Subway workers operate electric rail vehicles that carry passengers within metropolitan areas. The subway cars may run underground, above-ground or a combination of both. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement, since most subway workers are trained by their employers. Education programs typically mix classroom and on-site instruction. Because subways are frequently operated by transit systems that also include buses, many operators begin their jobs as bus drivers before moving to subways.
Conditions and Salaries
Subway workers earned a median salary of £36,653 per year, with a range of £23,185 to £42,659 per year, as of May 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This translates to £17.60 per hour, with a range of £11.10 to £20.5 per hour. Subway workers may work more than 40 hours a week, especially in locations where trains run 24 hours a day. Shifts, however, are generally consistent. In the interest of safety, federal regulations mandate the minimum rest hours required for these professionals.
The biggest employer of subway workers is local government, which includes cities and municipal transit systems. They comprise nearly 98 per cent of the available 6,050 positions. They are also the highest payer, with mean wages at £16.60 per hour or £34,560 per year.
As an example of subway operations for a specific area, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System shows the wide range of salaries possible for transit workers. BART handles rail transit for San Francisco, California, including subway and above-ground operations. As of March 2011, operators with the lowest salaries started with base pay of £13,811 per year. Annual overtime of £505 and additional pay of £156 put total annual compensation at £14,474. The highest salaries included base pay of £47,983 per year, with annual overtime of £16,976 and additional pay of £5,402. This pushed total compensation to £70,362.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for subway workers will increase by 19 per cent from 2008 to 2018, which is faster than average. The demand will come from the growing use of subways and other rail transit as an ecological and space-saving substitute for private cars. Job opportunities will be good, since many older workers are expected to retire in the next few years. Those with no drug or criminal records will find the best opportunities, especially if they look for work in cities where commuter rail is being constructed.