Did you know?

You can now study rail specific engineering courses, including signalling and rolling stock engineering, in more than three Australian universities.

Occupation description

Electrical engineers in rail come from a number of disciplines – electronics, power, telecommunications and mechatronics. Electrical engineers are involved in designing, constructing and maintaining rail’s electrical infrastructure, equipment and power that run the trains on the rail system. Key accountabilities may include:

  • Designing and installing electrical infrastructure, including substations
  • Maintaining and upgrading equipment for the distribution and control of power
  • Constructing, maintaining and upgrading traction and distribution substations
  • Interpreting specifications, drawings, standards and regulations relating to power equipment
  • Managing the electrical network and the coordination of responses to asset failures and operational incidents.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

Electrical engineers need to be able to identify, analyse and solve problems. Electrical engineers must be ready to face new challenges and to learn new technology. Electrical engineers must have a high regard for safety.

Working conditions

Electrical engineers work in different settings, ranging from offices, to rail corridors in remote areas, and workshops. 

Entrance requirements and ongoing training and development

To become an electrical engineer, you need to have a bachelor degree and probably a major in a sub-discipline such as power, telecommunications or ICT.  Engineers with qualifications from overseas universities must have their degrees assessed by Engineers Australia or the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ . Central Queensland University (CQU) offers a Graduate Diploma of Railway Signalling and Telecommunications and Masters in Railway Signalling and Telecommunications. 

Additional tertiary study may be required to progress to senior electrical engineering positions.

The value of a career in the rail industry

For even more details on what you might earn, the diversity of companies you could work for and the career opportunities available, visit the following careers and training websites. Careers in Rail by the Australasian Railway Association; About the Rail Industry by Rail Skills Australasia and Rail Training by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC).

For more information

Career paths

Typically, an engineer progresses from a graduate or assistant engineer role, through to senior positions with specialist skills in project management, operations, asset construction and maintenance, design, or development of standards. You may also develop specialist skills in electrical construction, electrical traction and distribution, or SCADA.  It takes time to become a rail specialist and it may be difficult to move laterally into other specialised areas.

This information is generic and job titles, and the experience and qualifications needed to move into other jobs may vary depending on the structure and needs of your organisation, and government rules and regulations. 

Career Path Flowchart

Typical career path for an electrical engineer


Typical career path for an electrical design engineer


Typical career path for an electrical commissioning engineer


Typical career path for an electrical maintenance engineer