Transportation Careers

Transportation careers include air, water, rail and motor vehicle positions and have a range of education and experience requirements. Learn about career options and requirements, along with job growth outlooks. Schools offering Logistics & Transportation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are My Options In Transportation Careers?

Air transportation careers include air traffic controllers and airline pilots. Air traffic controllers manage air traffic and keep it flowing smoothly and safely. As a controller, you use monitoring and radio equipment to track, contact and direct airplanes under your supervision. As an airline pilot your main responsibility is to safely fly an airplane, but you are also responsible for ensuring the safety of crew and passengers.

Motor vehicle operator positions include bus drivers, taxi drivers, chauffeurs and truck drivers. As a bus driver, you may operate a transit, intercity or school bus. Your job is to provide safe transportation for passengers, pick up and drop off passengers at designated bus stops and follow a set bus schedule. The routes of taxi drivers and chauffeurs are set according to passenger directions, but the other job duties are similar to those of a bus driver. Truck driver positions may require you to drive trucks of various sizes, deliver food items, animals, building materials or other products, travel long distances and keep your truck in safe operating condition.

Railroad jobs may include urban transit, freight or passenger train positions. As an engineer, you drive the train, ensuring it gets to the destination with all cargo or passengers safely. Work as a conductor includes managing the activities of trains and passengers. You may set schedules, assist passengers with problems, check freight for accuracy and collect fares. As a subway or streetcar operator, you work on passenger trains that follow a specific route and schedule, getting people to locations within a city area.

Water transportation careers include operating ships, barges, tugboats and other water vessels. You may work in U.S. waters or waterways outside the U.S. As a captain, you manage the vessel in the water and direct all activity on-board. Your duties may include keeping a daily log of activities, ensuring passengers or cargo are traveling safely, checking equipment for proper operation and supervising the crew.

Licensure Required Most careers require a specific state and/or federal license related to the occupation
Education Required High school diploma or associate degree, though all occupations require additional specialized training and/or testing
Job Growth (2014-2024) -9% for air traffic controllers, 10% for commercial airline pilots
13% for taxi drivers, 5% for truck drivers
1% for rail yard engineers, -2% for railroad conductors and yardmasters
7% for ship engineers, 10% for captains and pilots of water vessels
Median Salary (2016) $122,410 for air traffic controllers, $127,820 for commercial airline pilots
$24,300 for taxi drivers, $41,340 for truck drivers
$50,470 for rail yard engineers, $57,480 for railroad conductors and yardmasters
$70,570 for ship engineers, 72,680 for captains and pilots of water vessels

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Requirements Must I Meet?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) manages and sets most requirements for air transportation careers ( If you work as an air traffic controller, you must meet education and experience requirements set by the FAA and undergo training through the FAA Academy. For a pilot position, you may need at least a two-year college degree and you must be licensed through the FAA.

In any motor vehicle operator position, you are likely to need a special license such as a commercial driver's license (CDL). Licensing requirements are set at the state level, but typically acquiring a CDL requires passing written and road testing. Each CDL may have different classifications and endorsements, which could require additional testing to obtain and may be required depending on the type of motor vehicle you are driving or the type of freight you are carrying. For most motor vehicle operator positions, you won't need a college degree, but you may receive on-the-job training. Most employers also require a clean driving record for these positions.

Rail transportation careers may only require a high school diploma, but required training programs are offered through the company. Training may include classroom and hands-on work. Engineers are required to be licensed through federal regulations. To earn the license you must pass testing on safety, knowledge, physical abilities and operational skills.

In a water transportation career, you start working in an entry-level position to gain the experience required to advance into a captain position. Advancement also requires passing skills and knowledge testing. You may also become a captain through completing a program at a merchant marine academy. Experience and training may also be gained through joining the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Navy.

What Is the Outlook For These Careers?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for air traffic controllers was expected to decline by 9% from 2014-2024 ( This decline was largely due to technological improvements that increase the work capacity of individual controllers. The BLS also reported a 5% employment increase for airline and commercial pilots from 2014-2024. Airline reduction in flights will lower the number of available jobs for pilots.

Bus driver jobs are expected to see a 6% growth between 2014-2024. The BLS reports 13% growth for taxi drivers and chauffeurs from 2014-2024 due to growth in ride-hailing apps and companies. An average growth in jobs 5% was expected for truck drivers in the period of 2014-2024, according to the BLS.

The BLS also reported a decline of 3% for railroad workers from 2014-2024. This decline is due to phasing out of certain positions and methods of increasing capacity.

A 9% job growth was expected for water transportation workers from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. This growth was due to increased commodities demand and more offshore oil drilling activities.

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