Should I Be a Driving Instructor?
Driving instructors train people how to safely operate motorized vehicles. They may work with people who are earning a license to drive a personal vehicle or with students entering careers as commercial truck drivers. Instructors explore a variety of driving-related topics with students, including traffic laws, defensive driving tactics and safety concerns. They also drive with students to provide hands-on training.
|Education Level||No degree required; high school diploma or its GED equivalent is needed|
|Licensure||Valid state driver's license and state driving instructor license|
|Experience||2-5 years of driving experience may be necessary for instructor licensure; employers may prefer applicants with teaching experience|
|Key Skills||Communication, patience, teaching ability, listening skills, and compassion; strong knowledge of motor vehicle operation and safety|
|Median Annual Salary (2016)*||$40,978 per year (for driving instructors)|
Sources: Online job postings from September 2012, State of CA DMV-approved Driving School Instructor Training Program, State driving instructor regulations, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, *PayScale.com (January 2016)
Step 1: Obtain the Right License
The type of driving that an instructor teaches determines the driver's license required. There are different classes of licenses, and each license class allows people to drive different types of vehicles. For example, an instructor teaching commercial truck driving students would need a commercial driver's license.
In most states, driver's license applicants need to complete an approved driver education course and a certain amount of behind-the-wheel experience; they also must be at least 16 years of age. In addition, individuals must pass both written and practical exams. A vision test may be required as well.
- Choose an instruction specialty. Since requirements vary by specialty, a prospective driving instructor should research vocational options. Different types of instruction require varying licenses and experience.
- Individuals will want to find out state licensing requirements from the DMV. The DMV is the Department of Motor Vehicles. Requirements differ depending upon the class of license obtained and the state in which the applicant resides. The local DMV office can provide state-specific requirements, study materials, and fee information.
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Step 2: Gain Driving Experience
Although each state has different regulations, many states require driving 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 vehicle driving instruction may be required to spend some time working as commercial drivers.
- While working towards becoming an instructor, maintain clean criminal and driving records. The majority of states require that instructors have clean driving records. Many states also run criminal background checks on applicants prior to awarding instructor licenses and may require applicants to obtain medical clearance prior to employment.
Step 3: Training and Licensure
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.
In addition to a training program, in order to earn an instructor's license, the majority of states require applicants 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. Further requirements include a clean driving record, a criminal background check, and a vision test. In many states, applicants must be at least 21 years of age to receive a driving instructor's license.
Step 4: Maintain Licensure
Instructor licenses are only good for a specific period of time and must be periodically renewed. The renewal time periods, 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.
A career as a driving instructor will require a high school diploma or its equivalency, maintaining a state driver's license, and earning a state driving instructor license for the type of instruction an individual is interesting in providing. Both personal and commercial driving instructors will likely need driving experience, clean criminal and driving records, and the ability to instruct students on safe and appropriate driving skills.