All You Need To Know About A Train Driver Career

You consider becoming a train driver but are not sure whether this would be the right career for you or not?

Great! This article is exactly for you since I will show you everything you need to know about being a train driver in the following chapters.

Not only will you learn how much train operators make, but we will also talk a lot about job satisfaction, working hours, prospects, future outlook, duties, educational requirements and much more.

You will also find an FAQ section at the end of this article where I answer the most common questions about working as a train conductor for you.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of whether you still want to become a locomotive engineer or rather want to go for a different career instead.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Table of Contents

What does a Train Driver do?

Locomotive drivers conduct trains all day long so that many people can get from A to B with public transport instead of using their cars.

Train drivers not only make sure that trains are operated in a safe and efficient manner, but they also give instructions to passengers so that they exit the train at the right station.

Responsibilities & Duties of a Train Driver

  • Conducting trains in a safe and efficient manner
  • Making sure that timetables are met
  • Ensuring overall safety related to train travel
  • Checking equipment and controls
  • Communicating with control centers
  • Driving according to track signals and other instructions
  • Pull into and leave stations in a safe manner
  • Giving instructions to passengers
  • Answering the questions of passengers
  • Cleaning the train
  • Complying with laws and regulations related to train driving

What a Typical Day of a Train Driver looks like?

Train drivers operate trains all day long.

Not only do they stop at various stations to collect and drop off passengers, but they also make sure that safety standards are met during the ride.

Apart from conducting trains in a safe manner, locomotive engineers also give instructions to passengers and advise them on how to get to their destinations in the most efficient manner.

They also make passenger announcements and inform passengers about potential delays.

Thus, you always need to be focused and awake during your workday since you will have a high level of responsibility and many lives will depend on your judgement as a train driver.

Train Driver Salary 2022

Train Driver salary brackets 2022

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $69,000> $34.47
Top 25 %$52,000 – $58,000$25.92 – $28.94
Bottom 25 %$33,000 – $39,000$16.46 – $19.42
Bottom 10 %$24,000 – $28,000$11.96 – $13.89
Range$24,000 – $72,000$11.96 – $35.93
Average (Mean)$46,000$22.97
Median$44,000$21.88

Train Driver salary 2022 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$24,000 – $33,000$11.96 – $16.43
Junior$28,000 – $37,000$13.89 – $18.44
Professional$35,000 – $48,000$17.38 – $23.95
Senior Professional$46,000 – $56,000$22.88 – $27.92
Expert$55,000 – $63,000$27.47 – $31.44
Top Expert$61,000 – $72,000$30.45 – $35.93

Train Driver salary by state 2022 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$42,700$21.33
Alaska$45,300$22.64
Arizona$44,600$22.28
Arkansas$42,100$21.03
California$51,900$25.92
Colorado$44,800$22.37
Connecticut$43,500$21.72
Delaware$41,700$20.84
District of Columbia$46,200$23.08
Florida$47,500$23.73
Georgia$44,300$22.14
Guam$38,800$19.38
Hawaii$48,200$24.09
Idaho$45,300$22.62
Illinois$42,100$21.04
Indiana$46,200$23.09
Iowa$43,800$21.89
Kansas$41,400$20.68
Kentucky$42,700$21.34
Louisiana$44,300$22.13
Maine$43,600$21.78
Maryland$46,800$23.37
Massachusetts$47,200$23.58
Michigan$43,700$21.83
Minnesota$42,200$21.09
Mississippi$40,900$20.42
Missouri$39,700$19.83
Montana$44,600$22.29
Nebraska$43,100$21.54
Nevada$41,300$20.62
New Hampshire$46,300$23.13
New Jersey$47,400$23.68
New Mexico$42,400$21.19
New York$51,200$25.58
North Carolina$44,100$22.03
North Dakota$42,800$21.37
Ohio$45,100$22.54
Oklahoma$43,700$21.83
Oregon$42,600$21.28
Pennsylvania$47,800$23.89
Rhode Island$43,500$21.72
South Carolina$40,800$20.37
South Dakota$42,100$21.03
Tennessee$43,600$21.79
Texas$45,100$22.53
Utah$44,700$22.31
Vermont$42,800$21.39
Virginia$43,900$21.93
Washington$48,600$24.28
West Virginia$44,100$22.03
Wisconsin$42,900$21.45
Wyoming$39,800$19.89

Job Security of Train Drivers

Train drivers have pretty poor job security since educational barriers to work in this field are pretty low and almost everyone can start a career as a train driver.

Consequently, competition is fierce and you may have a hard time making a living as a train driver in the long run.

Future Outlook of Train Drivers

Due to self-driving trains, many locomotive drivers will become unemployed in the near future and future outlook for train drivers is therefore pretty poor since many of them will lose their jobs and many new train drivers will also have a hard time finding their first jobs.

Working Hours of Train Drivers

If you work day shifts, you will usually start your workday between 8 and 10 a.m. and finish your workday between 4 and 6 p.m.

However, in case you work night shifts, you will usually get to work between 8 and 10 p.m. and finish your workday between 4 and 6 a.m.

Thus, you should be willing to work rather exotic hours before you decide on becoming a train driver since you will often have to work in the evening or even at nighttime.

Job Satisfaction of Train Drivers

Most drain drivers are not really happy with what they are doing for a living since they have to work annoying hours and also don’t make lots of money from their jobs while they still have to worry about losing their jobs quite often.

Promotion Opportunities of Train Drivers

Train drivers have pretty poor promotion opportunities.

Since you will do the same job for many years or even decades and your duties and responsibilities will not change that much, you will get stuck with your career while many of your friends will climb the corporate ladder rather quickly.

Career Levels of Train Drivers

  • Train driver apprentice
  • Junior train driver
  • Senior train driver
  • Train driver instructor
  • Manager of a railway company
  • Owner of a railway company

Fields and Types of Train Drivers

  • Train drivers working in urban areas
  • Train drivers working in rural regions
  • Train drivers focused on long-distance travel
  • Train drivers focused on short-distance trains
  • Train drivers specialized in passenger service
  • Train drivers specialized in freight service
  • Train drivers also doing technical service work
  • Train drivers focused on maintaining trains in a proper manner
  • Train driver instructors

Educational Requirements for Train Drivers

You don’t need to get a fancy degree for becoming a train driver.

However, you will still need to work as an apprentice for a few months or sometimes even years for you can officially work as a train conductor, depending on the state you live and want to work in.

How to become a Train Driver

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a train driver
  2. Finish high school with decent grades
  3. Apply for a train driver apprenticeship
  4. Master the job interview
  5. Sign your labor contract
  6. Work hard during your apprenticeship and get all necessary qualifications
  7. Finish your apprenticeship
  8. Become a mature train driver
  9. Work hard on your skills and hone your craft

Character Traits you need as a Train Driver

  • Patience helps you deal with difficult passengers
  • Persistence helps you through difficult times of your train driver career
  • You should be friendly and outgoing
  • You should be reliable
  • You should be trustworthy
  • Ability to deal with critical feedback in a healthy manner
  • You should be confident and not discouraged by drawbacks
  • You should be a good listener
  • You should be client-oriented
  • Ability to understand human nature and how to solve conflicts

Train Driver Skills

Hard Skills for Train Drivers

  • Good knowledge of how to operate trains in a safe and efficient manner
  • Good geographical knowledge of your region
  • You should have some technical knowledge about trains
  • Good memory helps you remember routes
  • Mechanical knowledge helps as well
  • You should have good reaction times
  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Knowledge of what to do in case of accidents or other emergencies
  • Knowledge of rules and regulations related to train travel
  • Understanding of digital technologies that make your life as a train driver easier

Soft Skills for Train Drivers

  • You should be good at dealing with people
  • Good communication skills help you calm down angry passengers
  • Time management skills are crucial to get from A to B in time
  • You should be open to critical feedback
  • Attention to detail helps you spot potential risks
  • Ability to focus on your work
  • Strong mindset helps you stay calm during tense situations
  • Willingness to work in a low-wage environment
  • Willingness to work rather exotic hours

Exit Options for Train Drivers

Train drivers have pretty poor exit options.

While they can sometimes work as bus drivers or in other positions in public transport, they often have a hard time finding a job in a completely different industry due to a lack of hard skills.

Train Driver – Similar Careers

  • Rail engineering technician
  • Train maintenance worker
  • Train station worker
  • Bus driver
  • School bus driver
  • Tram driver
  • Pilot
  • Tour guide
  • Ticket inspector

Train Driver Career FAQs

Is working as a train driver physically demanding?

Being a train driver is not heavily physically demanding since you will just sit in your train and drive it from A to B all day long while many other people like plumbers or roofers have to lift heavy stuff all day long and really ruin their bodies in the long run.

Is working as a train driver mentally demanding?

Working as a train driver is not mentally demanding.

Although you always need to stay focused at work to avoid major mistakes that might lead to serious adverse outcomes, you will still not have to stress your brain as much as physicists or financial analysts who have to work with complex models all day long.

Is it dangerous to work as a train driver?

Working as a train conductor can be risky since you will be at risk of suffering from serious traffic accidents at work and if you or your colleagues make mistakes or technology fails, you may even lose your life sooner or later.

How long do train drivers stay in their jobs?

Train drivers often stay in their jobs for decades or even for the rest of their lives since they are pretty specialized and don’t learn many skills apart from driving trains.

Thus, they often get trapped in the transportation industry and have to work in their jobs for quite a long time.

Is it easy for train drivers to find a new job?

Due to the invention of self-driving vehicles and trains, many locomotive drivers will no longer be needed in the near future and many train drivers will therefore become unemployed just a few years from now.

Consequently, competition in this field will become increasingly fierce and you may have a hard time finding a job in this industry in the future.

Is it hard to switch from being a train driver to another field of work?

Since you will be pretty specialized and will not learn many hard skills apart from conducting trains, you will also have a pretty hard time finding a job in a different field as a train driver since most companies outside the transportation industry will not be willing to employ you since you just don’t add enough value.

Do train drivers have a high social status?

Even though train drivers do an important job to keep our system running and to get many people from A to B in a safe manner, they still have a pretty low social standing compared to nurse practitioners or judges.

Can you help out your family and friends as a train driver?

While you will do good for society, you will still not learn many skills valuable to your family and friends.

While carpenters or plumbers can fix and install many things around the home, you as a train conductor will not be able to provide lots of value in this regard and may have a rather low standing among your circle of friends.

Can train drivers work remotely?

Locomotive drivers are not able to work remotely since they have to be present at their workplace in person to bring people from A to B in a safe manner.

Thus, while risk managers and many other people who work in classical office jobs will be able to work from home, you as a train driver will be far less flexible in this regard.

Is it easy to find a partner as a train driver?

Since train drivers have a pretty low social standing and also don’t make good money while they often have to fear losing their jobs, they have a hard time in the dating market when it comes to finding someone for a long-term relationship since they are not considered good providers.

Do train drivers have to work on weekends?

Train drivers often have to work on Saturdays or even Sundays since people have to get from A to B 24/7 and if you are not willing to work during weekends, you should not become a train driver but rather work as a butcher or in another job where you will have free weekends.

Do train drivers have to work on holidays?

Train drivers also sometimes have to work on holidays.

While you will not have to work all of them, you still have to work some national holidays and while many other people are able to spend those days with their loved ones, you as a locomotive engineer will not have this luxury but will rather make sure that people get to their destinations.

Do train drivers have to work at nighttime?

Train drivers often have to work in the late evening or even at nighttime and you should therefore be open to work rather exotic hours before you decide on starting your train driver career.

Do you have to travel as a train driver?

While you will not have to travel if you just work in local transport, you may be away from home quite often in case you work in long-distance train travel and may not be able to see your family on a daily basis.

Are train driver pensions good?

Due to the rather poor money train drivers make during their active careers, they also have a hard time saving and investing enough money for retirements and their pensions are therefore often pretty poor as well.

Are train driver salaries going up?

Train driver salaries have not been going up significantly over the past years since due to self-driving trains, the demand for train conductors has decreased and many locomotive drivers will become unemployed in the near future.

Consequently, also wages will remain pretty low in this field.

Can you have a positive impact on society as a train driver?

You will do a pretty important job for society as a train driver since you will make sure that many people can get to work and back.

Train drivers also make our lives much more efficient and you will therefore make an important contribution to assure a high quality of life and to keep our system running in general.

How long does it take to become a train driver?

While you don’t have to get fancy college education, it can still take you up to 3 years to become a mature train driver since you will often have to spend lots of time on your apprenticeship where you will learn everything you need to operate trains in a safe manner.

Is it difficult to become a train driver?

Becoming a train driver is not difficult since you don’t have to meet fancy formal requirements.

What’s much more important is that you are passionate about trains so that you stay motivated with what you are doing in the long run.

Do you need to be smart to work as a train driver?

You don’t need to be extremely smart to become a train driver.

However, you should still have some technical knowledge and also understand how trains work in general so that you are able to bring passengers from A to B in a safe and efficient manner.

Do train drivers have a good work-life balance?

Since train drivers often have to work on weekends and during nighttime, they have pretty poor work-life balance since they often have to work during times when most other people are able to enjoy their leisure and may also not have enough time to spend with their families.

Do train drivers have to work many extra hours?

Train drivers don’t have to work much overtime.

Instead, they have rather rigid schedules and once your shift is over, you will just finish your workday and get back to work the next day.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a train driver?

The more experience you get in this field at a rather young age, the higher your chance of becoming a train driver.

Thus, you should already work as an intern in the public transport industry while you are still at school to make some important contacts that could help you find a job as a locomotive driver later on.

Can train drivers work part-time?

While train drivers might be able to work part-time in theory, the vast majority of train conductors still work full-time since hourly wages are simply too low to make a living from a part-time job.

Do train drivers work indoors or outdoors?

Train drivers work inside their trains for their entire workday.

However, you might still be affected by bad weather since your train might get stuck outdoors and you may have to call help during the winter months on a regular basis.

What does the workplace of a train driver look like?

Train drivers mainly work in their trains and drive trains from A to B in a safe and efficient manner.

They also have to deal with many difficult passengers and you should therefore be a friendly and patient person to stay happy and successful with what you are doing in the long run.

Do you have to look good for working as a train driver?

You don’t need to look good as a train driver.

What’s much more important than your looks is that you are a friendly and outgoing person who is client-oriented and happy to help passengers out in case they have any questions or other inquiries.

Is a train driver career beneficial for your private life?

Being a train driver is not beneficial for your private life most of the time since you will often have to work on holidays and also in the evening and at nighttime.

Consequently, you will not have lots of time to spend with your family while you will still not make good money from what you are doing.

In turn, it is pretty likely that your partner may cheat on you sooner or later.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a train driver?

You don’t have to get a degree for working as a train driver.

However, you will still often have to do an apprenticeship to learn everything you need to operate trains in a safe manner.

Do you need to be certified to work as a train driver?

You also have to pass an official exam and get some qualifications and certificates before you are able to call yourself a train driver in an official manner.

How much does it cost to become a train driver?

Since you don’t need to go to college for becoming a train driver, you also don’t have to spend lots of money on tuition and other expenses related to college.

Instead, you can become a train driver at virtually no cost and can even start making money from a rather young age.

Is being a train driver a good career?

Since you will have to work rather exotic hours while you will often have to work on holidays and weekends and also don’t make good money from what you are doing, being a train driver is not considered a good career by the majority of the general public.

Is it easy to start your own business as a train driver?

It is almost impossible to start your own business as a train driver since upfront costs would be enormous and if you really want to work self-employed, you should rather become a digital marketer or in other fields where it will be much easier to achieve your dream.

Can train drivers teach themselves?

While train drivers can teach themselves some technical knowledge, they still need to complete an apprenticeship before they are finally able to work as locomotive engineers in an official manner and teaching yourself will therefore not be enough to work in this industry.

Do train drivers make good money?

Most train drivers don’t make good money.

In fact, many train drivers complain about pretty poor salaries and are barely able to make a living from what they are doing.

Is it ever too late to become a train driver?

It is never too late to become a train driver since you don’t have to work in a heavily physical environment and also don’t have to spend many years in college.

However, job prospects are still better while you are still young and you should therefore not wait for too long for becoming a train driver.

Do train drivers have to quit their careers early?

Most train drivers don’t have to quit their careers early.

While some of them have to quit their jobs due to mental or emotional health problems. many train drivers are still able to work until they reach official retirement age.

What is the hardest thing about working as a train driver?

The hardest part about being a train driver is that you will have to deal with many passengers who are in a pretty bad mood and you need to calm them down somehow.

Moreover, you may also run over a number of people during your career as a train driver and this can be really hard to process on an emotional level.

Can you provide for your family by working as a train driver?

Due to the rather poor money you will make as a train driver, it will also be pretty hard for you to provide for your family and your spouse may have to work as well and will not be able to stay at home with the kids.

Will train drivers suffer from old-age poverty?

Many train drivers also get into serious financial problems once they get older and quit their active careers since they are often not able to save enough money for retirement and are no longer able to pay their bills.

Can train drivers retire early?

The vast majority of train drivers are not able to retire early since they don’t make enough money during their active careers and have to work until they reach official retirement age to cover their expenses.

Do train drivers get a fixed or variable salary?

Train drivers mainly get a fixed salary and don’t have to deal with huge income swings compared to salespersons who often work commission-based.

Can you get rich as a train driver?

It is impossible to get rich as an employed train driver.

If your goal is to get wealthy or even rich, you should rather become an investment banker or start your own business instead.

Do train drivers need a second job?

While some train drivers are able to make a living from what they are doing, many train drivers still need to work a second job to cover their expenses, especially in expensive regions where rents and other living costs are pretty high.

Do you get continuous training as a train driver?

While you will get lots of training during your apprenticeship, you will still not get continuous training as a train driver and it will be on you to get really good at your job.

Do you get sick pay as a train driver?

Many train drivers get sick pay.

However, this also greatly depends on the state and the region you work in and if you are not sure in this regard, you should ask other local train engineers about this topic.

Do train drivers have a high level of responsibility?

Locomotive drivers have a high level of responsibility since they will bring many people from A to B on a daily basis and mistakes on their side may lead to serious accidents with lots of financial and personal damage.

Can train drivers work abroad?

Train drivers are needed all over the world.

However, you should still not expect the same working conditions and salaries compared to what you are used to from home and you should therefore inform yourself carefully in this regard to avoid unpleasant surprises by the time you want to migrate to a foreign country.

Is it stressful to work as a train driver?

Being a train driver can be stressful on an emotional level since you will have to deal with many difficult passengers and always have to fear that someone jumps in front of your train.

Is it boring to work as a train driver?

Working as a locomotive engineer may become boring since you will do the same things over and over again and if you are not really passionate about train travel, you may get really unmotivated with what you are doing in the long run.

Is being a train driver hard?

While working as a train driver can be hard on an emotional level and since you will have to work pretty exotic hours, you will still not have to work in a hard physical manner as a train conductor compared to many craftsmen out there.

Are train drivers at risk of burnout?

Since train drivers have to deal with high levels of emotional stress, many of them are at significant risk of suffering from burnout or other mental problems related to their jobs.

Is there a dress code for train drivers?

You don’t have to comply with a fixed dress code as a train driver.

However, in many cases, your employer will supply you with uniforms you will wear during your workday.

What kind of train drivers are paid the most?

The more experience you get in driving trains and the more senior you get, the higher your salary as a train driver will be.

However, most train drivers never make really good money from what they are doing and you should know that you most likely never get rich in this field.

What percentage of train drivers are women?

While around 8% of all train drivers are women, a whopping 92% are men.

Thus, this industry is still dominated by men, even though an increasing number of women aspire to a career in this field.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a train driver?

While you don’t necessarily need a mentor to succeed as a locomotive driver, it can still help to have an experienced colleague on your side who can support you during difficult periods of your career.

Do train drivers have a high life expectancy?

Train drivers have rather low life expectancy since they are at greater risk of suffering from serious accidents or other incidents at work compared to the average person out there who just works in a pretty safe office environment.

Do train drivers suffer from sleeping problems?

Since train drivers often have to work at nighttime, many of them are not able to maintain a steady sleeping pattern and therefore suffer from serious sleeping problems in the long run.

What states are best for working as a train driver?

Since salaries for train drivers are pretty poor across states, you should work in a region where living costs are pretty low so that you can make enough money from your locomotive driver career to be able to pay your bills and don’t need to work a second job.

Who do train drivers work with?

Train drivers bring many people from A to B on a daily basis.

Thus, it is crucial that you are a friendly and reliable person to stay happy and successful with what you are doing in the long run.

Is working as a train driver cool?

Being a train driver is not considered cool by the majority of the general public.

However, you should still not choose your career according to what’s cool but rather listen to your brain and your heart to make the best possible decision in this regard.

Can you start a side hustle as a train driver?

Since train drivers are pretty specialized and don’t learn many skills apart from driving trains from A to B, they have a pretty hard time starting a side hustle unless they get lots of additional education.

Do you have to be creative as a train driver?

You don’t need to be overly creative to succeed as a train driver since you will just do many things over and over again and will rather have to develop a certain routine to get things done in time.

Do train drivers suffer from being overweight?

Since train drivers don’t work in a hard physical manner, they also don’t burn lots of calories at work and often suffer from being overweight or even obese in the long run.

How employable are train drivers?

Train drivers are not that employable anymore since many jobs in this industry will be lost to self-driving trains in the near future and locomotive drivers therefore have pretty poor jobs prospects.

Are train drivers happy with their jobs?

Since train drivers often have to work on weekends and during nighttime while they can’t still make good money from what they are doing, many of them complain about overall working conditions and secretly wish doing something else for a living.

Is working as a train driver exciting?

Being a train driver is not that exciting since you will do the same things over and over again and may get really demotivated with what you are doing in the long run.

Can you have a positive impact on our environment as a train driver?

Since train drivers mainly focus on bringing passengers from A to B in a safe manner, your positive impact on our environment will be rather limited as a train driver.

What are the pros and cons of working as a train driver?

If you are still interested in becoming a train driver, you should also have a look at additional pros and cons of a locomotive driver career.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1174160/rail-transportation-market-employees-number-us/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/245235/rail-freight-transportation-in-the-us/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/204569/rail-accidents-in-the-us/

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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