A locomotive engineer might haul passengers or freight, work in a rail-service terminal or yard or run a switch engine. Although a high school diploma is sufficient formal education, engineers receive several months of training on the job under the supervision of an experienced engineer. Salaries vary according to work setting, industry and locality.
Average Salary and Major Industries
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average annual salary for locomotive engineers was $55,660 in 2013. The salary range was $37,460 to $81,720. Ninety-three percent of locomotive engineers worked in the railroad industry. The salary in that industry matched the national average of $55,660. State government was the next largest employer, with an average annual salary of $60,510. Local government, which paid an average of $58,500, was the third largest employer. Support activities for rail transportation employed only 180 engineers, with an average salary of $42,190.
Other Employment Options
Locomotive engineers had other employment options in 2013, according to the BLS. Those who worked in scenic and sightseeing transportation earned an average annual salary of $34,000. Iron and steel mills and ferroalloy manufacturing employed 80 engineers, but the BLS did not release salary data on this work setting. The federal executive branch employed 40 engineers and paid an average salary of $52,630. Engineers in cement and concrete manufacturing, the highest-paying of all industries and work settings, earned an average annual salary of $66,190.
Location, Location, Location
Location affected locomotive engineers’ salaries in 2013, according to the BLS. Some states did not offer employment opportunities or report data to the BLS, but of those that did report, Oklahoma offered the lowest average salary of $38,560. The top-paying states all offered salaries well above the national average. Arizona locomotive engineers earned $67,840 a year, and those in Mississippi earned $68,680. In Wyoming, the average annual salary was $71,520, closely followed by West Virginia at $71,690. Maryland was the best-paying state, with an average annual salary of $74,330.
Other Requirements and Outlook
Locomotive engineers must be at least 21 years old. They must be certified in all states, have excellent hearing and eyesight and pass regular drug tests. The BLS notes that engineers are certified for a particular route and, if they change routes, must be recertified by the employer. Even those engineers who remain on the same route must be recertified every few years. Locomotive engineering is a small and shrinking occupation, with 38,000 engineers employed in 2012, according to the BLS. The BLS estimates that job opportunities will decline 3 percent from 2012 to 2022.
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