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Railroad Conductors and Yardmasters Job Outlook

Employment of railroad conductors and yardmasters is projected to grow 5 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations.

This occupation’s growth will depend on demand for rail transportation. Demand for rail is being driven by population growth and an increase in global trade. In addition, rising gas prices may send some travelers to passenger rail and some shipping to freight rail. An increase in intermodal freight—the shipment of goods through multiple transportation modes—may shift some goods from trucks to freight rail.

Although the increase in rail traffic will likely increase demand for these workers, not many new tracks are expected to be built, which may hold back some rail growth. Because building new tracks is expensive, freight companies have found other ways to increase capacity, such as double-stacking (stacking one rail car on top of another) or running longer trains. With both of these approaches, passenger rail can add more cars to existing trains to increase capacity without increasing either the number of locomotives or the number of conductors on these trains.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be favorable for this occupation. Although workers typically stay in railroad conductor and yardmaster jobs longer than workers in many other occupations, more conductors and yardmasters are nearing retirement than are workers in most occupations. When these workers begin to retire, many jobs should open up.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition