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Become A Conductor

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Working As A Conductor

  • Getting Information
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Deal with People

  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $55,930

    Average Salary

What Does A Conductor Do At Astreya

* Create and improve vehicle test plans and conduct field tests
* Analyze collected data and concisely report results in written and oral format
* Coordination of remote test site and on-site development events
* Organize and manage logistics as related to vehicle tests and test equipment
* Monitor software systems via laptop with constant focus while in a moving vehicle
* Travel is required (up to 80%) and ability to travel on short notice with good humor is a bonus.
* Application policies, procedures, and standards throughout - includes taking personal responsibility for the safety of self and others during testing

What Does A Conductor Do At Canadian National Railway Company

* Ensuring compliance with all train orders, signals, and railroad rules and regulations related to safety, operation and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
* Providing and receiving various forms of oral and printed communication concerning the movement and placement of rail cars
* Observing, interpreting, and relaying signals concerning train and engine movement
* Operating track switches and derails to change engine and rail car routes
* Inspecting the condition of a train and equipment
* Preparing necessary forms and reports
* Maintaining predictable and reliable attendance
* Able to work an irregular schedule.
* The work schedule of a Conductor will be irregular and will include night, weekend, or holiday work hours and overtime.
* Conductors may also be required to travel and may be away from home for more than one night at a time.
* Follow company safety procedures, use common sense, and maintain an overall level of safety awareness when operating in the work environment
* Make effective decisions when in unfamiliar locations or emergency situations
* Perform additional tasks as required by supervisor from time to time

What Does A Conductor Do At Watco Companies L.L.C.

* Demonstrate predictable, reliable, and timely attendance.
* Follow written and verbal directions to complete assigned tasks on schedule.
* Read, write, and communicate in English & understand basic math.
* Learn from directions, observations, and mistakes and apply procedures using good judgment.
* Reads switching orders from designated person.
* Supervises and coordinates the activities of train crews.
* Receives oral or written instructions from Manager or Customer indicating which cars are to be switched.
* Notifies engineer of switching orders and, whereby, which cars are to be moved to specified locations of yard, using radio, telephone, verbal or hand signals.
* Talks to crew or other yard workers via radio to give or receive switching information.
* Confers with train dispatcher via radio to issue or receive information or instructions concerning stops, delays, or oncoming trains.
* Gives instructions to throw track switches and to couple and uncouple cars.
* May assist workers to throw switches or perform other activities involved when performing switching operations.
* Turns hand brake wheel or ratchet type brake as well as apply and release handbrakes.
* Observes track to detect obstructions.
* Maintains records, number, origin, destination, and cargo of cars switched.
* May coordinate activities of switching crew from locomotive cab, caboose, or control tower.
* Raises coupling lever to couple or uncouple cars.
* Throws track switches to facilitate shunting of cars and signals Engineer to move cars, using lantern, arm signals or radio.
* Connects air hose to cars when making up trains by bending and applying force.
* May set warning signals, such as flares, flags, lanterns, or torpedoes at front of and at rear of train during emergency stops to warn oncoming trains.
* Sits or rides in cab of locomotive to observe signals from other crew members.
* May make minor repairs to couplings, and air hoses and report any equipment requiring major repairs.
* May talk to Engineer via radio to give or receive switching information.
* Performs other duties as requested or required
* Machines, Tools, Special Equipment, Personal Protective Equipment Used:
* Hammers, ratchets, chisel, pry bar, wrenches, and brushes.
* PPE; hard hat, vest, safety glasses, FR clothing, gloves, steel toed boots

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How To Become A Conductor

Workers in railroad occupations generally need a high school diploma and several months of on-the-job training.


Rail companies typically require a high school diploma or equivalent, especially for locomotive engineers and conductors. 


Locomotive engineers generally receive 2 to 3 months of on-the-job training before they can operate a train on their own. Typically, this training involves riding with an experienced engineer who teaches them the characteristics of that particular train route.

During training, an engineer learns the track length, where the switches are, and any unusual features of the track. An experienced engineer who switches to a new route also has to spend a few months in training to learn the route with an engineer who is familiar with it. In addition, railroad companies provide continuing education so that engineers can maintain their skills.

Most railroad companies have 1 to 3 months of on-the-job training for conductors and yardmasters. Amtrak (the passenger train company) and some of the larger freight railroad companies operate their own training programs. Smaller and regional railroads may send conductors to a central training facility or a community college.

Yardmasters may be sent to training programs or may be trained by an experienced yardmaster. They learn how to operate remote locomotive technology and how to manage railcars in the yard.

Conductors and yardmasters working for freight railroads also learn the proper procedures for loading and unloading different types of cargo. Conductors on passenger trains learn ticketing procedures and how to handle passengers.

Rail yard engineers and signal and switch operators also receive on-the-job training, generally through a company training program. This program may last a few weeks to a few months, depending on the company and the complexity of the job. The program may include some time in a classroom and some hands-on experience under the direction of an experienced employee.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most locomotive engineers first work as conductors for several years.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Locomotive engineers must be certified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The certification, conducted by the railroad that employs them, involves a written knowledge test, a skills test, and a supervisor determining that the engineer understands all physical aspects of the particular route on which he or she will be operating.

An experienced engineer who changes routes must be recertified for the new route. Even engineers who do not switch routes must be recertified every few years.

At the end of the certification process, the engineer must pass a vision and hearing test.

Conductors who operate on national, regional, or commuter railroads are also required to become certified. To receive certification, new conductors must pass a test that has been designed and administered by the railroad and approved by the FRA.


Rail yard engineers, switch operators, and signal operators can advance to become conductors or yardmasters. Some conductors or yardmasters advance to become locomotive engineers.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. All rail employees have to be able to communicate effectively with other crewmembers and passengers to keep the trains on schedule.

Customer-service skills. Conductors on passenger trains ensure customers’ comfort, make announcements, and answer any questions a passenger has. They must be courteous and patient. They may have to deal with unruly or upset passengers.

Decisionmaking skills. When operating a locomotive, engineers must plan ahead and make decisions minutes or even hours in advance.

Hand-eye coordination. Locomotive engineers have to operate various controls while staying aware of their surroundings.

Hearing ability. To show that they can hear warning signals and communicate with other employees, locomotive engineers have to pass a hearing test conducted by their rail company.

Leadership skills. On some trains, a conductor directs a crew. In rail yards, yardmasters oversee other workers.

Mechanical skills. All rail employees work with complex machines. Most have to be able to adjust equipment when it does not work properly. Some rail yard engineers spend most of their time fixing broken equipment or conducting daily mechanical inspections.

Physical strength. Some rail yard engineers have to lift heavy equipment.

Visual ability. To drive a train, locomotive engineers have to pass a vision test conducted by their rail company. Eyesight, peripheral vision, and color vision may be tested.

In addition, locomotive operators must be at least 21 years of age and pass a background test. They must also pass random drug and alcohol screenings over the course of their employment.

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Conductor jobs

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Conductor Typical Career Paths

Conductor Demographics


  • Male

  • Female

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • German

  • Italian

  • Chinese

  • Portuguese

  • Japanese

  • Persian

  • Russian

  • Bulgarian

  • Vietnamese

  • Dakota

  • Cantonese

  • Romanian

  • Mandarin

  • Irish

  • Cheyenne

  • Thai

  • Korean

  • Carrier

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Conductor Education


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Real Conductor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Guest Music Conductor Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Brevard, NC Jun 17, 2014 $104,350
Guest Music Conductor Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Brevard, NC Jun 24, 2013 $104,350
Guest Music Conductor Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra New York, NY Jul 23, 2012 $83,480
Guest Music Conductor Greater Baltimore Area Youth Orchestra Detroit, MI Jun 15, 2012 $62,610
Guest Music Conductor Greater Baltimore Area Youth Orchestra Brevard, NC Jun 19, 2012 $62,610
Musical (Opera) Conductor Westminster College New Wilmington, PA Aug 01, 2011 $62,610
Guest Music Conductor Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra Charleston, SC May 14, 2012 $62,610
Musical Conductor Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra Bloomington, IL Mar 15, 2012 $62,610
Conductor Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra Meridian, MS Sep 22, 2011 $62,610
Guest Music Conductor Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Meridian, MS Sep 21, 2012 $62,610
Symphony Conductor Northern Valley Youth Orchestras Grand Forks, ND Sep 15, 2016 $56,349 -
Symphony Conductor Northern Valley Youth Orchestras Grand Forks, ND Nov 09, 2016 $56,349 -
Guest Music Conductor Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra Louisville, KY Feb 08, 2012 $52,175
Guest Music Conductor Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Baltimore, MD Sep 21, 2010 $43,577
Conductor Conductive Learning Center of Greater Cincinnati Covington, KY Sep 03, 2013 $40,000

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Top Skills for A Conductor


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Top Conductor Skills

  1. Federal Safety Rules
  2. Instruct Train Crews
  3. 75Lb Railcar Connector
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Comply with company and federal safety rules, policies and procedures, responding to safety concerns and taking appropriate action.
  • Assist and instruct train crews to couple and uncouple cars, operate switches.
  • Adhered to Federal Regulation Administration (FRA) rules and regulations to avoid fines and penalties.
  • Prepared required daily reports; switch lists - manually or with a computer; filled out forms including train orders.
  • Operate track switches, couple cars and work on freight trains in yard operations and on the road.

Top Conductor Employers

Conductor Videos

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A Day in the Life of a Norfolk Southern Conductor

A Day in the Life of a Conductor