Train Dispatch Job Description


The Silver Bullet
Jul 28, 2009
Ft. Worth, Texas!
Thanks to Rae Brown, this is the basic all in out job description of a Train Dispatcher. Most ATC understands this process as its the same basic aspect but about 10 notches less than ATC. Pay pretty much equals out and the same type mentality is required, which is why lots of Train Companies like prior ATC or Prior Military or... Prior Military ATC to do this job.

Here's what Ms. Rae Brown describes the Train Dispatch Position as being.

Train dispatchers monitor and direct the movements of trains. Dispatchers guide and track several locomotives at a time conducting a delicate symphony of movement. Others responsibilities include for keeping travel records, logs and schedules. Dispatchers use radios, telephones and sophisticated computer systems to follow the trains under their charge. Train dispatchers are the railway counterparts of air traffic controllers.

Education and Training
Candidates with collegiate degrees in transportation, engineering or related fields are preferred. Practical transportation industry experience and military backgrounds are highly desirable as well.

New train dispatchers receive extensive on-the-job training on computer systems and safety procedures. This paid training can take several months to complete. Before an apprentice dispatcher can advance, he must pass a written and practical exam, show familiarity with his territory and understand a vast lexicon of railroad terms.
Other Considerations
Dispatchers are directly responsible for the safety of train passengers and cargo. If a dispatcher makes a mistake, the results could be disastrous. People who pursue this career path must be attentive to detail and able to handle stress. Because dispatchers play such a major role in maintaining safety on the railways, job candidates are often required to take drug tests and undergo extensive background checks.
Work Schedules
If you're looking for a 9-to-5 job with regular time off, train dispatching is not for you. Trains run day and night. When there are trains on the rails there has to be workers on the clock. Like most railroad workers, dispatchers are expected to work holidays, weekends and unusual shifts. This is especially true for new hires.

Workers with the least amount of seniority are often assigned extra board, or backup positions. These workers are on call 24 hours a day. Even after a rookie dispatcher earns a regular full-time schedule, early morning and night shifts are required.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, the average hourly wage for a train dispatcher was $29.25 in 2008. Annual earnings averaged $60,830. Wages vary depending on experience. Apprentices usually earn less while training and receive a large pay increase upon completion of studies. Major employers, such as Union Pacific, supply full health benefits, including disability.
Job Outlook
According to a BLS report, there were 2,920 train dispatcher positions, as of May 2008. The BLS estimates that dispatching positions across all industries will decrease 3 percent between 2008 and 2018. Experts attribute this decline to increasing worker productivity and the use of computers and other advanced technologies.


Apr 10, 2014
Would bachelor's degree in Air Traffic Management qualify you for this postion? Are these Job postings done through


Senior Member
Jun 22, 2011
These jobs do not have educational requirements. Having a bachelors is a plus though as I know Union Pacific "prefers" 4 year degrees. Each company from my experience, if they like your resume will schedule to take an aptitude test, pending those results offer you a formal interview.

Railroad jobs are not federal jobs, thus will not be on, you will need to visit each companies websites for information.


Epic Member
Dec 8, 2010
Long Island
i just recently went through the "aptitude" test for one of these companies. they had 2 positions available, brought in 25 people to take the test, and interviewed 5. the test was 88 questions, and about half were personality questions, with the rest being a split between reading comprehension and basic math. they also said bachelors degrees were preferred and they look for prior experience air traffic controllers. with that being said, myself and another atc'er were there and neither of us was selected for interview.