Workin' on the Railroad: Salaries of Conductors and Yardmasters
© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin
Railroad conductors and yardmasters have similar duties. Both coordinate train activities; manage staff, schedules, engines and cars; and use communications equipment and monitoring devices. However, conductors perform their duties on trains and the rails, while yardmasters work in railroad yards. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the 42,700 professionals in these positions make a mean $25.18 per hour or $52,370 per year. The lowest ten percent earn $16.11 per hour or $33,510 annually, while the highest 10 percent make $36.67 per hour or $76,270 per year.
Almost 90 percent of all conductors and yardmasters work for rail transportation companies such as Union Pacific, BNSF or Amtrak. They make the highest salaries with these employers at a mean $25.10 per hour or $52,200 per year. Support activities for rail transportation are next for wages with means at $19.13 per hour or $39,790 per year. Ranking third for pay is scenic and sightseeing land transportation with averages at $14.93 per hour or $31,060 per year.
The state with the highest employment for conductors and yardmasters is New York with 5,220 jobs. Unfortunately, the Labor Department does not list the wages for this location. Second for employment is Illinois, with 3,290 positions averaging $24.61 per hour or $51,190 per year. Third for jobs is Pennsylvania with 2,410 professionals making a mean $23.39 per hour or $48,650 per year.
In terms of pay, employers in Wisconsin top the list, with mean wages of $33.42 per hour or $69,520 per year. Mississippi ranks a close second with averages at $33.38 per hour or $69,440 per year. In third is Arizona, with mean salaries at $32.06 per hour or $66,680 per year.
Becoming a Conductor
Though the exact career progression varies by company, the job path offered by Union Pacific is typical. It requires train crew to begin as switch operators or brake persons. The minimum requirements for entry-level positions are being at least 18 years old, with the ability to speak and read English, and being either a U.S. citizen or having authorization to work in the country. Good vision and hearing is needed, and so is the ability to lift up to 83 pounds on occasion. Once a job is offered, the applicant must pass a background investigation, vision exam, physical ability test, drug test and medical screening.
Training consists of several weeks in the classroom and in the field. As the worker develops skill and undergoes more training, they may eventually progress to a conductor position. This path can eventually lead to a job as a locomotive engineer, and then a manager, with a college degree and the management training program.
- Railroad Job Vacancies Reported to the RRB
The following provides information about job vacancies reported to the Railroad Retirement Board's (RRB) field offices.
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