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

Mechanical engineering in a rail environment features in development, design, construction and maintenance including: freight and passenger rolling stock and mechanical services (air conditioning, ventilation, pollution control, security systems, lifts and escalators, wash plants etc). Mechanical engineers are involved in all facets of the life cycle of railway assets.

They are also involved in establishing and managing standards for rolling stock including: issuing waivers/derogations and permission to operate rolling stock; and consultative engineering through conducting research and providing advice on rolling stock issues, developing documentation and delivering rolling stock and mechanical projects. These may include: procuring new rolling stock, upgrading rolling stock, investigating technical issues such as crashworthiness and derailments, train progression systems and maintenance of machinery.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

Mechanical engineers need good communication skills, the ability to work in a team and have an interest in learning and being challenged. You need to be ready to take on new tasks and research options and solutions; enjoy problem-solving and seeking advice from a variety of stakeholders; like working in a diverse multi-discipline environment; be willing to perform allocated tasks and deliver to an agreed program of work.

Working conditions

Mechanical engineers work in different settings, ranging from offices to rail corridors in remote areas or workshops. They may travel frequently or relocate temporarily. They may work with other professionals on temporary project teams.

Entrance requirements and ongoing training and development

To become a mechanical engineer, you need to have tertiary qualifications (bachelor degree or higher). Mechanical engineers should have a sound knowledge of mechanical engineering principles including: mechanics, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, design, vibrations, dynamics, industrial engineering, electrical principles and engineering management. Specialist railway skills are built on basic engineering principles and through in-house training courses and guidance from experienced staff.

Engineers with qualifications from overseas must have their degrees assessed by Engineers Australia or the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ. The Graduate Certificate in Rolling Stock Engineering and Masters of Rolling Stock Engineering at Wollongong University may be useful if you wish to specialise as a Mechanical Rolling Stock Engineer. 

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

The rail industry offers a wide range of opportunities. There are many options open to you, and your career may take many turns depending on where you are at in life and your personal circumstances.Typically, an engineer will progress from an entry level position such as a graduate or assistant engineer through to more senior positions with specialist skills in one of the following areas: project management, operations, asset construction and maintenance, design, and development of standards. You may move into management and eventually become a chief engineer. 

Specialising in rolling stock is a common career path and may include: maintenance, researching technical issues, designing equipment and developing technical documentation.  Once in the rail industry, you will need to complete additional tertiary studies, certifications such as RegPM or authorisations to progress.

The information provided here is generic. Job titles and the experience and qualifications needed to move into other roles may vary depending on the structure and needs of your organisation and government rules and regulations. 

Related Jobs

The jobs below may require additional qualifications as well as experience.

Career Path Flowchart

Typical career path for a mechanical engineer