With growing populations and expanding communities, efficient public transportation for students is more necessary than ever. School bus drivers play a very important role in society as the conductors of this important transportation service. These workers drive large busses to and from school, picking up and dropping off students at their intended destination points. They perform inspections on their vehicle examining parts and fluid levels to ensure they are functioning properly before use. It is their responsibility to do everything within their control to facilitate safe travel for their passengers.
School bus drivers typically have summers off, so they often seek other work opportunities within the field during those months. For instance, there are transit and intercity bus drivers who work travel routes transporting passengers between various metropolitan areas. Charter bus drivers work shuttling passenger on prescheduled local and interstate trips. Businesses, colleges and universities employ private bus drivers to service their facilities’ needs. Day-haul bus drivers work transporting agricultural workers between work areas. Garage bus drivers work in airport terminals shuttling guests and luggage.
- Job opportunities for school bus drivers are projected to be good as student enrollment grows.
- Federal regulations require a commercial driver’s licenses in order to operate school busses.
- This field requires great customer service skills, good vision and strong hand-eye coordination.
Work Environment for School Bus Drivers
The work environment for school bus drivers is on the road, inside a large vehicle for hours at a time. They perform work individually without supervision, but are evaluated by supervisors from time to time. Workers must have good vision and hand-eye coordination as operating a school bus requires providing a safe travel experience. They must also be comfortable with driving in all different kinds of weather.
School bus drivers work around 20 hours a week in morning and afternoon shifts from August to June, Monday to Friday depending on the school year calendar. They may occasionally work evenings and weekends shuttling students, teachers and faculty to field trips, athletic events and other school-related activities. There are also certain states that offer union membership to school bus drivers.
Education, Training and Licensing
There are no formal education requirements prior to entering the field. However, there are federal and state government qualifications and standards required to becoming a school bus driver. The most important certification is the commercial driver’s license which authorizes an individual to legally operate a bus. Employers prefer applicants with a high school degree or equivalent with a clean driving record. Most companies give driver trainees two to eight weeks of classroom instruction in work rules, company policies, safety regulations, first aid and other necessary skills required to work in the field.
The best way to land a position in this industry is to apply directly to an employer. Most bus drivers are employed by the school, but there are some that work under contract with local bus companies. The commercial driver’s license requires applicants to pass a set of written skills tests, driving exams and proof of a passenger and school bus endorsement from a licensed agency or institution. Candidates must be 18 years of age (21 in some states) and have to pass a physical, hearing and vision test. Those with experience and a good performance record may advance to manager or supervisor positions.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 459,480 people working as school bus drivers as of May 2009. The BLS projects a 6% increase in employment in this field through the year 2018. This indicates a steady growth of job prospects for incoming professionals. This growth is attributed to the increase levels in student enrollment.
BLS records indicate that the mean annual income for school bus drivers was $28,050 in May 2009, with the middle 50% of professionals in this field earning around $27,400. While the bottom 10% made $16,000 or fewer, the top 10% of the bracket had annual income of $41,010 or higher.