This Could Be Your Ticket

High-speed train rushes down a track.

Want to work in a high-paying career that offers benefits like job security, on-the-job training, and opportunities for advancement? How about one where you can choose from a range of jobs and work environments, including being around the latest technology and working outdoors? If so, you should definitely consider entering the railroad industry.

The first American railroad was built almost 200 years ago and the trains have been rolling ever since. Today, railroads employ over 200,000 people in the United States. It’s a $60 billion industry that Americans depend on to deliver the products they use every day, including coal, grain, and automobiles. The need for full-time railroad workers will continue for decades to come.

John Gray, Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics at the Association of American Railroads.

Click a button to watch an interview with John Gray:

We spoke with John Gray, senior vice president of policy and economics at the Association of American Railroads (AAR), to learn more about what makes rail an attractive career option for the next generation.

“First of all—quite frankly—we pay very well,” Gray said in an interview with Fast Forward. “We have some of the highest average salaries that are available anywhere in business in the U.S., and it opens a lot of opportunities because of that.”

However, railroad careers have a lot more to offer than attractive wages, Gray said. For one, the industry is so expansive that the variety of jobs is enormous. If you don’t want to sit in the office, the railroad industry might be appealing.

“We’re a business that operates outdoors in all kinds of weather, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Gray said. “If you enjoy being outdoors, we have lots and lots of jobs that you can get into, some very technical and some very ordinary.”

If you enjoy working with the latest technology, you should know that the rail industry has been on the cutting edge for decades; it can afford to give innovators an environment in which their ideas can flourish.

“Railroads have the resources to do things like have very large technology organizations that are encapsulated within the railroad itself,” Gray said. “It’s a big part of what we do. I can’t overemphasize the fact that if you want something that is challenging and dealing with technology, there is probably room for you in our business.”

There are also jobs in the industry for people who are interested in business, economics, research, and finance. The list goes on and on. Further, the railroads frequently offer on-the-job training for their employees, so there are options for those who are looking get their careers started right out of high school or college. As you gain work experience, you can move up the ladder.

Gray said that students who want to know more about the railroad industry can find a wealth of information online. Visiting railroad websites, like the Union Pacific career page, is a great place to start. It’s an easy way to learn about the types of rail careers that are out there, as well as training and educational requirements for different career paths. Gray said you might even consider researching career opportunities in your state or region. AAR also has a Web site where you can learn about what’s happening in the industry today.

Watch Gray’s video to hear more of his interview with Fast Forward, including his advice for students. Check out the rest of this issue for more news and information on transportation careers for the next generation!

Aaron Mack
Fast Forward: Volume 3 Issue 6 – Maritime & Rail