How to Become a Train Conductor at Little or No Cost

Being a train conductor can be a fun and rewarding job and so, this post details how you can become a train conductor at little or no cost. 

How to Become a Train Conductor at Little or No Cost
How to Become a Train Conductor at Little or No Cost

A train conductor’s duties involve organizing the train, the passengers, the freight, and the crew. It requires minimal education, unlike other professions and you can get the required training at little or no cost.

Read on to know who a train conductor is, skills required to be a train conductor, cost, and best train conductor schools. 

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Who is a Train Conductor?

A train conductor is an individual who works aboard trains and coordinates the daily activities of the crew. They are responsible for providing a safe, on-time, and on-plan movement of freight trains.

Train conductors are always needed, even on nights, holidays and weekends, and are typically required to report to work within 90 minutes of notification. They sometimes spend a day or more away from home and travel a lot.

What Does a Train Conductor Do?

A train conductor’s duties depend on the type of train. Below are the duties of an average train conductor:

  • Issue tickets to passengers boarding the train
  • Ensure the train follows applicable safety rules and practices
  • Directing the train’s movement; Making sure the train stays on schedule starting from the stations
  • Control the power operated doors
  • Oversee the safety, comfort and orderly transport of all passengers
  • Check tickets and another passenger service to ensure they’re on the right train
  • Alert passengers of upcoming stops

What Skills Do I Required to Become a Train Conductor?

You must learn a skill that is suitable for a train conductor. Below are the following skills required.

You can enroll in a college program or certificate to learn the application of the skills

  • Communication
  • Customer service
  • Mechanics and operations
  • Time management
  • Problems solving skills
  • Use a computer keyboard

Requirements Needed to Become a Train Conductor

There are some criteria to meet before you can assume the position of train conductor. Below are some of these criteria are;

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Speak and read English
  • Be Able to push, pull, lift, and carry up to 25 pounds frequently; up to 50 pounds occasionally; and up to 83 pounds infrequently.
  •  Ability to walk, sit, stand and stoop comfortably
  • You must pass a reading comprehension test to be considered for an interview.
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How to Become A Train Conductor: Step-by-step guide

No prior experience is required to secure the position of a train conductor. According to BLS, some train conductors started by working as brake or signal operators in a rail yard.

After gaining familiarity with the railroad industry and how trains and yards function, these workers may be promoted to train conductor positions.

However, your high school education skills and training will enable you communicating effectively with passengers.

Step #1. High School Diploma

A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary because you will be exposed to basic tech, English and mechanical courses.

Step #2. On-the-job training

This training allows the aspiring conductors to learn from the experienced conductors after taking a course in conducting in a community college

During the first 14 weeks, trainees focus on formal training both in the field and  classroom. Afterward, they will be assigned to either a brake person, switch person, or conductor assignment.

Trainee conductors earn a certificate at the end of the training

Step #3. Certification and Licensure

 A certification that complies with federal rules is necessary for a train conductor job.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Train Conductor?

The cost of attending a train conductor school usually varies by program providers and the type of package you want. The average total cost is between $10,000 to $60,000.

Train Conductor Schools

Below is a list of railroad or train conductors schools that offer certificate training programs to prepare individuals for entry-level conductor positions with a railroad.

Some of these programs offer orientation or internships opportunities that allow the trainees to shadow a conductor in a working rail yard prior to completing their classes.

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Each school has a unique curriculum that covers demonstrations, dozens of lectures, and hands-on learning training.

#1. Dakota County Technical College

Average Tuition: $5,713

Degrees Offered: Certificate

Dakota County Technical College is a popular train conductor school that offers a wide range of courses and internship programs as well as certificate programs. In this training, students learn how to identify the conductor’s role in the organizational structure. 

At the end of the training, students understand the actual operations and be able to apply skills learned in classroom-based instruction to those operations. 

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#2. Johnson County Community College

Average Tuition: $5,892

Degrees Offered: certificate

Johnson County Community College is in partnership with the National Academy of Railroad Sciences (NARS)and BNSF Railway and offers a college train conductor certificate i.

This school has a training facility that spans 130,000 square feet of classroom, laboratory, office, and multimedia studio space.

Students learn from former railroad conductors who have met the Higher Learning Commission and industry and standards.

Johnson County’s program is very flexible; students can choose a plan that is most suitable for them and complete their coursework at the comfort of their home.

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#3. Northwest Railroad Institute

Average Tuition: $13,925

Degrees Offered: Certificate

Northwest Railroad Institute(NWRI) offers a wonderful 6-month training opportunity and is a good fit for individuals looking for railroad training. 

Students gain hands-on and real-world experience with small class sizes that allow students to access individual instruction.

NWRI also provides Financial aid for those who qualify . Graduate placement assistance is also offered.

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#4. Michigan Technological University

Average Tuition: $15,646(In-state); $33,726(Out-of-state)

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Degrees Offered: Degree

Michigan Technological University is a top-quality Rail Transportation Program (RTP) that offers a pre-university education, providing opportunities and programming to help students prepare for a rail industry career.

This school features field trips, integrated coursework, internships, scholarships, research projects, and hands-on opportunities. 

Each year, the Rail Transportation Program partners in cooperation with the Canadian National, and alumni to offer students a competitive scholarship program. The school also offers financial aid to students. 

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#5. Coastal Pines Technical College

Average Tuition: N/A

Degrees Offered: Diploma Certificate Associate’s

Coastal Pines Technical College offers a flexible Railroad Systems Management Technology AAS program that prepares graduates for careers as supervisors in the rail industry.

Students can take General Education Core classes online, during the day, nights, weekends and weekend. The curriculum features a wide range of specializations and courses. Students also gain hands-on-training and learn in a conducive environment.

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How Much Do Train Conductors Earn?

The train conductor’s salary is dependent on the individual company and region. According to recent report data, train conductors in the United States make an average salary of $52,432 per year.

In summary, the average median salary of a train conductor is between $14,000 to $130,000. 

Frequently Asked Questions On How to Become a Train Conductor

What is the average annual income of a Train Conductor?

According to BLS, the average annual income for the train or railway conductors is $61,480 per year and $29.56 per hour.

How much does it cost to become a Train Conductor?

The cost of enrolling in a train conductor school ranges between $10,000 to $60,000.

What Skills do i need to become a Train Conductor?


Customer service

Mechanics and operations

Problem-solving skills

Time-management skills


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