CSI: Railroad

A red and white bullet train races along a track. The background is heavily blurred with the motion.

If you thought railroad careers were all about driving trains, think again.

Monique Ferguson Stewart works for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). She says there are exciting opportunities in the railroad industry waiting for today’s students.

Screenshot image of Monique Ferguson Stewart, taken from our interview with her.

Click a button to watch our interview with Monique Ferguson Stewart:

Monique is a mechanical engineer. She is also the head of FRA’s Office of Research and Development. FRA is a federal agency that oversees the safety of the United States rail system. This includes everything from high-speed passenger rail to freight trains. FRA also promotes research and technology to improve the efficiency of rail transportation in the United States.

Monique’s specialty is accident investigation. When a rail accident occurs, she and a team of experts gather and examine the evidence to find out why. They also figure out how to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future. Monique told Fast Forward that her job can be a lot like an episode of CSI. Her team uses cutting-edge techniques and relies on science and technology to get the job done. But accident investigation isn’t the only railroad career where science and technology play a key role, Monique said.

Modern passenger and freight trains are becoming faster, safer, and smarter all the time. For example, new technologies are making it possible for trains to communicate with each other and with the surrounding environment, enabling them to stop automatically if they sense trouble ahead. Thanks to this and similar breakthroughs, fatalities involving collisions between trains and automobiles have dropped by about 80 percent in recent decades. Monique said that the industry will continue to need tech-savvy researchers, engineers, computer specialists, and other bright minds to keep pushing today’s amazing innovations in rail even further.

Even if research and development isn’t your thing the railroad industry is bursting with other options like business, finance, maintenance, construction, logistics, management and more. In fact, today’s rail industry has something to offer for just about any interest or skill set.

To learn more about what’s happening in the railroad industry, the FRA website is a good place to start. You can read up on the latest news, research, and breakthroughs involving rail in the United States. You can even find information on career options, internships, and scholarships. For example, check out the United States Department of Transportation Pathways Program. It provides students with paid opportunities to explore careers with federal agencies like FRA. You can even take a look at current job openings in the industry, to get a better idea of the tons of options available.

Just keep this in mind. If you’re on the lookout for an exciting career with tons of options, opportunities for advancement, and the chance to make a difference, don’t overlook the rail industry. It could definitely get you on the right track.

Aaron Mack
Fast Forward: Volume 2 Issue 6 - Rail