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What can rail offer me... and how can I get there?

It's Rail Week, which means we're focusing on railway careers. Young Rail Professionals explain the different careers paths open to you, what rail can offer you, how you can embark on your career.

You probably take jumping on a train for granted, but did you know the railways have been part of British life for 200 years? There are nearly 10,000 miles of track, allowing people to travel all over the country. Plus there are metros, the London Underground, trams and DLR which all come under the rail sector.

'What do architecture, software and archaeology have in common? They're all careers you can pursue in rail'

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What careers can rail offer?

It’s often mistaken that railway careers are all about driving trains or track maintenance - but there are a huge variety of career paths within the sector that many young people are unaware of. There has never been such a varied choice within a single industry, and more jobs opportunities are becoming available.

Two trains at the station

Trains like this are responsible for a huge range of jobs in areas

as diverse as architecture, software development and archeology

You might be surprised to learn that skills from all sorts of school and university subjects are needed, including technology, engineering, IT, art, English, business studies, science, geography and foreign languages. No matter what qualifications or interests you have, there is a role to suit you!

Some careers you may not have thought about sit in rail include:

  • Architecture: designing new facilities including stations, tunnels, bridges and more!
  • Art and marketing: creating memorable pieces such as the London Underground map and logo, recognised the world over
  • Interior design: someone needs to keep the seat covers on trend!
  • Software development: with over 540 trains running around the London Underground at peak times, how do they keep track of them all?
  • Customer service: the face of the industry!
  • Archaeology: uncovering the history beneath where we are building. Check out the archaeology work we're doing for London's Crossrail project.
  • Environment: including relocating animals and planting trees to minimise the impact of projects
  • Engineering: developing the systems and physical infrastructure that keep the trains running smoothly and most importantly safely!

...and so many more!

Some of the roles in the industry you may require a university degree but for many others you can go into from school, college or through an apprenticeship.

What else can rail offer me?

As well as an extensive list of career options, the rail industry can offer so much more.

Eurostar travelling through UK

A career in rail can take you all over the UK - and even the


1. World travel

Rail is a global industry, and whilst you may be based in the UK, there are opportunities to visit other sites across the world to visit manufacturing sites, learn new skills and secure new contracts with suppliers.

2. UK travel

There are opportunities all over the UK and even if you are based in one location there are still lots of chances to travel and get out of the office.

3. Job security

With rail in demand more than ever, jobs are likely to stay in demand too.

4. Continuous professional development

Companies will work with their employees to further their careers. This may be through workplace training or qualifications. Everyone needs to start somewhere, but the possibilities are limitless. 

5. New technology

Technological advances are happening everyday; whether it’s a new computer programme designed to handle data easier; or a new braking system for the trains that over 1.6 million people use daily. You could be involved with it – from the initial idea, to making it a reality to improve life for commuters.

6. Perks

Many companies will offer perks to their workers. This could include personal development through training and qualifications, team-building events or even free (or cheaper) travel on their services.

What routes into rail are open to me?

Over the last 20 years, rail journeys across the UK have doubled – and this trend is set to continue. Over the next 10 years, an estimated £100 billion will be put into into the industry. This means more people will be needed - around 100,000 in fact.

Companies from across the sector have extensive apprenticeship and graduate schemes in place, helping young people make the first steps in their rail careers.

Rail apprentices

You could study at university - or you could join one of a growing
number of apprenticeship schemes straight from school

Due to the variety of jobs, there are loads of companies where jobs are available. Below are just a few:

  • Companies that run the railway lines: Including Network Rail, Transport for London or Transport for the North.
  • Train companies: there are a variety of train companies including Virgin Train, First Great Western and London Overground
  • Big rail projects: Like Crossrail in London or HS2 (High Speed 2) which is connecting North to South.
  • Construction companies which work on projects to build new lines and infrastructure and improve existing ones.
  • Train manufacturers who make the engines and carriages themselves, for example Siemens or Bombardier.

You can find out more about rail careers in our Transport & Logistics section.

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Image credits

Lead image via Freepik, Eurostar via Wikimedia Commons, rail apprentices via Flickr