Careers

Learn About Being a School Bus Driver

What does a school bus driver do?

A school bus driver transports students from home to school and school to home safely. They might also transport students to field trips, sporting events and off-campus activities. Other school bus driver responsibilities might include:

  • Learning bus routes and when to arrive at each bus stop
  • Helping students, particularly those with disabilities, on and off the bus
  • Following traffic laws
  • Making sure students are acting safely
  • Maintaining order on the bus
  • Reporting issues to school supervisors
  • Making sure the bus is in good condition by checking things like tire pressure, lights and gas levels
  • Cleaning the bus interior and making sure it looks presentable

Average salary

School bus drivers typically get paid by the hour. That rate can vary depending on the school, geographic location and the driver’s experience and safety record. Experienced drivers may be able to negotiate for higher pay.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $15.62 per hour
  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $28.95

School bus driver requirements

Safety is one of the most important qualifications of a school bus driver. Many employers place driving record, license and background over education level. Most states require school bus drivers to be over the age of 18. Those driving over state lines must be at least 21.

Education

Most schools require their bus drivers to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some well-qualified drivers, however, might get hired even if they did not complete high school. 

Training

School bus drivers typically complete several months of training. They might spend some of this training in the classroom learning rules, routes and safe practices. They will spend the other part of their training showing their ability to drive the bus and follow traffic laws.

New drivers might also spend time alongside an experienced driver until they can drive on their own.

Certifications

School bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). There are different types of CDLs, but school bus drivers must have one that says (S) on it, showing they have passed additional tests specific to school buses.

Every two years, drivers will also need to pass a physical exam to make sure they meet the health, hearing and vision requirements to transport children. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides a list of medical conditions, such as epilepsy, that might prevent someone from becoming a school bus driver. They might also need to pass random drug and alcohol tests. 

Schools will also check a bus driver’s records and run a background check before hiring them.

Skills

School bus drivers must have the skills to maneuver a 40-foot school bus through a variety of road situations. They must also have good people skills and the physical ability to help passengers on and off the bus. Other important school bus driver skills include:

  • Communication. When greeting and interacting with children and parents, a bus driver should be helpful and polite. They should also communicate well with children and be able to calm any of their concerns.

  • Good hand-eye coordination. Bus drivers need this skill to operate a bus safely using their arms, legs and vision simultaneously. 

  • Decision-making skills. Quick decision-making abilities are essential in challenging driving situations. When dealing with severe weather or traffic, school bus drivers need to make quick and smart decisions under pressure.

  • Good hearing and vision. Federal law requires bus drivers to hear a whisper from within 5 feet, with or without a hearing aid. They must also have at least 20/40 vision, be able to tell the difference between traffic light colors and have a 70-degree field of vision in both eyes.

  • Patience. A successful bus driver will have the patience to handle loud and rowdy students and congested traffic. They must be able to stay calm in stressful situations.

School bus driver work environment

School bus drivers must drive safely through all kinds of weather, traffic and student behavior. They should also be able to maintain their composure under pressure.

School bus drivers typically only work when school is in session. This includes weekdays during the regular school year, but they may also transport students during summer school. Their days start early with a daily safety check of the bus. Most will have a morning route and an afternoon route. In between, some school bus drivers might work other jobs at a school. Their hours might vary when students go on field trips or have sporting events. 

School bus routes may be delayed or postponed because of severe weather such as snow, ice or flooding.

How to become a school bus driver

School bus drivers must follow several mandatory steps to get licensed. These include:

  1. Completing high school. Most school bus drivers have at least a high school diploma and all are over the age of 18.

  2. Getting a commercial driver’s license. All school bus drivers must have a CDL with an (S) endorsement. You can pay the fee and apply for a CDL through your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. You will then need to pass health, vision, knowledge and driving exams, and a background check.

  3. Completing training. You might go through school bus driver training before getting your CDL, right after being hired or both. Training can last up to three months and might include reviewing traffic laws and safe practices, practicing bus driving maneuvers, learning and driving your designated route, taking supervised drives and learning the school’s rules and regulations.

  4. Getting hired. Once you have completed training and gotten your CDL with an (S) endorsement, you can apply for school bus driver jobs. Drivers with excellent records and years of experience might get promoted to a supervisor or dispatcher position or help train new drivers. 

  5. Maintain license: Drivers will need to pass physical exams every two years to maintain a license to drive a school bus.

School bus driver job description example

Our Fayette County middle school is looking for a school bus driver with an exceptional driving record to transport children ages 11 through 13 to and from school throughout the academic year. The school bus driver will be responsible for making sure students get on and off the bus safely and to school on time. Candidates should have a strong understanding of traffic laws and the ability to drive a school bus in all weather and traffic scenarios. We will provide paid on-the-job training so the school bus driver can learn multiple routes, bus stop locations and school rules. 

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