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Summary Report for:
53-4021.00 - Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators

Operate railroad track switches. Couple or uncouple rolling stock to make up or break up trains. Signal engineers by hand or flagging. May inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and hand brakes.

Sample of reported job titles: Railroad Switchman, Brakeman, Terminal Carman, Trainman, Switch Foreman, Carman, Trains Service Conductor, Transportation Specialist, Locomotive Switch Operator, Railroad Brakeman

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Tasks  |  Knowledge  |  Skills  |  Abilities  |  Work Activities  |  Work Context  |  Job Zone  |  Education  |  Credentials  |  Interests  |  Work Styles  |  Work Values  |  Related Occupations  |  Wages & Employment  |  Job Openings  |  Additional Information

Tasks

  • Signal locomotive engineers to start or stop trains when coupling or uncoupling cars, using hand signals, lanterns, or radio communication.
  • Pull or push track switches to reroute cars.
  • Observe signals from other crew members so that work activities can be coordinated.
  • Inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and handbrakes to ensure that they are securely fastened and functioning properly.
  • Raise levers to couple and uncouple cars for makeup and breakup of trains.
  • Receive oral or written instructions from yardmasters or yard conductors indicating track assignments and cars to be switched.
  • Climb ladders to tops of cars to set brakes.
  • Set flares, flags, lanterns, or torpedoes in front and at rear of trains during emergency stops to warn oncoming trains.
  • Inspect tracks, cars, and engines for defects and to determine service needs, sending engines and cars for repairs as necessary.
  • Make minor repairs to couplings, air hoses, and journal boxes, using hand tools.

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Knowledge

Transportation — Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
Customer and Personal Service — Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Public Safety and Security — Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Mechanical — Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.

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Skills

Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Operation Monitoring — Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Operation and Control — Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.

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Abilities

Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
Auditory Attention — The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
Control Precision — The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
Multilimb Coordination — The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
Gross Body Coordination — The ability to coordinate the movement of your arms, legs, and torso together when the whole body is in motion.
Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
Reaction Time — The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.

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Work Activities

Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material — Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Performing General Physical Activities — Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling of materials.
Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Handling and Moving Objects — Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.

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Work Context

Outdoors, Exposed to Weather — 100% responded “Every day.”
Sounds, Noise Levels Are Distracting or Uncomfortable — 91% responded “Every day.”
Exposed to Contaminants — 85% responded “Every day.”
Exposed to Hazardous Equipment — 86% responded “Every day.”
Consequence of Error — 80% responded “Extremely serious.”
Very Hot or Cold Temperatures — 72% responded “Every day.”
Duration of Typical Work Week — 85% responded “More than 40 hours.”
Face-to-Face Discussions — 75% responded “Every day.”
Wear Common Protective or Safety Equipment such as Safety Shoes, Glasses, Gloves, Hearing Protection, Hard Hats, or Life Jackets — 76% responded “Every day.”
Contact With Others — 77% responded “Constant contact with others.”

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Job Zone

Title Job Zone Two: Some Preparation Needed
Education These occupations usually require a high school diploma.
Related Experience Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is usually needed. For example, a teller would benefit from experience working directly with the public.
Job Training Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.
Job Zone Examples These occupations often involve using your knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include sheet metal workers, forest fire fighters, customer service representatives, physical therapist aides, salespersons (retail), and tellers.
SVP Range (4.0 to < 6.0)

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Education


Percentage of Respondents
Education Level Required
87   High school diploma or equivalent Help
  Less than high school diploma
  Post-secondary certificate Help

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Credentials

Find Training

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Interests

Interest code: RC

Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
Conventional — Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

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Work Styles

Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Self Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
Initiative — Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

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Work Values

Support — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
Relationships — Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.

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Related Occupations

47-2071.00 Paving, Surfacing, and Tamping Equipment Operators
47-4051.00 Highway Maintenance Workers
47-4061.00 Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators Green Occupation
47-5013.00 Service Unit Operators, Oil, Gas, and Mining Green Occupation
47-5081.00 Helpers--Extraction Workers
53-3032.00 Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers   Bright Outlook Bright Outlook   Green Occupation
53-4011.00 Locomotive Engineers Green Occupation
53-4012.00 Locomotive Firers
53-4013.00 Rail Yard Engineers, Dinkey Operators, and Hostlers
53-4031.00 Railroad Conductors and Yardmasters   Green Occupation Green

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Wages & Employment Trends

Median wages (2013) $24.44 hourly, $50,840 annual
State wages Local Salary Info
 
Employment (2012) 25,000 employees
Projected growth (2012-2022) Decline (-3% or lower) Decline (-3% or lower)
Projected job openings (2012-2022) 7,600
State trends Employment Trends
 
Top industries (2012)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013 wage data external site and 2012-2022 employment projections external site. "Projected growth" represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2012-2022). "Projected job openings" represent openings due to growth and replacement.

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Job Openings on the Web

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Sources of Additional Information

Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

  • Railroad Occupations external site. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.

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