How to Become a Diesel Electrician


Almost every system in a locomotive is an electrical system that requires maintenance by a diesel electrician. All locomotive electrical equipment, both high and low voltage, is inspected regularly. You will troubleshoot malfunctions, assess problems and determine how to correct them. This high-demand specialty requires patience, since there is a great deal to learn.

  • Diesel electricians should have at least a two-year technical degree with a concentration in an electrical field. Be sure to include general mechanical knowledge and skills so you that you are prepared for the more difficult things to come. Knowledge of large motor-generators and high-voltage circuitry will come in handy and will look good to future employers.

  • Maintain a clean background and stay away from drugs. When you are hired, your employer will conduct a full background check, including your credit history, military background, education, employment history and anything else that may affect your job. You must be able to follow government regulations, including regular drug screenings. Staying physically fit is vital, because this is a physically demanding job. You will be dealing with small spaces, large tools, high speeds and dangerous equipment, but you will be properly trained.

  • Become an apprentice diesel electrician. You will find most available openings by visiting the office at the technical college, checking government offices and websites, and contacting your local electrical union directly. These are paid positions with full benefits; you will join the union, and this is where your career path will be formed.

  • Complete the apprenticeship program, which normally lasts three years and will take every bit of your determination. As an apprentice diesel electrician, you will receive formal classroom training as well as hands-on experience. You will learn from a journeyperson, someone licensed to teach apprentices on behalf of the union.

  • Take the final exams. You will know how to inspect, repair and maintain the electrical parts of the locomotive. Also tested will be your knowledge of blueprints, schematics and circuitry plans. Be prepared; the tools and equipment used in this field are not found in any other.

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