Engineer at Network Rail

What is a Railway Engineer?

Are you a top-notch problem solver? Can you think outside the box? Want to be part of large-scale projects that will have an impact on thousands of people? If so, a career in railway engineering could be a great fit for you.

Railway engineers work in different specialities; it could be track, system design, overhead lines or switches and crossings. Once you’ve gained useful general knowledge about engineering and the railway, you’ll be able to specialise in a section of railway engineering.

Overall, your role as a railway engineer is to oversee new designs for different elements of the railway, check safety procedures, carry out detailed risk assessments and prioritise tasks and actions that need to be taken in order to ensure the upkeep of the railway.

What does an Engineer do?

As an engineer for Network Rail, who maintain the railway which operating companies run their trains on, you’ll ensure the railway is safe and well-maintained so that trains can run smoothly and on time. It’s a highly important role, as the trains need to be safe for the public and freight.

As an engineer, you’ll specialise in a particular technical area. For example, you could specialise in system design, overhead line engineering, or switches and crossings. It’s your job to make sure that everything within your speciality is maintained and meets all safety guidelines. If there is improvement work to be done, you’ll be responsible for implementing the plan in your specialist area, working with other engineers to make it happen.

As a railway engineer, you’ll be a focal point for best practice and technical advice, meaning that colleagues will come to you and seek your speciality knowledge and approval for various railway-engineering projects.

An important part of your role will be to provide support for incidents that occur, providing technical explanation on why they happened. This is a key part in keeping staff, passengers and freight safe when travelling on the railway.

As well as this, you’ll be responsible for carrying out risk assessments, seeing where improvements could be made to make the railway even safer, keeping colleagues, contractors and passengers in good hands.

Is a career in engineering right for me?

If you have great problem solving skills, are able to explain your ideas clearly and want to be part of projects that will improve the public’s transport links then a railway engineering career could be great for you. You’ll help to make railway designs and see them come to life as well as identifying and addressing any issues that you may come across in your chosen technical speciality.

How to become an engineer

Studying maths and science-related subjects at school will help you a lot in any engineering career. Not only will they stand out on your CV, they’ll also give you the foundation skills and knowledge you’ll need to learn and grow in an engineering career.

At school and beyond, take the opportunity to network and meet like minds in a science and engineering field. As an example, there are a number of science careers events held annually around the country, like The Big Bang Fair and Technopop. Attending these events is very inspiring, and also a great way to meet employers offering opportunities, networks to join and people in the jobs you want who are happy to answer any questions.

You can study for vocational qualifications – like engineering NVQ courses - to help you build up the skills and knowledge you need. You can also take these courses through an employer as part of a structured earn-while-you-learn programme. Take a look at our Course Finder to research what’s available.

Once you’ve got a job in the field of engineering – either a graduate role, an entry-level role or an apprenticeship – a career-boosting next step is to achieve chartered engineer status, which is required for this role. This is a globally recognised qualification, which you can get through the IET.

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