Become a Traffic School Instructor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a traffic school instructor. Learn about the job description and duties, and see the step-by-step process to start a career in traffic school instruction.

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Should I Become a Traffic School Instructor?

Traffic school instructors provide instruction for drivers of all ages, and they primarily work at high schools, motor vehicle departments and driving schools. These professionals explore a variety of driving-related topics with students, including traffic laws, safety concerns and defensive driving tactics. Time will also be spent driving with students and offering hands-on training.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or its GED equivalent; no degree required
Licensure Valid state driver's license and state driving instructor license required
Experience 2-5 years of driving experience may be necessary for licensure as an instructor; some employers prefer applicants with teaching experience
Key Skills Communication, patience, teaching ability, listening skills, compassion; knowledge of motor vehicle operation and safety
Salary (2014, 2015) $28,850 per year (Median salary for bus drivers, school or special client); $39,967 per year (Median salary for driving instructors)

Sources: Online job postings from October 2012, State of CA DMV-approved Driving School Instructor Training Program, State driving instructor regulations, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), Payscale.com (July 2015)

Step 1: Obtain a Valid Driver's License

Before pursuing a career as a traffic school instructor, individuals must have a valid driver's license in the state in which they plan to work. Additionally, the driving record of the license holder must be clean and not include any major accidents or suspensions. In most states, driver's license applicants need to complete an approved driver education course and have a certain amount of behind-the-wheel experience; they also must be at least 16 years of age. In addition, individuals must pass written and practical exams, and a vision test may be required.

Aspiring traffic school instructors who wish to work with a certain type of vehicle, such as commercial trucks or motorcycles, must ensure that they have the applicable license classifications. For example, an instructor teaching commercial truck driving students would need a commercial driver's license (CDL) before he or she could begin teaching.

Success Tips:

  • Choose an instruction specialty. Since requirements vary by specialty, a prospective driving instructor should research his or her options. Different types of instruction require varying licenses and experience, so figuring out the necessary steps can allow you to start preparing early on.
  • Find out state licensing requirements from the DMV. Requirements differ depending upon the class of license obtained and the state in which the applicant resides. The local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office can provide a state's specific requirements, study materials and fee information.

Step 2: Gain Driving Experience

Although each state has different regulations, many states require traffic school instructors to have a driver's license for several years prior to applying for a driving instructor's license. While personal driving may be sufficient experience for some instructors, those who provide commercial truck driving instruction may be required to spend some time working as a commercial driver. In either case, learning the safety requirements of the chosen type of vehicle is just as important as learning to drive it.

Success Tip:

  • Sharpen communication and interpersonal skills. The goal of a traffic school instructor is to keep an open channel of communication so the learner feels comfortable and knowledgeable about what to expect during a written or road test. Prospective traffic school instructors might consider taking a community college course in communication to polish their interpersonal and presentation skills.

Step 3: Complete an Instructor Training Program

In many states, prospective instructors must complete an instructor training program before applying for licensure. These programs often cover teaching techniques, motor vehicle operation and traffic safety. Aspiring instructors may be required to complete student-teaching experiences as well.

Step 4: Earn an Instructor's License

To earn an instructor's license, the majority of states require an applicant to take written and practical exams. The exams test applicants' knowledge of traffic laws and also verify their ability to provide student-drivers with clear driving instructions. Potential instructors may need to pass a criminal background check and a vision test. In many states, applicants must be at least 21 years of age, but a few states only require them to be 18.

Step 5: Maintain Licensure

Instructor licenses are only good for a specific period of time and must be periodically renewed. The renewal time period, fees and requirements vary by state. A new criminal background check and a driving record check are often performed at renewal time to ensure that no accidents or crimes have taken place since the license was issued.

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