Engineering: Maintaining The Track, Signals, And Related Structures
Every railroad of notable size staffs a team of engineers to maintain its property, carry out infrastructure improvements, and generally see to it routes are in proper working order for daily rail movements. BNSF states that it currently has some 10,000 employees working in the field of engineering, which covers everything from track maintenance to intricate signaling systems. As you might have guessed, many of these folks are employed in the track maintenance sector (general laborers) but other positions include roadmaster, various signal fields (apprentice, electronic technician, assistant supervisor/supervisor, general engineer, director, etc.), and construction (entailing a range of responsibilities from maintaining bridges to overseeing the building of new structures). Finally, each sector has many types of management positions if you are interested in these areas.
Without mechanics and related personnel to maintain their fleets of locomotive and rolling stock no railroad could remain in operation very long. BNSF states that it currently employs a workforce of more than 7,000 in the mechanical field who maintain its 6,000 locomotives and 200,000 freight cars. If you enjoy working on large equipment, getting dirty, and being outside of the office cubicle then a career in this area might be for you! As the railroad notes your duties, depending on your area of expertise, can range from welder to electrician. Most of these positions, outside of management (i.e., foreman and superintendent), are tied into a labor union with official job titles including boilermaker, machinist, mechanical shop laborer, coach cleaner, pipefitter, and railcar repair (carman).
When almost anyone thinks of a railroader the position of engineer and/or conductor immediately comes to mind. While these careers are the most well-known across the industry, the modern age has allowed for a wide-ranging field of career paths. Many years ago a freight train consisted of five personnel including the conductor, engineer, fireman, brakeman, and flagman. Today, only the former two are assigned to most runs and carry very distinctive responsibilities (although most Class I's now have both dual-qualified): the conductor is officially responsible for the entire train and directs the engineer; interestingly, however, the engineer is the actually the senior position and he/she is expected to safely operate the locomotive while maintaining control of the train within his/her assigned territory. All engineers are assigned a specific district with which they become very familiar to know exact train speeds and signaling blocks. It takes many years to become a fully qualified engineer.
BNSF Railway lists this field as a sort of "catch all" for job titles that do not fit within any other area. Many are office positions, dealing with the daily paperwork and business-related tasks in the areas of finance, development, technology, etc. The railroad also classifies telecommunications within this field (radio, microwave, voice, data, wireless, etc.) as well as intermodal services (the movement of international shipping containers and truck trailers). If you enjoy the clerical field and the general business environment than this area might be of interest. For more information regarding potential openings across the BNSF network please visit their careers page.
What BNSF describes as its "Professional" field is also referred to as the corporate level by others. As you may know, this is a far-reaching area of the company and most such positions require some type of college-level education or experience. The railroad states that careers here include marketing, business development, sales, Human Resources, accounting, finance, law, and corporate auditing among others. In the corporate arena many employees are situated in the company's official headquarters at Fort Worth, Texas although BNSF states there are others found across its network and two Canadian provinces.
Information Technology (IT)/Technology Services
Prior to the digital age that has it roots dating back to the 1970s/1980s most railroads utilized almost no form of digital technology except for wireless radio (which itself did not come into widespread use until after World War II!). It's amazing how fast technology moves, what's new today is gone tomorrow. Without computers many railroads could simply not operate in the modern age. BNSF states that its "IT/Technology Services" sector includes a Technology Services (TS) team which maintains, upgrades, and overhauls (when-needed) its computers. These systems monitor everything from dispatching to signaling in an effort to provide the most efficient and safest way to move freight across its territory.
All Class I railroads today have some sort of college recruiting/internship program in place for those continuing their education. BNSF Railway is no different and offers a popular "Summer Internship Program" and also opens collegians to their "Management Trainee Program." Finally, most railroads also work hard to hire military veterans, including BNSF. If you have been in or retired from the armed forces you might want to consider a career in railroading; Class I's such as BNSF offer excellent pay and benefits.
Field Operations Management
The name BNSF gives to this sector is actually a fancy term for long-standing supervisory roles out in the field. One of the best known is that of roadmaster. This position is essentially management whereby you are assigned a territory of track, keeping the property well-maintained and to whatever standards the railroad sets forth. You also are over all maintenance personnel in the assigned territory. Likewise you must coordinate with surrounding roadmasters and their territories; no train can pass through your assigned territory without your approval. If you wish to move beyond roadmaster, positions further up the ladder include division engineer and general director.
Related Reading You May Enjoy
BNSF Railway Careers