School Bus Driver Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a school bus driver's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a school bus driver career.
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Pros and Cons of a School Bus Driver Career

Being a school bus driver involves more than just driving kids back and forth from school to home. Check out the other pros and cons of being a school bus driver to help you decide if it's the right career for you.

Pros of Becoming a Bus Driver
Only requires a high school diploma*
Some employers offer on-the-job training**
Work with minimal supervision*
Opportunity to work with children*

Cons of Becoming a Bus Driver
Low salary (median annual salary of about $29,000)*
Must pass additional driving tests*
High-stress work environment (traffic, time pressure, disorderly passengers, etc.)*
Limited hours (mostly part-time positions)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job postings from CareerBuilder.com

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

School bus drivers are responsible for transporting students to and from home and school, as well as occasional extracurricular activities. As a school bus driver, you may have to perform vehicle inspections before and after pick-ups to ensure all equipment, such as lights and stop signals, are operating correctly. Not only do bus drivers have to safely operate the bus through traffic, but they also must maintain order by enforcing the school's student conduct rules. Other job duties for school bus drivers can include assisting disabled children on and off the bus, writing disciplinary reports and cleaning buses. You may have to perform your job duties in a stressful environment since drivers often face challenges, such as time deadlines, bad weather, unruly passengers, traffic congestion and mechanical difficulties.

Salary Info and Job Growth

Salaries for school bus drivers are quite low, with the 2014 median salary reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to be about $29,000. The BLS also reported that the projected job growth during the 2012-2022 decade was 9%, which is about as fast as the average growth for all other occupations. This is due to the increase in number of kids entering the school system. However, growth could slow down due to budget cuts in the school systems around the country.

Education and Licensing Requirements

School bus drivers need high school diplomas, and many employers require them to have previous driving experience. Bus drivers also must receive passenger and school bus endorsements on their Commercial Driver's License. The requirements for these endorsements can vary by state, but most require drivers to be at least 18 years old and pass written and driving skills tests. Other requirements for endorsements may include passing a drug and alcohol test, physical, vision test and FBI fingerprint check. Based on job postings from CareerBuilder.com, other qualifications include:

  • Ability to be patient and courteous with passengers
  • Knowledge of all traffic rules
  • Ability to practice defensive driving
  • Strong communication skills
  • Timeliness

What Employers Are Looking for

Job postings for school bus drivers typically request applicants with high school diplomas and some related work experience. They also list the knowledge candidates should have and what their job duties will include. Some specific job listings open during June 2012 have shown the following:

  • A school in Kentucky seeks candidates with high school diplomas or GEDs and one year of related work experience. Candidates must have knowledge of safe driving procedures, first aid and interpersonal skills. Other qualifications include the ability to help children load the bus, stay on schedule, memorize bus routes and promote good behavior.
  • A transportation company in Illinois is looking for a part-time school bus driver that can pass a drug test, background check and physical. Job duties include transporting students, performing bus inspections before and after trips, attending regular safety meetings and maintaining a clean bus. Although candidates that already have licenses with passenger and student endorsements are preferred, the employer offers free training to those with clean records.
  • A Missouri university advertised for a school bus driver with at least one year of experience driving a bus. Applicants also need air brake endorsements on their licenses, which demonstrate their ability to operate a bus with an air brake system. The driver will mostly be transporting student athletes on a part-time basis.
  • A Nashville, TN, school district wants candidates that have one year of related work experience and knowledge of federal and state laws concerning school buses. Candidates with basic knowledge of the mechanics necessary for vehicle maintenance are preferred. To be eligible for the position, applicants must pass a driving class sponsored by the school district.

How Can I Stand Out?

Since school bus drivers have few education and training requirements, you may have trouble finding employment if you don't have qualities that set you apart from the competition. Having a driving record clear of traffic citations and accidents is a plus, but you must also be willing to work irregular hours and part-time. By being flexible with your schedule, you're demonstrating to potential employers your enthusiasm for the job and ability to focus on the employer's needs

School bus drivers usually need experience in the transportation industry, but also having experience working with kids can give you an advantage. You should consider participating in a volunteer organization that works with kids or finding a job such as a camp counselor. Additionally, you can show potential employers that you have the skills necessary to deal with emergency situations by becoming CPR certified and completing a leadership or conflict resolution course offered by local schools or organizations.

Alternative Career Paths

Taxi Driver

If a school bus driver career does not sound like the right fit for you, there are other careers that have similar job duties. Taxi drivers do not need to meet any education requirements, but they do need driver's licenses and in some states, taxi licenses. Most employers also require taxi drivers to pass on-the-job training programs that can last up to two weeks. The BLS reported the median annual salary for taxi drivers and chauffeurs at about $23,000 as of May 2011. Although taxi drivers receive slightly lower salaries than school bus drivers, they have a higher expected job growth of 20% from 2010-2020.

Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers

If working with kids doesn't sound appealing to you, you could transport cargo across the country by becoming a tractor-trailer truck driver. Truck drivers need high school diplomas, related work experience and Commercial Driver's Licenses. Being a truck driver can be physically challenging since their job duties include loading and unloading cargo, cleaning truck equipment and driving for hours without stopping. You must also be willing to spend weeks at a time on the road. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for truck drivers was around $38,000 as of May 2011, and the expected job growth is 21% from 2010-2020.

Diesel Service Mechanic

As a diesel service mechanic, you'll perform inspections and repairs on diesel-powered buses and trucks. You can become a diesel mechanic with just a high school diploma, but you'll need to complete 3-4 years of on-the-job training before you can work unsupervised. Mechanics who complete post-secondary training programs and receive certification have greater chances of employment and job advancement. Although mechanics have similar education requirements as school bus drivers, they have much higher median annual salaries of approximately $42,000, according to the BLS as of May 2011. The BLS also reported that diesel mechanic jobs are expected to grow 15% from 2010-2020.

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Ashford University

  • B.A. - Supply Chain Management

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Southern New Hampshire University

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