Future Collegiate Career in Railroading?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by trainwhiz20, Jan 26, 2007.

  1. trainwhiz20

    trainwhiz20 Member

    Hey all.

    Okay, so being a junior in public high school, I've come to the point where I seriously need to start considering my college options and what I want to do with my life. I'm enrolled in a few AP classes (Advanced Placement college courses that earn college credits) with a dose of TV Production.

    I've always wanted to work for the railroads--but not in the engineer capacity. I've read literature, trust me, and that's not what I want to do. Giving up my life (although I would be doing what I love) to work on something I might lose interest in (so I've been told), unsecure hours, and not being able to live a normal family life? Nope. I was brought up in a tight family unit, so that's what I wish to emulate.

    I know I'm going to a four year university. That's a given. Whether or not I get into the University of Florida is another question... but besides the point. My idea was to get an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineer, go to work, and then have the company pay for a Masters in business or something. That's what I've been thinking.

    But my question is, is working for the railroad in a management role a good idea? Having a college education puts me in line for a good job--such as a Trainmaster (after looking at, for example, UP's jobsite)--right out of school with the ability to work my way up the ranks, assuming I get hired.:D

    Honestly, I don't think I'd be happy in any other job than working with trains. I figure if I get into a steady management job, that that would be sufficient? What does everyone think? Anyone have experience?

    Thanks for the advice on critical life decisions. :)

    - Devon
  2. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Some junior colleges offer a vocational program in railroad technology. Taking a few of those classes can offer you a first-hand chance to "try out" railroading, get first-hand experience on real trains, and learn the "nuts and bolts" of the job. Since these are generally regular credited college classes, you can consider them elective classes (probably transferable to a four-year school) or even a minor or extra credential--one that would look good if you do end up working for a railroad! Having hands-on experience in operations and actually working with the cars could also make the difference between a career where you work with the trains (in a management role) and one where you work in, say, the sales force or accounting or some part of the company where you don't actually ever get to see a train except on marketing materials. The phenomenon of the new executive with college education but no hands-on experience is an all-too-frequent occurrence.

    Spending some time actually working on a train might also be something to consider, at least for a while--maybe not as a career, but as a way to learn more. The pay is pretty good and demand is high. If you decide it isn't to your taste, you can always quit. Despite what a lot of people tell you, there is no crime in having more than one job in your life!

    A third option, one which will also look good on a college application, is to spend some time volunteering at a railroad museum. It will also get you up close and personal with trains, and in some cases you can learn a lot about how the real business works first-hand, just by listening to some of the volunteers, many of whom are often retired railroad workers.

    I'm sort of doing what you are doing, in a roundabout way, even though I am two decades older than you: it is my objective to work in the field of railroad historic preservation, either working with railroad museums or with historic streetcar lines, helping them research, restore and preserve old railroad equipment, documentation and knowledge. To that end, I have been volunteering at two railroad museums, and am going back to school to get a master's degree in public history with an emphasis in historic preservation and museum work. Quite frankly, you'll probably make more money than I do--railroads are a good business to be in, and things are looking bright for the future--but I assume that we're both just obsessed train nuts who want to do what we love for a living!
  3. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Are you into computers or electronics?

    The railroads need softwear experts and satellite communications experts to keep their trains running, their signals working and everyone talking to each other. announce1
  4. Collyn

    Collyn Member

    Are you in a Drafting class. That gives a big head start in civil engineering. I actualy Get a certified draftsman certificite as apart of our progrram.
  5. Torpedo

    Torpedo Member

    When I was a junior in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do, and now, four and a half decades later, I still don't.sign1

    But I can tell you this, in my wildest dreams, I never would have predicted some of the things I have done and places I have been. Don't try and plan your life too far in advance. Circumstance has a way of offering, and sometimes forcing many different paths upon us. Flexibility is the key to dealing with the odd quirks that life tosses at us.

    No matter what you do, try and chose an education or training that gives you portable skills. Something that makes you valuble anywhere. Civil engineering is a good choice. Just make sure it is something you also want to do. There is nothing worse than being stuck doing something you hate for a living.

    Good luck -- and stay flexible.
  6. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    I don't know about the College of Engineering at the University of Florida, but the engineering school I went to up here in New York threw everything including the kitchen sink at me during freshman year...

    I had to take Calc, Physics with Calc, Chem, Comp Sci, plus core-requirement courses (literature, arts, etc.) during freshman year.. Loaded down with 19 credit-hours per semester. Those who can survive this crushing workload have my respect! hamr

    After one year, I decided to scurry back to biological sciences instead.. :D
  7. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I come from the avaition field, so I can't be of much help with railroadin'. I have found one thing that management, engineering, or other degree fields need is on the ground, everyday experience with whatever business they are in. If nothing else, you gain respect from your peers and subordinates by being knowledgeable about something beyond theory. Why not get into a engineer program or work on a track gang for the summer while going to school. Nobody says you have to make a career of manual labor or being a locomotive engineer. Incidently, you have one prerequisite out of the way, You can spell. You would be surprised how many people your age can't or won't learn to spell. :thumb:
  8. liven_letdie

    liven_letdie Member

    I too was going through what you were going through haven taken all of my Gen Ed at a associate degree level and looking for what to do next. I got a job on the real thing as a conductor trainee and I think you already have a good idea why you wouldnt want to go that route. Civil engineering would definately e a lucrative career, it has a broad range of places you can go with it. There are other fields as well that carry over. I would second the notion to not get too plugged in to one thing. No matter what you will eventually get bored, need to move, or have life happen and felxibility will come in handy. Have you checked out the NARS? It is the BNSF's official train school. It is done out of Johnson CC in Kansas City area. Might want to check it out. Whatever you do, good luck and let us know how it goes. :thumb:

    National Academy of Railroad Sciences http://www.railroadtraining.com/
  9. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    My undergraduate degree is in civil engineering. I interviewed for a co-op with CSX (co-op is basically a paid internship...$11-$17 per hour). I let them know outright that my interest was in environmenatl (a different branch of Civil...I'm a PhD student in EnvE)...and I didn't get the co-op.

    Engineering degrees are very, very powerful degrees. My brother (whom studied business) once commented to me that he didn't understand why anyone got degree in engineering when it seemed like they all ended up as business professors. I was nice to him and didn't say: Why would anyone ever major in business if engineers understand their field well enough to dominate it? So, you'll have many different directions that you could go into.
  10. trainwhiz20

    trainwhiz20 Member

    Thanks for all the responses!

    I'm definately willing to be flexible, it's just I'm trying to think of a good degree--and I'm pretty settled on engineer. Granted, I've taken no drafting/related high school courses, but high school is general education and doesn't really apply other than introduction to a course of study. (i.e. My friend thinks I can't be an engineer because I haven't learned to use CAD yet and because I'm not in drafting....) Not true, but I just smile.

    Engineering because my math and sciences (esp. physics!) is really strong. I have a general love for these subjects, and they fall right into place to align for an engineering degree. However, I'm not sure civil... maybe computer... or even industrial. Who knows? I think any would be extremely powerful and a good start to life... as nkp said. :) (How come you didn't get the co-op? Any ideas?)

    There's a local RR musuem about an hour south of Tampa down by my grandparents, so maybe in the future I'll volunteer down there and live with them for a month or so. Not quite sure.

    Jacksonville offers one of those vocational programs, and an interview with the railroad--but that's mainly geared toward future conductors and rail crew. I'll explore all my options, but my first goal is the four year college.

    But I'm certain that I'll go into the railroad industry, in some respect. If you knew me, you'd know I wouldn't be happier doing anything else. And I think the college degree will definately help in getting into the lucrative management side of the business. :D
  11. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Management isn't always lucrative--nor is line work always low-paid.

    Check out the vocational program--vocational programs are always going to be geared towards people who want to work in that field, but that is your objective! There is no "executive" vocational program for those who just want a little hands-on before going into management, but those who have management aspirations but want the hands-on take the vocational classes.
  12. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Yes, flexibility is a key word at your age, as it was when most of us older folks were young. I started out to be a VoAg teacher but ended up finding that I liked airplanes better. Sometimes you need to just get out and experience some career fields. My oldest son thought he wanted a degree in math until he read a salary survey and found that math degree graduates were at the bottom of the scale. He switched to computer science and now makes over 100K annually. Even if you don't go into a field that's directly related to railroading, theres always modeling.
    As an additional thought--management is a lot of times, not about you choosing management, but management choosing you, based on your job performance.

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