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Railroad Dispatcher FAQ

About the Program

What are the qualifications for the program?

You must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have, as a required qualification, 30 semester hours of GPA credit from regionally accredited college or university.
  • Submit work experience to be evaluated by pre-screening panel.
  • Receive a passing score on the Railroad Dispatcher Aptitude Test.
  • Be legal to work in the United States.
  • Be willing to relocate.
  • Have the Meningitis vaccination (if under the age of 22) as required by The 82nd Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 1107.
    • This vaccination must be administered within the last 5 years and prior to 10 days to the start of the first day of class.
  • Meet TCC admission requirements.

See Railroad Dispatcher Program Application Information for details about documentation you need for the Railroad Dispatcher Program application.

How long is the program?

  • 13 weeks
  • Typically running Monday through Friday, 0800 to 1500.

What will it cost?

  • Current total tuition: $940
    • First 8 weeks: $580
    • Last 5 weeks: $360
  • Tuition rates are subject to change.
  • Tuition is due at the time of registration for classes.
  • No books are required. All instructional materials are supplied.

Are there any student scholarships?

  • All trainees will receive a scholarship payment of $125 per training day, effective for all 2017 classes.
    • Payment schedule varies.
    • Disbursement of the scholarship monies begins week 3 or 4 of the program and takes place every 2 to 3 weeks after.
  • This scholarship is automatically given to all viable dispatcher candidates. There is no application process.
  • If a trainee is absent, that day’s scholarship will not be paid.

What is the completion rate of the program?

  • The current completion rate is approximately 80-90%.


About the Dispatcher Aptitude Test and the Interview

What is the Dispatcher Aptitude Test?

The Dispatcher Aptitude Test is an online timed test consisting of:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Assessment designed to test work experience and situations

Are there any study guides? 

  • There are no study guides available for the test.

What is the pass/fail rate?

  • Both parts of the test must be passed. The grade system is not a number—only a Pass or Fail result.
  • The fail rate for the test is approximately 30 percent. 
  • If 1 or both portions of the test are failed, an applicant may be able to retest after a waiting period of 6 months from the date of the test.
  • A passing test score will be valid for 6 months.

When do I take the Aptitude Test?

  • A panel determines eligibility to test.
  • A completed application must be submitted for review before the panel can determine eligibility. 
  • A completed application does not guarantee a test slot.

If I pass the Aptitude Test, will an interview be granted?

  • A panel consisting of TCC and railroad representatives will evaluate and select candidates to be interviewed for the program.
  • There is no guarantee of an interview.

If I don’t receive an interview, will I still remain eligible for future classes?

  • Your application will be valid for all classes for the calendar year unless you are otherwise informed.

If I receive an interview but do not get selected, will I remain eligible for future classes?

  • If you are not selected for a class in the calendar year in which you applied, you can resubmit an application for the following year’s classes when the application reopens.
  • There is no guarantee of an interview.


About Being a Railroad Dispatcher

Will I be offered a dispatching job upon completion of the Dispatcher Training Program?

  • There is no guarantee of a job offer from BNSF or any other railroad company after you complete our program. 
  • Grades and attendance are among factors that will be considered for hiring purposes.
  • You must still successfully complete the entire program and pass a background check and physical to remain eligible for employment.

If hired, is there a probationary employment period?

  • Yes, for most railroads. 
    • At BNSF, for example, a probationary period is in effect until an employee completes 60 solo shifts. A solo shift is when you work by yourself without a trainer. 
    • The probationary period generally lasts eight to twelve months after your hire date.
  • While on probation, various railroads have training rates and probationary rates. Generally:
    • 80 percent of the daily rate while training
    • 100 percent when working a solo shift

What is the success rate for probationary dispatchers? 

  • Varies by railroad.
    • At BNSF, for example, approximately 25-30 percent of the candidates do not successfully complete their probationary period.

What kind of hours or shifts will I be working as a dispatcher?

  • Dispatching is a 24-hour/365-day operation. This includes shift work 7 days a week.
  • You may be asked to work 3 different shifts within 1 week. 
  • You will work 40 hour weeks with 2 days off. 
  • Your days off may not be back to back until your seniority allows you to hold a permanent position.
  • You will have a mandatory 15 hours off between assigned shifts.
  • As a dispatcher, you cannot work more than 9 hours in a 24-hour period without 15 hours rest before reporting to duty.
  • For most railroads, if you work more than 40 hours in a week (Monday through Sunday), you will be paid at the overtime rate of time-and-one-half.

Are dispatchers unionized positions? If so, what are the union dues?

  • Varies by railroad.
    • At BNSF, for example, dispatching positions are represented by a union. Dues for BNSF are about $118 per month.

Will I be required to relocate? If so, will moving expenses be paid?

  • At BNSF, for example, jobs at BNSF may be available in Fort Worth, Texas, or in one of the satellite dispatching offices in Spring, Texas; Kansas City, Kansas; or San Bernardino, California.
  • Relocation packages may be available depending on the employing railroad and your current residence.



Northwest Campus

Community & Industry Education Services
Terri Kleam, Program Coordinator
2301 Horizon Drive
Fort Worth, TX 76177

Updated September 10, 2018