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How to Become a Bus Driver

By Lace Brunsden

Published:

If you have a passion for driving and want to pursue a rewarding career, becoming a bus driver might be the perfect choice for you. In this article, we will guide you through the essential steps and qualifications needed to embark on this journey.

Career Summary

Bus Driver Salary

Bus Driver Salary

As a bus driver, your salary can vary a lot. Your salary will largely depend on your employer, experience, and your location.

  • Entry Salary (US$36k)
  • Median Salary (US$42k)
  • Executive Salary (US$50k)

In 2020, the average annual wage for those working in the U.S. was close to US$69,000 meaning that a Bus Driver’s wage is generally lower than the national average.

What does a Bus Driver do?

As a bus driver, you will operate a bus to transport passengers safely and efficiently. Your responsibilities would include following designated routes, picking up and dropping off passengers at stops, ensuring passenger safety and comfort, collecting fares or tickets, adhering to traffic and safety regulations, and maintaining communication with transportation authorities or dispatchers.

Additionally, when becoming a bus driver you may be responsible for performing routine vehicle inspections and addressing any issues or concerns that arise during your shift.

Bus Driver Career Progression

  • Entry-level Bus Driver: As a newly hired bus driver, you typically start at the entry-level position. You will undergo training programs, obtain the necessary licenses, and gain experience in operating buses and handling passenger interactions.
  • Specialized Roles: With experience, you may have opportunities to take on specialized roles within the transportation industry. For example, you might become a trainer or instructor, responsible for training new bus drivers or providing ongoing professional development for existing drivers.
  • Supervisor or Managerial Positions: As you gain extensive experience and demonstrate leadership abilities, you may advance to supervisory or managerial roles. In these positions, you would oversee a team of bus drivers, manage operations, schedule routes, and ensure compliance with safety regulations and company policies.
  • Transit Operations Management: If you are interested in a career beyond driving, there may be opportunities to transition into roles such as transit operations managers or transportation planners. In some of these positions, you would oversee the overall operations of a transit agency or plan routes and schedules for efficient transportation services.
Bus Driver Career Progression

Pros:

  • Independence
  • Interaction with People
  • Job Stability
  • Varied Work Environment
  • Contribution to the Community

Cons:

  • Traffic and Road Conditions
  • Shift Work and Irregular Hours
  • Dealing with Difficult Passengers
  • Responsibility for Passenger Safety
  • Monotonous Nature of the Job

Useful Skills to Have as a Bus Driver

  • Excellent Driving Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Customer Service Abilities
  • Problem-Solving Aptitude
  • Safety Consciousness

Popular Bus Driver Specialties

  • School Bus Driver
  • Transit or City Bus Driver
  • Tour Bus Driver
  • Intercity or Coach Bus Driver
  • Shuttle Bus Driver

How to become a Bus Driver

Bus Driver 5 Steps to Career

The specific steps to become a bus driver can vary depending on the location and the requirements set by the local transportation authority or employer. However, here are some common steps involved in the process of becoming a bus driver:

Obtain a Regular Driver’s License

To become a bus driver, you typically need to have a valid regular driver’s license. Getting a Regular Driver’s License is a prerequisite to getting a Commercial Driver’s Licence (CDL). If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to go through the process of obtaining a regular driver’s license by passing the written and practical driving tests.

Meet Health Requirements

If you want to become a bus driver you may be required to undergo a medical examination to ensure you meet the physical requirements for operating a bus. This examination may include vision, hearing, and general health assessments.

Get a Commercial Driver’s License

A commercial driver’s license is an essential part of becoming a bus driver. It is legally required. By the time you have completed the process and are rewarded a CDL you will be fully equipped and can be hired by a company. 

Here are the steps required to get a CDL:

  • Enroll in a CDL Training Program: You need to complete a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) training program that specifically focuses on bus driving. Look for reputable vocational schools, community colleges, or specialized training centers that offer CDL training programs for bus drivers. The training program should cover both the written and practical aspects of bus driving, including classroom instruction and hands-on driving practice.
  • Obtain a CDL Permit: You can apply for a CDL permit by passing the written knowledge test specific to commercial driving. The CDL permit allows you to practice driving a bus under certain restrictions, such as being accompanied by a licensed instructor.
  • CDL Skills Training: Once you have your CDL permit, you’ll need to undergo skills training. This training typically includes learning how to perform pre-trip inspections, practicing basic vehicle control skills, and gaining experience in on-road driving.
  • Pass the CDL Skills Test: You will schedule and take the CDL skills test, which includes a pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control, and an on-road driving test.
  • Obtain a CDL with Bus Endorsement: Once you pass the CDL skills test, you’ll receive a CDL with a bus endorsement, indicating your qualification to operate a bus. This endorsement may have additional requirements, such as a passenger endorsement or air brake endorsement, depending on the type of bus you intend to drive.

How Long Does it Take to Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)?

The time it takes to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) to become a bus driver can vary depending on several factors, including your location, the type of bus you intend to drive, the training program you choose, and your individual circumstances. Here are some general considerations:

Some programs can be completed in a matter of weeks, while others may take several months. The duration depends on the depth of training provided, such as classroom instruction, behind-the-wheel training, and practice time.

Once you complete the training program, you will need to pass the CDL written exam and the skills test, which includes a pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control, and an on-road driving test. The time it takes to schedule and pass these tests can vary depending on factors like availability, waiting lists, and individual performance.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Commercial Driver’s License?

The cost of completing a training program to become a bus driver and obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) can vary depending on several factors:

  • Training Program Fees: The cost of the training program itself can vary significantly. It depends on the duration, curriculum, and the resources provided by the training provider. Vocational schools, community colleges, and specialized training centers may offer training programs at different price points. The cost can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
  • CDL Application and Examination Fees: When applying for a CDL, there are fees associated with the application process and the required written and skills exams. These fees vary by jurisdiction.
  • Medical Examination Costs: As part of the CDL application process, you may be required to undergo a medical examination to ensure you meet the physical requirements for operating a bus. The cost of the medical examination varies depending on the healthcare provider and the extent of the evaluation.
  • Additional Costs: There may be additional expenses to consider, such as background checks, fingerprinting, drug testing, and obtaining necessary documents like a learner’s permit or endorsements.

Do I Need a Degree To Become a Bus Driver?

Although it can vary from employer to employer, you do not need a bachelor’s degree to become a bus driver.

The highest qualification that is often required is a high school diploma or equivalent. Additionally, the company that you are with may want you to go through a specific training program.

Get Practical Experience

What Are Internship Opportunities for a Bus Driver?

Internship opportunities for bus drivers may be less common compared to other industries or professions.

However, if you are interested in an internship, there are some opportunities you can explore:

  • Transit Authorities or Public Transportation Agencies: Some transit authorities or public transportation agencies may offer internship programs for individuals interested in pursuing a career as a bus driver. These programs can provide hands-on experience, exposure to the operations and responsibilities of a bus driver, and an opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals.
  • Private Bus Companies: Private bus companies that provide charter services, tour buses, or transportation for specific events or organizations may occasionally offer internships. These internships can offer valuable experience in the private bus sector, allowing interns to learn about the industry and gain practical skills.
  • School Bus Services: School districts or contractors that provide school bus services might have internship opportunities for individuals interested in becoming school bus drivers. These internships could involve assisting with daily routes, learning safety protocols, and gaining familiarity with the responsibilities of transporting students.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Bus Driver?

As a bus driver, you will acquire a range of skills to perform your job effectively and ensure the safety and comfort of passengers.

Here are some key skills you can expect to learn as a bus driver:

  • Vehicle Operation: You will learn how to operate different types of buses, including understanding the controls, steering techniques, braking, accelerating, and maneuvering the vehicle safely in various traffic conditions.
  • Defensive Driving: Defensive driving skills are crucial for bus drivers to anticipate and respond to potential hazards on the road. You will learn techniques such as maintaining safe following distances, scanning for potential risks, and making proactive decisions to prevent accidents.
  • Route Familiarization: You will become proficient in learning and navigating specific bus routes, including understanding maps, timetables, and landmarks. Familiarity with the route allows you to provide efficient and accurate transportation services.
  • Passenger Safety and Assistance: Ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers is a top priority for bus drivers. You will learn how to assist passengers with boarding and alighting, operate accessibility features, and handle emergency situations, including evacuations and first aid.
  • Traffic Regulations and Laws: As a bus driver, you must have a comprehensive understanding of traffic regulations, laws, and bus-specific regulations in your jurisdiction. This includes knowledge of speed limits, traffic signs, right-of-way rules, and adherence to specific bus lane restrictions.
  • Vehicle Maintenance and Inspections: You will learn basic vehicle maintenance tasks and how to conduct pre-trip inspections to ensure the bus is in safe working condition. This includes checking tires, brakes, lights, fluid levels, and reporting any issues or defects to the appropriate authorities.
  • Time Management and Schedule Adherence: As a bus driver you will have to adhere to schedules and manage their time effectively to maintain a consistent and reliable service. You will learn to plan routes, account for traffic conditions, and maintain punctuality.

What is the Work-Life balance of a Bus Driver?

Your work-life balance as a bus driver can vary depending on several factors, including your specific employer, the type of bus driving job, and your local regulations governing working hours.

Here are some factors to consider when it comes to work-life balance for bus drivers:

  • Shift Work: As a bus driver, you will often work in shifts that can include early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. This type of schedule may impact your personal and social activities.
  • Fixed Schedules: In some cases, you might have a fixed schedule. This will allow you to form habits and plan the rest of your life. Having predictable work hours allows for a better work-life balance and makes it easier to plan personal commitments.
  • Time Off and Vacation: If you become a bus driver you will generally have access to vacation time and other types of leave, such as sick leave or personal days, to help maintain a work-life balance. The availability and allocation of time off may vary based on your seniority, employment contract, and company policies.

What’s the Career Outlook for Bus Driver?

The career outlook for bus drivers in the United States can vary a lot. The career outlook and job availability can depend on factors such as the size and population of the city that you are in. Overall, there seems to be an uptrend for the profession though.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of passenger vehicle drivers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2021 to 2031, This growth is driven by factors such as population growth, increased demand for public transportation, and the need to replace retiring bus drivers.

Bus Driver Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Bus Driver?

As a bus driver, there are a few different sectors that you can consider when looking for a job opportunity:

  • Public Transportation: Many bus drivers work in the public transportation sector, driving buses for city or suburban transit systems. In these sectors you will transport passengers on fixed routes, following schedules, and ensuring safe and efficient transportation within urban or suburban areas.
  • Intercity Bus Services: Intercity bus services provide transportation between cities or regions. As a bus driver in this sector, you will operate long-distance routes, making scheduled stops at different locations.
  • School Bus Transportation: School bus drivers transport students to and from schools and other educational institutions. In this role, you will follow specific routes, pick up and drop off students, and ensure their safety during the journey. As a school bus driver, you will typically work during school hours and often have additional responsibilities related to student supervision and safety.
  • Charter Bus Services: You may find opportunities in the charter bus industry, providing transportation for groups such as tour groups, organizations, or events. In this position, you may travel to various destinations based on client requirements and may work for private bus companies or organizations with their own transportation needs.
  • Paratransit Services: Paratransit services cater to the transportation needs of individuals with disabilities or special needs. As a paratransit services bus driver, you will provide door-to-door or curb-to-curb transportation, assisting passengers with boarding, securing mobility devices, and ensuring their comfort and safety.
  • Shuttle Services: Shuttle services operate within specific areas. In this sector you will transport passengers between designated locations, following specific schedules and serving the transportation needs of the respective establishments or organizations.
  • Tour Bus Operations: You can also find employment in the tourism industry, driving tour buses to transport visitors to popular tourist attractions or scenic locations. These drivers may provide narration or commentary during the tour, offering information and enhancing the tourist experience.

Additionally, You can find opportunities for bus drivers in specialized sectors such as prison transportation, amusement parks, or senior citizen transportation services.

What Type of Companies Hire a Bus Driver?

Several types of companies and organizations hire bus drivers for various transportation needs.

Here are some examples:

  • Hotels and Resorts: Many hotels and resorts provide shuttle services to transport their guests to and from airports, nearby attractions, or other designated locations.
  • Tourist Attractions: Various tourist attractions, such as museums, historical sites, and national parks, often operate shuttle or tour bus services to transport visitors within their premises or between different locations.
  • Corporations and Businesses: You may find work for large corporations or businesses that may have their transportation services for employees, particularly if they are located in areas with limited public transportation options.
  • Event Management Companies: Event management companies organizing large-scale events, conferences, or conventions often require transportation services for attendees.
  • Sports Teams and Athletic Organizations: Professional sports teams, collegiate athletic programs, and other sports organizations often hire bus drivers to transport athletes to and from games, practices, and tournaments.
  • Correctional Facilities: Correctional facilities, such as prisons or detention centers, may have their transportation units to transfer inmates between facilities or to and from court appearances.
  • Camps and Retreat Centers: Summer camps, retreat centers, and outdoor education facilities frequently hire bus drivers to transport campers, participants, or staff to and from the campsite or off-site activities.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Various nonprofit organizations that serve specific communities or offer social services may require bus drivers to transport individuals for medical appointments, community events, or other support programs.

Should I become a Bus Driver?

Becoming a bus driver is a fulfilling career choice that requires obtaining a CDL and meeting specific requirements set by employers or transportation authorities.

It is likely a job path that will suit you if you are a sociable person, who loves interacting with others and don’t mind the stress of making sure your passengers travel safely even in periods of high traffic.

The work can become rather monotonous, and the pay is not incredibly competitive. There are also relatively few opportunities for advancement.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether your skills, interests, and income requirements align with being a bus driver and receiving a bus driver salary.

Careers Related to Bus Driver

Frequently Asked Questions

What qualities do you need to be a Bus Driver?

To be a bus driver, you need qualities such as excellent driving skills, strong communication abilities, and the ability to remain calm under pressure while ensuring passenger safety and satisfaction.


What is the work of a Bus Driver?

The work of a bus driver involves operating a bus, following designated routes and schedules, ensuring passenger safety, providing excellent customer service, and maintaining clear communication with passengers and transportation authorities.


How to become a School Bus Driver?

To become a school bus driver, you need to meet specific requirements set by your local school district or transportation authority, which typically include obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) with appropriate endorsements, passing background checks and drug tests, completing specialized training programs, and meeting age and health requirements.


Lace Brunsden

About the Author

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