Employment of train engineers and operators is projected to experience little or no change, growing 1 percent from 2010 to 2020.
Employment of locomotive engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations.
Employment of brake, signal, and switch operators is expected to decline 4 percent over the same period.
Although demand for rail transportation is expected to rise because of population growth and an increase in global trade, a lack of new track capacity will hold back growth. Building new tracks is expensive, so freight companies have found other ways to increase capacity, such as double-stacking (stacking one train car on top of another) or running longer trains.
Passenger rail can add more cars to existing train sets to increase capacity without increasing the number of locomotives. These types of measures can meet the growing demand for rail without significant increases in employment.
Employment of rail yard engineers, dinkey operators, and hostlers is projected to decline 4 from 2010 to 2020, while that of locomotive firers is projected to decline 5 percent.
Although demand for rail transportation is expected to grow, these occupations will be more affected by increases in productivity. Increased use of remote-control locomotive technology allows engines to be moved around rail yards remotely and is replacing some of these workers.
Job opportunities should be favorable for these occupations. Although many workers stay in these occupations for a long time, currently more workers are nearing retirement than is the case in most occupations. When these workers begin to retire, many jobs should become available.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition