Why Major in Rail Transportation Engineering?
Penn State Altoona offers the nation’s first and only bachelor of science degree program in Rail Transportation Engineering (RTE). Our students gain the in-depth engineering and mathematics education required to meet the challenges facing today’s railroad industry.
With a worldwide resurgence in rail transportation over the last several decades, there is now a great need to train and educate the next generation of railroad engineering professionals. In the U.S. rail industry alone, it is estimated that the job market has a current demand for about fifty new job openings per year for each graduate of the RTE program. In other words, the demand for qualified engineering students in the rail industry far exceeds the number of graduates that colleges and universities currently are supplying. As a result, many of our students receive multiple job offers in their field prior to graduation.
What to Expect
The Bachelor of Science in Rail Transportation Engineering (RTE) will provide students with the necessary skills for careers in the rail freight and passenger transportation industries. The RTE degree provides a solid background in engineering design but also focuses on the maintenance and management skills required by the rail industry. The program provides a breadth of knowledge in the major areas associated with the design, operation, and maintenance of rail systems, including:
- the engineering of rail and track structures
- basic rail operating practices and safety
- wheel/track dynamics
- construction and maintenance of railroad infrastructure
- basic railroad communications and signals.
Laboratories are used throughout the RTE curriculum to provide students with experiences in the field with actual rail equipment, and extensive team-based laboratory activities are used to develop the leadership qualities that are essential of rail professionals. In order to prepare students for the occupational challenges associated with careers in the rail industry, careful and candid discussions of career possibilities and working environments typical of railway professionals are provided throughout the RTE program.
As an RTE graduate, you can expect to work in management and/or engineering roles in either the private or public sector. Countless rail industry companies and organizations are seeking trained engineering professionals, including Class I railroad companies; short line railroads; engineering consulting firms; railway suppliers; government agencies; and various research institutions. Based on surveys of recent graduates, starting salaries typically range from $60k to $70k per year.
RTE graduates are prepared for exciting careers in various sectors of the railroad industry including freight, passenger, and transit. While the primary focus of the program is civil infrastructure, students also gain hands-on education and training that will make them marketable for a career in any area of railroad engineering, including:
- track design and maintenance
- construction management
- railcar and locomotive design and maintenance
- transportation logistics
- network planning and operations
If you are a serious engineering-minded student interested in becoming a leader of tomorrow’s railroad industry, the Penn State Altoona RTE program is the right choice for you.