. These courses cover topics such as track inspection, safety standards, track maintenance and worker safety. You can also earn certificates through some schools, such as a certificate in disaster management.

Are There Additional Requirements?

Train engineers must be licensed to operate trains. According to the BLS, after the completion of a hands-on training program, you must pass a hearing and sight test, a background check and a skills performance test. After completion of everything, you will be issued a license, which must be maintained regularly by a series of unannounced additional exams.

What Can I Expect from Degree Program?

Schools that offer train engineering degree programs typically work both in a classroom and onsite at railway lines or labs. You can expect some courses to be extremely hands-on as you get experience working with the software and instrumentation used to analyze freight data and conduct tests. Some programs might even offer research opportunities that can help you make career decisions. In an engineering program, you'll study topics such as:

  • Railroad transportation engineering
  • Railroad track engineering
  • Railway signaling
  • Railroad system planning

Which Schools Offer Train Engineering Programs?

These schools are just some of the options offering training and degree programs for aspiring train operators or engineers:

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Michigan Technological University (Houghton)
  • Johnson County Community College (Overland Park, KS)
  • Pennsylvania State University Altoona
  • Gateway Community College (New Haven, CT)

Can I Study Online?

There are some online options for railroad engineers. You might be able to find an undergraduate or graduate degree program in railroad engineering or civil and environmental engineering. Certificate programs are also available online. Online programs and courses can consist of pre-recorded or live lectures, weekly assignments and online exams. They give you the ability to be flexible with your schedule and communicate directly with your professor and fellow classmates.

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:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Washington-Holmes Technical Center

    Campus Locations:

    • Florida: Chipley
  • Washington County Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Maine: Calais
  • Washburn Institute of Technology

    Campus Locations:

    • Kansas: Topeka
  • Uintah Basin Applied Technology College

    Campus Locations:

    • Utah: Roosevelt
  • Southern Maine Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Maine: South Portland
  • South Louisiana Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Louisiana: Lafayette
  • Somerset County Technology Center

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Somerset
  • The University of Montana

    Campus Locations:

    • Montana: Missoula
  • Santiago Canyon College

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Orange