How to Transition into a School Bus Driving Career

Are you thinking of a new career? Why not become a school bus driver? It’s a rewarding and essential role in any community. A school bus driver or school transportation professional ensures the students’ safety and well-being during their daily journeys to and from school. They provide a secure and reliable mode of transportation and contribute to a positive, caring atmosphere for the children they transport.

This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the transition into a career as a school bus driver. It outlines the steps in pursuing this career path, including the necessary qualifications, training, and certifications. It also covers the challenges and rewards this career offers.

Understanding the role and responsibilities

A school bus driver is responsible for safely transporting students to and from school and school-related events. Their typical duties include:

  • Safe transportation – Ensuring the bus is in good working condition, following traffic laws, and driving safely.
  • Supervising students – Maintaining order and discipline on the bus, ensuring students remain seated, and following safety rules.
  • Route management – Planning and sticking to designated routes, adjusting for traffic or road conditions, and ensuring timely arrivals and departures.

The importance of skills includes:

  • Communication skills – The ability to communicate with students, parents, and school staff to relay important information or address concerns.
  • Punctuality – Maintaining a strict schedule to ensure students arrive at school and back home on time.
  • Attentiveness – Staying vigilant while driving to anticipate and avoid potential hazards and monitoring students’ behavior to ensure their safety.

Meeting the eligibility criteria

In Pennsylvania, school bus drivers must meet specific age requirements, educational qualifications, background checks, physical health requirements, and drug and alcohol testing procedures:

  • Age requirements
    • School bus drivers must be at least 18 years old.
  • Educational qualifications
    • They must hold a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a school bus (S) endorsement and a passenger (P) endorsement.
  • Background checks
    • Applicants must undergo a criminal background check and a child abuse history clearance.
    • Federal fingerprint-based background checks are also required.
  • Physical health requirements
    • School bus drivers must pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination that assesses their vision, hearing, and general physical health.
    • The DOT medical examiner must certify the driver as medically fit to drive a school bus.
  • Drug and alcohol testing procedures
    • Drivers must pass a pre-employment drug test.
    • They are subject to random, reasonable suspicion, and post-accident drug and alcohol testing.
    • A failed drug or alcohol test can result in immediate suspension or termination.

These requirements ensure the safety and reliability of school bus drivers in Pennsylvania.

Acquiring the necessary licenses and certifications

Step-by-step guide to obtaining a CDL with an S endorsement in Pennsylvania:

  1. Meet basic requirements:
  • Be at least 18 to drive intrastate (within Pennsylvania) or 21 for interstate operations.
  • Hold a regular driver’s license and have a clean driving record.
  1. Medical certification:
  • Obtain a medical examination certificate from a licensed medical examiner.
  1. Get a CDL learner’s permit:
  • Visit a PennDOT Driver License Center and apply for a CDL learner’s permit.
  • You must take and pass a written knowledge test for the class of vehicle you want to drive (e.g., Class B for school buses).
  • Take and pass the written School Bus (S) endorsement test.
  1. Take a training course:
  • Enroll in a CDL training program or school that includes training specific to school bus driving.
  1. Practice driving:
  • Use your CDL learner’s permit to practice driving with a qualified CDL holder.
  1. Skills test:
  • Schedule and take a CDL skills test, which includes a pre-trip inspection, basic skills test, and road test. You must take this test in the class of vehicle you want to drive (e.g., a school bus).
  1. Get the CDL:
  • Once you pass the skills test, you’ll be issued a CDL with the S endorsement.
  1. Ongoing requirements:
  • Maintain a clean driving record.
  • Complete any continuing education or training as required by your employer or Pennsylvania regulations.

CDL basics and requirements in Pennsylvania:

  1. License classes
  • Class A: Required for operating a combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
  • Class B: Required for operating a single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more.
  • Class C: Required for operating a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or transport hazardous materials.
  1. Endorsements
  • S Endorsement: For driving school buses.
  • P Endorsement: For driving passenger vehicles (buses).
  • Other endorsements may include hazmat, tankers, etc.
  1. Written knowledge tests
  • Must pass a general knowledge test and any additional tests for endorsements.
  1. Skills test
  • It includes a pre-trip inspection, basic driving skills, and a road test.
  1. Medical certification
  • Must pass a medical examination and get a medical certificate from a licensed medical examiner.
  1. Age requirements
  • At least 18 years old for intrastate (within the state) operation and 21 years old for interstate operation.
  1. Driving record
  • Maintain a clean driving record free from serious traffic violations.
  1. Background checks
  • You may require a background check for specific endorsements like hazardous materials.

Reminder: Always check with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for the current requirements and regulations.

Getting experience and building skills

Gaining experience

Volunteering or taking part-time jobs, such as driving smaller buses or vans, can provide valuable hands-on experience. They allow you to practice driving skills, manage passengers, and familiarize yourself with different vehicles and routes.


School bus drivers should learn to handle student behavior and emergencies. Participating in training programs covering topics such as conflict resolution, communication, and first aid is also available. Learn how to manage disruptions and ensure the safety of all passengers.

Familiarizing yourself with routes and traffic laws

School bus drivers should understand the specific routes they’ll be driving and adhere to traffic laws. Take time to learn the routes and stay updated on local traffic regulations. Practice driving the routes during different times of day to anticipate traffic variations and road conditions.

Applying for positions

Tips for finding and applying to school bus driving positions

  • Reach out to bus transportation companies – Private transportation companies may provide school transportation services. Check out their websites to see if they are hiring.
  • Check the website – You can learn about local employers by visiting com/companies. Employers have multiple bus driver position openings available including driving a yellow bus, van driver and school bus attendant position.
  • Network with school personnel – Talk to school administrators, teachers, and other staff who may know about upcoming openings.
  • Visit transportation departments – Local school transportation companies can provide information about available positions and hiring processes.
  • Apply online – Many schools use online applications. Be thorough and complete all sections of the application.
  • Attend job fairs – School transportations companies often participate in local job fairs where you can meet representatives and learn about openings.

How to craft a resume

  • Contact information – Include your name, phone number, email, and address.
  • Professional summary – Briefly highlight your experience as a driver and any relevant certifications.
  • Skills – Create a list of skills like safe driving, knowledge of traffic laws, excellent communication, punctuality, and familiarity with the local area.
  • Experience – Include your previous bus driving experience, noting specific responsibilities such as route management, passenger safety, and vehicle maintenance.
  • Certifications and licenses – List your commercial driver’s license (CDL), endorsements (like a passenger or school bus), and safety training certifications.
  • Education – Mention your high school diploma or equivalent. Any additional training in driving or safety is a plus.
  • References – Have references ready, but you can also note “References available upon request” if you don’t include them directly on the resume.

Navigating the interview process

As you are applying for the job, here are some questions you might encounter, along with tips on how to prepare responses:

  1. How do you ensure the students’ safety on your bus?
  • Emphasize your knowledge of safety protocols and procedures.
  • Talk about how you enforce rules on the bus and manage student behavior.
  • Discuss your regular maintenance checks and familiarity with emergency protocols.
  1. How do you handle misbehaving or disruptive students?
  • Highlight your ability to stay calm and composed in challenging situations.
  • Explain your strategies for de-escalation and conflict resolution.
  • Provide examples of how you’ve managed similar situations in the past.
  1. How do you handle unexpected situations, such as bad weather or mechanical issues?
  • Describe your approach to staying calm and focused during unexpected scenarios.
  • Talk about how you adapt and follow protocol to ensure student safety.
  • Provide examples of how you’ve handled such situations in previous roles.
  1. Why do you want to work as a school bus driver?
  • Discuss your passion for working with children and serving the community.
  • Mention your commitment to safety and the importance of the role in students’ lives.
  • Highlight your interest in providing a positive and safe transportation experience.

To prepare responses:

  • Reflect on your past experiences and how they align with the role.
  • Provide specific examples to demonstrate your qualities, such as times you’ve handled difficult situations or kept students safe.
  • Practice your responses to maintain clarity and confidence in your answers.
  • Focus on your dedication to safety, patience with students, and reliability. These factors will be the key strengths of your position.

Ongoing professional development

Continuing education and training: School transportation professionals should join regular training and safety workshops to maintain high safety standards. These programs help drivers stay current with the latest safety protocols, driving techniques, and emergency procedures. Ongoing education ensures they are prepared to handle diverse situations on the road and keep students safe.

Staying updated on traffic laws and best practices: School transportation professionals must stay informed about changes in traffic laws and safety regulations to ensure compliance and avoid accidents. Adhering to best practices in driving, such as defensive driving techniques, enhances safety and efficiency. Staying current with these updates promotes a culture of safety and responsibility on the road.

Benefits and challenges of school bus driving

Benefits and rewards

  • Positive impact on students – School bus drivers provide safe transportation to students. They are friendly and familiar faces as they drive students to and from school.
  • Flexible hours – Many school bus driving positions offer part-time schedules, allowing flexibility in planning around other commitments.


  • Difficult routes – Navigating traffic and managing routes can be challenging, especially in congested areas or rural settings.
  • Inclement weather – Driving in snow, ice, or heavy rain requires extra caution and skill to keep students safe.
  • Behavioral issues – Managing student behavior on the bus, including disruptions and conflicts, can be demanding. It requires patience and effective communication skills.


Becoming a school bus driver requires the necessary education and training. They include obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) with the required endorsements and passing background checks.

This rewarding career allows you to positively impact students’ lives and become a valued community member. Contact transportation companies or your local school district for more information about requirements and opportunities in your area. You can also ask about available training programs and resources to help you get started.

New school transportation professionals generally start their careers at the beginning of the year. Read this article to learn more about what to expect.

Pursue your interest in this rewarding career by taking the first step today! To find opportunities in your area, check out The SchoolBusHero website is set up to recruit new drivers and shows open positions within Pennsylvania.