How to Become a Bus Driver for Schools or Transit Authorities
Bus drivers ensure our society functions. They get children to school safely and adults to work, or home after days and nights out. What’s more, they help build a more environmentally friendly world, with reduced emissions and less air pollution inside cities.
Plus, being a bus driver pays well and comes with several other benefits. For example, school bus drivers tend to have a regular schedule with family-friendly hours.
If you’re considering becoming a bus driver, keep reading. We’ll explore the qualifications and licenses you’ll need, how to apply for bus driver roles and what you can expect to earn.
As a bus driver, your duties will include:
- Driving safely and legally
- Following a route and arriving on time
- Ensuring the safety of school children and all other passengers
- Collecting fares and returning change
- Inspecting your vehicle at the start of your shift to ensure it’s in safe, good condition
- Ensuring luggage, bicycles and strollers are correctly stored
- Ensuring people with disabilities, the elderly and pregnant people can safely board the bus and access a seat
Working as a bus driver can be a rewarding career, although it’s not for everybody. It could become isolating, as you don’t have regular contact with coworkers. On the other hand, you constantly get to meet new people, and you get the satisfaction of helping them.
Driving school buses can be particularly rewarding, as you help ensure children’s safety. On the other hand, children can misbehave.
You should also bear in mind the working hours and wages. If you drive a school bus, you’ll typically work split-shifts, with early starts, free time in the mornings (perfect for appointments!), afternoon shifts, and evenings free. You’ll have a guaranteed number of minimum hours and holidays, but if you’re not a morning person or live far away from the depot, you might struggle.
Alternatively, if you drive a regular bus for transit authorities, you could find yourself working irregular shifts or night-time shifts. If you would prefer regular working hours, you would have to negotiate that with your boss. However, salaries tend to be attractive and come with good benefits.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2021, bus drivers earn an average of $37,540 per year or $18.05 per hour. For school and company bus drivers, this rises to $38,890 per year.
What’s more, the BLS projects a 25% growth in the number of jobs available in the next decade, compared to just 8% for all occupations in general. This is a great sign for bus drivers’ salaries: not only is finding a job as a bus driver likely to be fairly easy, but you can probably negotiate higher wages as companies scramble to fill new positions.
If you want to become a bus driver, we’ve got good news for you: the process is pretty simple. Here’s what you need to do:
You don’t need any formal education to become a bus driver. However, you may be required to have first aid and CPR certification, in addition to your licenses. Air brake certification is another common prerequisite, although you can typically get this at the same time as getting your commercial bus license (more on that to come!).
Background checks are typically stricter for school bus drivers than other bus drivers. You should check your state’s exact requirements, but in general, you could be expected to pass:
- Fingerprint checks
- Background checks
- Pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing
Some of these checks will be done only once you’re hired, but others are required before you can even sit your driving test.
If you don’t yet have a standard driving license, the first thing you need to do is take your driving test.
Once you have your standard license, you can then apply for a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) and then a commercial driving license (CLD). You’ll normally need to hold your CLP for a minimum amount of time before applying for your CLD, and it allows you to practice driving commercial vehicles on public roads.
There are many different types of commercial driving licenses. At a minimum, you’ll need a passenger (P) endorsement. If you want to drive a school bus, you’ll also need the school bus endorsement (S). Make sure you know ahead of time which endorsements you need.
You’ll also need to be a careful driver. If you have more than three points on your license, you may be unable to work as a bus driver. So, watch your speed and be careful at traffic signals. Most states will check your previous driving records, too.
As a bus driver, you’re responsible for the health and safety of your passengers, which means you also need to be in good health.
The exact requirements for bus drivers depend on the state and bus you’re driving. Again, requirements for school bus drivers tend to be more stringent.
In general, however, you will be required to undergo regular physicals and eye exams. It’s a common myth that you need 20/20 vision to be a bus driver, but that’s not exactly true. You just need to pass the exam — and you can wear glasses or contact lenses while you do so.
Now you’ve got your CDL and you’ve passed all your health and background checks, you’re ready to start applying for bus driver jobs. Congratulations!
The first step to getting a job offer as a bus driver is crafting your resume. It’s what will get you invited to interviews, and a well-written resume can also help you negotiate a higher starting salary.
Your resume needs to emphasize your experience, skills and licenses, while also being attractively laid out and machine-readable. Plus, it should always be customized to the company you’re applying to.
We have millions of bus driver resume templates that will help you get started. Our resume builder can also suggest the ideal resume structure for you, based on your experience level, and recruiter-approved phrasing. You’ll be able to create your resume in minutes.
Once you’ve written your resume, it’s time to start applying for jobs. Don’t forget to craft a cover letter explaining why you’re applying for this role, and to practice answers to common interview questions.
Although applying for jobs can be intimidating, it’s worth it when you have a rewarding, stable career that pays a decent wage. So build your resume now and start applying for bus driver jobs.