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It takes a vast network of people to run a public transit system, from CEOs to security guards. Below are five very different jobs typically found within public transit agencies. The salaries listed are national occupational averages from CBSalary.com. Job outlook data comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), spanning the decade between 2010 and 2020. Keep in mind that the average growth for all occupations is 14 percent.
1. Systems engineers
What they need: A bachelor's degree in engineering, possibly also certification by the International Council on Systems Engineering
What they earn: $91,282
Job outlook: The BLS doesn't track systems engineers, but it projects that engineers overall will see 11 percent growth.
Public transportation systems are sprawling and complex, in many cases requiring the coordinated use of roads, bridges, railroad tracks and other infrastructure, as well as advanced communication systems. Systems engineers have technical oversight of the whole shebang, often supervising lower-level engineers responsible for smaller parts of the operation.
2. Contract administrators
What they need: Requirements vary. Many employers require a bachelor's degree.
What they earn: $72,062
Job outlook: The BLS classifies contract administrators as administrative service managers, a group that is projected to see 15 percent growth.
These transit professionals oversee the purchase, storage and distribution of supplies. The job often involves choosing vendors or contractors to perform various services, like repairs or installation of new equipment. Public transit relies, of course, on public funds, which are often limited given tight city and state budgets. So it's especially important that contract administrators have a keen grasp of fiscal planning, price negotiation, inventory control and other ways to use funds as efficiently as possible.
3. Communications managers
What they need: A bachelor's degree, usually in communications, journalism, English or business
What they earn: $114,318 -- though bear in mind that salaries for workers just starting out in the public relations field tend to be much lower.
Job outlook: Public relations managers and specialists, a category that includes communications managers, is projected to see employment growth of 21 percent.
Communications managers are in charge of providing information to the news media and the public about service changes, repair schedules and other issues of civic interest (like budgets and long-range planning, for example). They also help develop communications strategies that promote their agencies.
What they need: A high school diploma and to complete a training program. Bus drivers need a Commercial Driver's License.
What they earn: $39,347 for bus drivers, $72,448 for a subway operator
Job outlook: Bus drivers will see 13 percent growth, and subway and streetcar operators will see 10 percent growth.
This job is rarely as simple as guiding a bus or a train along a designated route. Bus drivers, train conductors and other public transit operators must also deal with traffic, public safety issues and, occasionally, aging or malfunctioning equipment.
5. Safety managers
What they need: Professional experience or a bachelor's degree. Certification may be helpful, through organizations such as the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and the North American Transportation Management Institute.
What they earn: $96,077
Job outlook: Safety managers are another type of administrative services managers, which have a projected 15 percent job growth.
Safety managers make sure transit workers are properly screened, licensed and trained, and that the agency complies with government regulations. When an accident happens, they are responsible for reviewing the reports to see what went wrong.
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