Do You Have to Go to College to Become a Train Engineer?


Train engineers, sometimes known as locomotive engineers, are professionals who control electric, gas-turbine powered or steam-driven trains. These individuals must know federal rail regulations, interpret hand signals and receive information from their companies' dispatch departments. Locomotive engineers work for rail companies that carry passengers, freight or both, and receive average wages of $53,590 per year, states May 2009 data from the U.S. Bureau off Labor Statistics. To work as train engineers, individuals must meet certain educational requirements.

Do Locomotive Engineers Need College Degrees?

Railroad companies do not require engineers to possess college degrees, says the BLS. Instead, these companies require persons to hold at least high-school diplomas or GEDs to qualify for train engineer positions.

Basic Qualifications

Federal rail regulations set minimum basic requirements that engineers must fulfill. To qualify for a train engineer position, a person must be at least 21 years old, have good hearing, excellent eyesight and excellent color vision. Additionally, a prospective engineer must have good physical stamina, mechanical aptitude and excellent manual dexterity. To get hired as an engineer, a person must pass a criminal background check, drug and alcohol test and physical stamina examination. While working as an engineer, a person must also pass regular drug screenings and physical examinations.

Company-Sponsored Training

Federal rail regulations mandate new locomotive engineers to complete company-sponsored, post-hire classroom training before beginning their jobs. This training, which typically takes four to eight weeks, covers a myriad of topics related to driving trains, federal regulations, signal interpretation, safety inspection and other relevant areas. Additionally, new-hire instructors must complete train simulator and hands-on training before beginning work.


Federal rail regulations require locomotive engineers to hold licenses authorizing them to drive freight and passenger trains. To earn a license, a prospective train engineer must successfully finish the aforementioned company-sponsored training programs. Additionally, he must pass a hearing and vision acuity test, a railroad operation knowledge examination, a safety conduct background investigation and a skills test to receive an engineer license. Additionally, an engineer must pass a recurrent operational rules efficiency examination to keep his license.

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