Rebuilding Railroad Engineering Education in the United States with Industry-University Partnerships

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - education, mode - rail


Universities and colleges, United States, Transportation careers, Recruitment, Recruiting, Railway engineering, Railroad transportation, Railroad engineering, Rail transportation, Partnerships, Michigan Technological University, Manufacturers, Industry, Industries, Education, Curricula


Because of the growing volume of freight traffic, the increasing interest in intercity and in urban passenger rail, and the escalated retirement among industry professionals, the rail industry has been returning to university campuses in search of future leaders. In so doing, the industry has discovered that today’s universities are a challenging environment in which to recruit because most of them eliminated railroad engineering from their curricula many years ago and graduates are not familiar with the rail industry. A research study at Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) assessed whether greater participation by universities would help to encourage students to pursue rail careers. Surveys targeting industry managers, recently hired engineering graduates, and university professors were used to define the demand and supply for university engineering graduates and to determine the effect on students’ career choices from pregraduation exposure to rail topics. The results indicated a high demand for railroad engineers for the next 5 to 10 years but few opportunities to expose students to rail topics before their graduation. The research indicated a strong correlation between exposure to the rail industry and career selection and identified the development of university–industry partnerships as an attractive approach for reintroducing railroad engineering at universities. This paper summarizes the study results and provides recommendations for developing these partnerships. It also presents a short case study on how Michigan Tech has successfully introduced rail transportation into its curriculum.