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In 2013, people from non-English speaking backgrounds represent about one-tenth of engineers who work in the Australasian rail industry.

Occupation description

In a rail environment, signalling engineering enables operators to regulate the movement of trains on the network with minimum conflict or delay. A signalling engineer will choose to specialise in design, construction, maintenance or project management. Key accountabilities include: designing infrastructure assets including signals, train stops, track circuits, train detection systems, point operation and detection systems, traction (electrical current) return arrangements, vital interlocking systems, SCADA/telemetry systems, and active level crossings; and testing and commissioning new signalling systems and maintaining signalling and associated supporting systems.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

Signalling attracts engineers who enjoy facing new challenges and learning new technology. Signal engineers should like solving technical problems through applying logical reasoning, and enjoy developing creative solutions within the boundaries of fundamental signalling principles, standards and safety requirements.

Working conditions

A signalling career offers opportunities that can be field or office-based. They can range from urban offices and workshops, to rail corridors in remote areas.

Entrance requirements and ongoing training and development

There are no specific railway signalling subjects or courses available at the undergraduate level in Australia. To become a signals engineer you will need to have tertiary qualifications in electrical, electronic, computer systems, telecommunications, or mechatronics. If you work with operational systems, you would require software engineering, information technology or computer science. Engineers with qualifications from overseas must have their degrees assessed by Engineers Australia or the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ. In Australia, signal engineers require professional certification from Engineers Australia and/or the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers (IRSE).                                        

Central Queensland University offers a Graduate Diploma of Railway Signalling and Telecommunications and a Master of Railway Signalling and Telecommunications which is designed to develop competent and qualified railway signal engineers.

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 what stage you are at in life and your personal circumstances. You may also have opportunities to work with rail partners on large infrastructure projects. Once in the rail industry, to progress in a career, you will need to complete additional studies or authorisations which will depend on operational and state requirements. Due to the complexities of the rail environment, it takes time to become a specialist and it may be difficult to move laterally into other specialised areas. 

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. Eventually, you may become a chief engineer. You may also develop specific expertise in estimation or research and development.  

Career Path Flowchart

Typical career path for a signalling engineer

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Typical career path for a signalling commissioning engineer

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Typical career path for a signalling maintenance engineer

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