How Can I Become a Bus Driver?

Research what it takes to become a bus driver. Learn about education requirements, licensure, work responsibilities and salary to see if this is the right job for you. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Bus Driver?

Bus drivers transport people. They pick up passengers and drop them off along predesigned routes. Bus drivers typically work for transportation services, private clients or schools. A school bus driver picks up students along a predetermined route and delivers them to school. A city transit bus driver picks up passengers along a specific route, and continues on the route, with passengers disembarking at stops along the way while others board. All bus drivers perform basic maintenance tasks on their vehicles, such as checking the oil and tires. They also are responsible for keeping their vehicle clean. They must follow all traffic laws and stay on schedule on their route.

Education Required High school diploma
Training 1-3 months of driving and classroom training
Licensure Required Commercial Driver's License, endorsements for passengers and school buses
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*
Median Salary (2015) $38,290 for transit and intercity bus drivers*
$29,490 for school or special client bus drivers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Type of Education Do I Need to Become a Bus Driver?

In most cases, you won't need a postsecondary education to work as a bus driver. Instead, you'll likely receive your initial training through programs sponsored by your employer. You'll find that on-the-job training may last up to three months and require classroom and in-the-field training. You'll learn about topics such as driving and safety rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation, first aid and record keeping. You'll usually be able to practice your driving skills on special courses where you learn to turn, reverse and park buses.

Another requirement you'll need to have is a clean driving record. You may also have to submit and pass a background check, especially if you work for a school.

How Do I Acquire a Commercial Driver's License?

If you're a bus driver for an intercity, transit and motorcoach company, you must possess a commercial driver's license (CDL) with a passenger endorsement, a designation that allows you to transport passengers. You must pass a licensing examination that covers topics such as the proper loading and unloading of passengers, the use of emergency exits and proper braking techniques.

If you want to be a school bus driver, you'll need a CDL with a school bus endorsement that covers other topics such as hazard and safety signal operations and emergency operations. You'll need to demonstrate an understanding of pertinent federal and state laws. Additionally, you must be in good physical health and have no criminal convictions involving the operation of motor vehicles. If you want to drive a bus across state lines, you must be at least age 21, according to federal law.

What Job Tasks Will I Perform?

Your responsibilities as a bus driver will vary according to the type of route you drive. If you work for a local transit agency, your duties may include picking up paying fares at bus stations and bus stops, receiving correct fares or transfer tickets, safely navigating through traffic, maintaining order amongst passengers and operating the vehicle's mechanical wheelchair lift when needed. You may also have to check your vehicle's tire pressure, windshield wipers and fuel levels at the start of your shift, or a terminal mechanic may be assigned this task.

If you work as an intercity or tour bus driver, you'll serve as a guide, interacting with your passengers and pointing out local landmarks. If you drive a school bus, you'll pick up students at designated residential bus stops and take them to and from school. You'll also transport teachers and students on field trips.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Bus drivers share common tasks with taxi drivers, chauffeurs and delivery truck drivers. All of these workers need to fulfill state licensing requirements for their work, and they all need to follow traffic laws and perform basic vehicle maintenance. They also need to keep their vehicles clean. Taxi drivers and chauffeurs transport people, like bus drivers, but they do not follow prearranged routes. They transport a smaller number of passengers at a time. Delivery truck drivers do not transport people, but transport packages. Their work is similar because they have to pick up packages, transport them and deliver them to the assigned destination.

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