Track engineering in a rail environment is a large and diverse area and its primary function is to deliver track infrastructure to programs and to support infrastructure maintenance. Track engineers work closely with surveyors, project teams and engineers to see designs developed and implemented. In NZ there are two types of track engineers - those who have a professional engineer background and those who have come from a non-trade background (they may also be called field engineers).
Knowledge, skills and attributes
Track engineers enjoy operating in a dynamic environment and facing new challenges. They need to take responsibility for their work, take briefs, take initiative, enjoy solving techncial problems, develop designs and work with technical and safety standards. To be a track engineer, you must have a strong regard for safety.
Track engineers work in different settings, ranging from offices, to rail corridors in remote areas, to workshops. They may travel frequently or relocate temporarily. They may work with other professionals and technical personnel on temporary project teams.
To become a track engineer, you need to have tertiary qualifications (bachelor degree or higher) in civil or mechanical engineering. Engineers with qualifications from overseas universities must have their degrees assessed by Engineers Australia or the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ. For engineers wanting to specialise in track design, construction or maintenance Queensland University of Technology offers a Masters of Engineering in Railway Infrastructure.
The best way to learn about rail engineering is through on-the-job training and attending in-house courses. Over time, additional authorisations or licensing will be required to work in the rail industry. There will also be ongoing education to meet the competencies of specific rail organisations.
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
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, a track engineer will progress from an entry level position, such as a graduate or assistant engineer, through to a more senior position such as a track design engineer. They may develop specialist skills in one of the following areas: project management, operations, asset construction and maintenance, design, and development of standards. Surveying is also an important part of track work.
Working in rail also offers career opportunities in geotechnical investigation and civil construction management. Eventually, you may become a chief engineer. See flowcharts, below, for possible career paths for a track engineer, track design engineer, track maintenance engineer and a track renewal/construction engineer.
The information provided here is generic. 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.
The jobs below may require additional qualifications as well as experience.