Pros and Cons: Becoming a Locomotive Repairman
The control systems, moving parts, electrical wiring, brakes, air conditioning, engine and operational components of a train are all maintained by a locomotive repairman. Take a look at some of the pros and cons to becoming a locomotive repairman below.
|Pros of Becoming a Locomotive Repairman|
|Minimal education requirements (on-the-job training or short certificate program)*|
|Slightly above-average income (median annual salary of $54,000 in 2014)*|
|Union options (healthcare, dental, vision, retirement and life insurance)**|
|As railways expand, additional job opportunities become available*|
|Cons of Becoming a Locomotive Repairman|
|The rate of injury and illness for this occupation is above average nationwide*|
|Weekend, evening and overtime hours are common*|
|Parts and tools require heavy lifting*|
|Traveling long distances to job sites is possible*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **BNSF Railway Company.
A locomotive repairman takes the time to read various drawings, blueprints and manuals in order to thoroughly understand how to repair a vehicle. This might include regular maintenance, overhauling components or repairing defective parts. A locomotive repairman tests each part thoroughly to ensure that the locomotive is operating correctly after it has been worked on.
Besides working on trains, locomotive repairers also work on subway cars and similar vehicles. You may work for the government, a rail car manufacturer or a transit company. Depending on your employer, you may have to travel to different sites in order to repair a locomotive due to the size and difficulty of transporting inoperable vehicles.
Salary and Career Outlook
In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that rail car repairers earned a median annual income of around $54,000. The top ten percent of these professionals earned upwards of about $71,000 or more yearly. From 2012-2022, rail car repairers were expected to see an average job growth of about 9%.
Requirements for Locomotive Repairman Careers
Education and Training
Postsecondary education is becoming preferred for heavy vehicle repair technicians, but is not required in most cases. A high school diploma is typically required for employment, and then an on-the-job training period would typically familiarize you with basic repair concepts over a few months. After a few years, you could move on to more complex work. Troubleshooting skills, mechanical skills and technical skills, as well as good dexterity and physical strength, are all traits employers are looking for in a locomotive repairman.
Community colleges and vocational schools offer certificate and associate degree programs for heavy equipment technicians or railroad freight car repairers. For example, a railroad freight car certificate can cover how to test, fix and examine freight cars according to the procedures established by the Federal Railroad Administration. An associate degree program might give you more of a thorough background in railroad history, business and railroad operations.
What Do Employers Want in a Locomotive Repairman?
Typically, employers are interested in able-bodied individuals who have some prior experience in the field and who can meet minimum standards, like having a valid driver's license and passing a drug test. Check out below for some information taken from real job postings in March 2012 to learn what employers were looking for.
- In South Dakota, a rail car repairer position called for someone with experience in welding. The applicant should have a mechanical background.
- A company in Pennsylvania requested a locomotive repairman with a good driving record. Experience with equipment like ratchets, wrenches and pry bars was necessary. Welding experience was preferred by not required.
- A Texas railway required a rail car repairer willing to work overtime, weekends and evenings. The applicant needed to be physically fit, have a high school diploma and would be required to join a union.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Employers typically prefer that you are familiar with the tools necessary for the job before you're hired. If you know the difference between various wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers, you'll have a basic foundation that can help you when you first start your education or training.
While not required, postsecondary education is becoming preferred by employers in the field and could help you stand out, according to the BLS. These short education programs can include courses in relevant subjects, like mathematics, electronics and diagnostics, which can be useful to rail car repairers. You can also gain hands-on experiences working with heavy equipment, which could be preferred by employers.
Alternative Career Options
If you're interested in a job with better pay and that requires a bit of postsecondary education, you might be interested in becoming an aircraft mechanic. In this role, you'll get to repair and test parts for various types of aircraft. The electrical systems, brakes, wings, gauges and diagnostic equipment are all maintained or repaired by these professionals. In May 2011, the BLS found that aircraft mechanics earned about a median of $55,000 annually.
In most cases, these mechanics complete aviation maintenance technology postsecondary programs that are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to gain mandatory FAA certification. According to the BLS, these programs can be completed in as little as 18 months, but employers may prefer bachelor's degree holders.
Automotive Service Technician
If you're interested in working on cars instead of trains, you can become an automotive service technician. These professionals install, repair and maintain various car parts. This can include the brakes, engine, suspension, transmission, tires or electrical systems of a car. The median yearly salary of an automotive mechanic in 2011 was about $36,000, according to the BLS. Like rail car repair professionals, automotive service technicians do not typically need any formal education beyond high school, but the completion of a postsecondary program may be preferred by employers.