How to Become a Driving Instructor in 5 Steps

Driving instructors train people to safely operate motor vehicles. Discover the prerequisites and education and licensure requirements for driving instructors. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Driving Instructor?

A driving instructor is a professional who teaches people how to operate specific kinds of motor vehicles. While many offer classes for first-time drivers who want to learn how to drive cars and trucks, others may prepare individuals for licensure exams for driving non-traditional vehicles, such as heavy trucks, buses or motorcycles. Driving instructors must cover a wide range of subjects, including traffic laws, safety protocols and vehicle maintenance. The courses they offer typically consist of a combination of classroom-based study, which includes textbook readings, lectures and videos, as well as hands-on training behind the wheel. It is important to note that the required number of hours in the classroom and behind the wheel vary by state, so the exact course content varies based on location.

Take a look at the following table for more information about this job:

Degree Required High school diploma
Other Requirements Some states have minimum age requirements; clean driving record
Key Responsibilities Prepare lesson plans; give lectures; accompany students on driving practice sessions; provide vehicle maintenance demonstrations; grade exams
Licensure/Certification State license or certification required
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 15% (for all self-enrichment education teachers)*
Median Salary (2017) $41,580**

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com

Step 1: Meet Minimum State Prerequisites

Before attending a driving instructor-training program, most states require you to have a high school diploma or GED. Additionally, many states have a minimum age requirement, such as being 19 years old for classroom teaching and 21 years old for behind-the-wheel training. A valid personal driver's license and driving experience are other necessities, but the number of years of experience can vary by state.

Step 2: Choose a Specialization

After meeting the education and experience requirements, you can decide if you want to teach non-commercial or commercial vehicle driving. Examples of non-commercial vehicles include standard cars, mini-vans, sports utility vehicles (SUVs), light trucks, motorcycles and mopeds. Commercial vehicles consist of passenger buses, diesel trucks and ambulances.

Your choice of specialization - which is identified by state driver classes/vehicle types - will determine the kind of training program you choose and which driver's license is required before beginning your instructor's training program. For example, if you would like to be a school bus driving instructor, you may be required to have a commercial driver's license for school buses before attending an instructor's program.

Step 3: Get Trained

Driving instructor-training programs are offered at colleges, vocational schools and government agencies. They may be offered online or on-campus. The duration of your training program will vary with your specialization, with some ranging from two days to a couple weeks. Generally, your curriculum may consist of instruction on your state's highway transportation laws and protocols, strategies for training novices versus experienced drivers and developing lesson plans. To avoid instructor-licensing issues, contact your state's motor vehicle agency to find out what instructor schools are approved by your state.

Step 4: Acquire an Instructor's License

Generally, you would submit an application for licensure and pay any corresponding fees. You would also have to submit high school diploma or GED documentation, show your driver's license and complete an approved training program. Other common state requirements include a criminal background check and driving-record check. Licensure is given once your state's governing authority approves your application.

Step 5: Obtain Work Experience

As a driving instructor, you can work as an independent contractor or employee for groups, such as driver-training schools, government agencies, public schools and vehicle insurance companies. Your student types will vary with your specialization, ranging from high school students to ambulance drivers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are looking for a driving-related job, you could also consider becoming a heavy truck driver. These drivers operate trucks that weigh over 26,000 pounds and transport goods for long distances. To become one, you need to hold a high school diploma and complete a professional training program. Alternatively, instead of becoming a driving instructor, you could consider getting a job teaching a different self-enrichment subject. For instance, you could become a scuba diving instructor. They prepare students for certification by providing classroom lectures on the science of scuba diving and safety procedures, as well as in-pool and open-water training. A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement, but you also need to have expertise in scuba diving.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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