Bus Driver Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an intercity, transit or school bus driver. Learn about job duties, licensure, job outlook and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Bus Driver?

A bus driver is someone with a CDL license who uses a bus to transport people. Transit and intercity bus drivers typically work on routes and provide public transportation services. They pick up and drop off passengers at predetermined stops along the route and need to maintain their schedule and route order while following traffic laws. School bus drivers follow an assigned school bus route. They pick up children from their homes in the morning and deliver them to school. In the afternoon they pick up students from school and drop them off at their homes. The key differences between school bus drivers and intercity and transit bus drivers are that school bus drivers only transport students, and school bus passengers have predetermined drop of and pick up spots that must be followed; they cannot decide to get off the bus at a different stop, while transit and intercity passengers are free to get off the bus at any designated stop along the route. All bus drivers perform basic vehicle maintenance, and may check the oil, tires and lights before they begin their route. They also are responsible for keeping their vehicle clean.

Transit/ Intercity Bus Driver School Bus Driver
Education Required High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Training Required On-the-job training On-the-job training
Key Responsibilities Follow daily schedules, collect fares, assist passengers, report traffic issues Maintain order among children, care for kids with special needs, report disciplinary issues
Licensure Commercial driver's license (CDL), other requirements vary by location Commercial driver's license (CDL), other requirements vary by location
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%* 6% (for all school or special client bus drivers)*
Average Salary (2015) $40,160* $30,580 (for all school or special client bus drivers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the Job Description of a Bus Driver?

Bus drivers drive either transit or school bus routes. Transit bus routes carry passengers of all ages to and from scheduled bus stops, either within a metropolitan area or between cities. School bus drivers work for a school district providing transportation to students between their homes and the school, transporting students to sporting events and driving students to field trip destinations.

Regardless of which type of bus you drive, the basic job duties are generally the same. You are responsible for assuring the safety of passengers through driving safely and monitoring passenger activity. You are also responsible for maintaining a tight schedule, so you reach each stop around the same time every time you run your route.

Before beginning your daily route, you are responsible for checking over the bus, looking for obvious maintenance issues and identifying possible safety hazards. Paperwork may have to be completed and you may check road and weather conditions before starting your route. You must stay in contact with your dispatcher, reporting problems or issues that occur on your route.

What Are the Requirements I Must Meet?

The government sets the licensing requirements you must meet, which could be federal as well as state requirements. Generally, bus drivers need to hold a commercial driver's license (CDL). Obtaining a CDL usually requires training on maneuvering the bus and learning the rules and regulations that apply to operating a passenger vehicle. Most states require special endorsements, depending on what type of bus you will drive.

Employers do generally not require formal education. Most employers prefer drivers have a high school diploma. Some employers may make you take tests to show your competency to do the job. Most employers require a clean driving record. Employers usually have additional requirements, which may include:

  • Meeting minimum age requirements
  • Being fluent in English
  • Passing a background check
  • Meeting minimum vision and hearing standards
  • Passing a drug screening test

Many companies provide training courses to teach company policies and procedures before you begin driving a route. Training usually involves practice driving, which may involve maneuvering the bus through obstacles, driving in narrow areas and trial runs to learn routes.

How Much Can I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), intercity and transit bus drivers earned a mean annual wage of $40,160, as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The range of earnings from the 10th percentile to the 90th percentile was $22,310-$62,240.

The BLS reported the mean annual wage for school bus drivers was $30,580, as of May 2015. The 10th percentile had earnings of $18,210 or less and the 90th percentile had earnings of $45,670 or more.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs perform tasks that are very similar to the duties of a bus driver but do not require any formal education. Taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs may need to be licensed by their state or city. They also are less likely to work preset routes, like transit and school bus drivers. Taxi cab drivers pick up passengers who have called for a cab or who flag them down. They transport them to their destination and collect their fare. Chauffeurs often drive limousines or vans. They may perform duties that are similar to those of a taxi driver and pick up passengers and transport them and collect fares. They may also work for a business, a person or the government and only provide transportation services for their employer. Those chauffeurs do not collect fares. Like school and transit bus drivers, taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs are responsible for cleaning their vehicles, basic vehicle maintenance and must obey traffic laws.

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