Summary

Bus drivers
Most bus drivers are school bus drivers.
Quick Facts: Bus Drivers
2015 Median Pay $30,950 per year
$14.88 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2014 665,000
Job Outlook, 2014-24 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 37,500

What Bus Drivers Do

Bus drivers transport people between various places—including work, school, and shopping malls—and across state or national borders. Some drive regular routes, and others transport passengers on chartered trips or sightseeing tours.

Work Environment

Bus drivers, especially transit and intercity bus drivers, had a higher rate of work-related injuries and illnesses in 2014 than the national average. Most injuries to bus drivers were due to highway accidents.

How to Become a Bus Driver

Bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This can sometimes be earned during on-the-job training. A bus driver must possess a clean driving record and often may be required to pass a background check. They also must meet physical, hearing and vision requirements. In addition, bus drivers often need a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Pay

The median annual wage for bus drivers was $30,950 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of bus drivers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities for bus drivers should be favorable, especially for school bus drivers, as many drivers are expected to leave the occupation.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for bus drivers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of bus drivers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about bus drivers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Bus Drivers Do About this section

Bus drivers
Intercity bus drivers transport passengers between cities or towns.

Bus drivers transport people between various places—including, work, school, and shopping malls—and across state and national borders. Some drive regular routes, and others transport passengers on chartered trips or sightseeing tours. They drive a range of vehicles, from 15-passenger buses to 60-foot articulated buses (with two connected sections) that can carry more than 100 passengers.

Duties

Bus drivers typically do the following:

  • Pick up and drop off passengers at designated locations
  • Follow a planned route according to a time schedule
  • Help disabled passengers get on and off the bus
  • Obey traffic laws and state and federal transit regulations
  • Follow procedures to ensure passenger safety
  • Keep passengers informed of possible delays
  • Perform basic maintenance (check the bus tires, lights, and oil)
  • Keep the bus clean and presentable to the public

School bus drivers transport students to and from school and other activities. On school days, drivers pick up students in the morning and return them home in the afternoon. They also drive students to field trips, sporting events, and other activities. Between morning and afternoon trips, some drivers work at schools in other occupations, such as janitors, cafeteria workers, or mechanics. School bus drivers typically do the following:

  • Ensure the safety of children getting on and off the bus
  • Attend to the needs of children with disabilities
  • Keep order and safety on the school bus
  • Understand and enforce the school system’s conduct rules
  • Report disciplinary problems to the school district or parents

Local transit bus drivers follow a daily schedule while transporting people on regular routes along city or suburban streets. They stop frequently, often every few blocks and when a passenger requests a stop. Some large transit agencies may require bus drivers to submit traffic data for analysis. Local transit drivers typically do the following:

  • Collect bus fares, sometimes making change for passengers
  • Answer questions about schedules, routes, and transfer points
  • Report accidents or other traffic disruptions to a central dispatcher

Intercity bus drivers transport passengers between cities or towns, sometimes crossing state lines. They usually pick up and drop off passengers at bus stations or curbside locations in downtown urban areas. Intercity drivers typically do the following:

  • Ensure all passengers have a valid ticket to ride the bus
  • Sell tickets to passengers when there are unsold seats available, if necessary
  • Keep track of when passengers get on or off the bus
  • Follow a central dispatcher’s instruction when taking an alternate route
  • Help passengers load or unload baggage

Charter bus drivers, sometimes called motorcoach drivers, transport passengers on chartered trips or sightseeing tours. Trip planners generally arrange their schedules and routes based on the convenience of the passengers, who are often on vacation. Motor coach drivers are sometimes away for long periods of time because they usually stay with the passengers for the length of the trip. Motor coach drivers typically do the following:

  • Listen to and sometimes address passenger complaints
  • Ensure the trip stays on schedule
  • Help passengers load or unload baggage
  • Account for all passengers before leaving a location
  • Act as tour guides for passengers, if necessary

Work Environment About this section

bus drivers image
Some school bus drivers make multiple trips if schools in the district open at different times.

Bus drivers held about 665,000 jobs in 2014. Of those, about 75 percent were school bus drivers or special-client bus drivers.

School bus drivers or special-client bus drivers are usually employed by a school district or private transportation company that contracts with a district to provide bus service. Some school bus service is provided by a local government. 

The industries that employed the most school bus drivers in 2014 were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; local 41%
School and employee bus transportation 30
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 12
Other transit and ground passenger transportation 6

Most transit bus drivers worked for local governments or urban transit systems, which are private companies that contract with a city or town to provide bus service. Most charter-bus drivers worked in the charter-bus industry, and intercity bus drivers typically work in the interurban and rural bus transportation industry.

The industries that employed the most transit and intercity bus drivers in 2014 were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 48%
Urban transit systems 17
Charter bus industry 11
Interurban and rural bus transportation 6

Driving through heavy traffic or bad weather and dealing with unruly passengers can be stressful for bus drivers.

Injuries and Illnesses

Bus drivers, especially transit and intercity drivers, had a higher rate of work-related injuries and illnesses than the national average. Most injuries to bus drivers were due to highway accidents.

Work Schedules

School bus drivers work only when school is in session. Some make multiple runs if schools in their district each open and close at different times. Others make only two runs, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so their work hours are limited.

Transit drivers may work weekends, late nights, and early mornings.

Motor coach drivers travel with their passengers. The trip schedule dictates a driver’s hours. They may work all hours of the day, as well as weekends and holidays. Intercity bus drivers can spend some nights away because of long-distance routes. Other intercity bus drivers make a round trip and go home at the end of each shift.

How to Become a Bus Driver About this section

Bus drivers
All types of bus drivers have to obtain a CDL.

Bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). This can sometimes be earned during on-the-job training. A bus driver must possess a clean driving record and often may be required to pass a background check. They also must meet physical, hearing and vision requirements. In addition, bus drivers often need a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Education

Most employers prefer drivers to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training

Bus drivers typically go through 1 to 3 months of training. Part of the training is spent on a driving course, where drivers practice various maneuvers with a bus. They then begin to drive in light traffic and eventually make practice runs on the type of route that they expect to drive. New drivers make regularly scheduled trips with passengers and are accompanied by an experienced driver who gives helpful tips, answers questions, and evaluates the new driver's performance.

Some drivers’ training is also spent in the classroom. They learn their company’s rules and regulations, state and municipal traffic laws, and safe driving practices. Drivers also learn about schedules and bus routes, fares, and how to interact with passengers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All bus drivers must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Some new bus drivers can earn their CDL during on-the-job training. The qualifications for getting one vary by state but generally include passing both knowledge and driving tests. States have the right to not issue a license to someone who has had a CDL suspended by another state.

Drivers can get endorsements to a CDL that reflect their ability to drive a special type of vehicle. All bus drivers must have a passenger (P) endorsement, and school bus drivers must also have a school bus (S) endorsement. Getting the P and S endorsements requires additional knowledge and driving tests administered by a certified examiner.

Many states require all bus drivers to be 18 years of age or older and those who drive across state lines to be at least 21 years old.

Federal regulations require interstate bus drivers to pass a physical exam and submit to random testing for drug or alcohol abuse while on duty. Most states impose similar regulations. Bus drivers can have their CDL suspended if they are convicted of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle or of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Other actions also can result in a suspension after multiple violations. A list of violations is available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Most bus drivers are required to undergo background checks before they are hired. 

Advancement

Opportunities for promotion are generally limited, but experienced drivers may become supervisors or dispatchers. Some veteran bus drivers become instructors of new bus drivers.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Bus drivers regularly interact with passengers and must be courteous and helpful.

Hand-eye coordination. Driving a bus requires the controlled use of multiple limbs on the basis of what a person observes. Federal regulations require drivers to have normal use of their arms and legs.

Hearing ability. Bus drivers need good hearing. Federal regulations require the ability to hear a forced whisper in one ear at five feet (with or without the use of a hearing aid).

Patience. Because of possible traffic congestion and sometimes unruly passengers, bus drivers are put in stressful situations and must remain calm and continue to operate their bus.

Physical health. Federal and state regulations do not allow people to become bus drivers if they have a medical condition that may interfere with their operation of a bus, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy. A full list of medical reasons that keep someone from becoming a licensed bus driver is available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Visual ability. Bus drivers must be able to pass vision tests. Federal regulations require at least 20/40 vision with a 70-degree field of vision in each eye and the ability to distinguish colors on a traffic light.

Pay About this section

Bus Drivers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Bus drivers, transit and intercity

$38,290

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Motor vehicle operators

$34,170

Bus drivers

$30,950

Bus drivers, school or special client

$29,490

 

The median annual wage for bus drivers, transit and intercity was $38,290 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,310, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $62,240.

The median annual wage for bus drivers, school or special client was $29,490 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $45,670.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for school or special-client bus drivers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:    

Local government, excluding education and hospitals  $32,850
School and employee bus transportation 31,810
Elementary and secondary schools; local 28,490
Other transit and ground passenger transportation 26,470

School bus drivers work only when school is in session. Some make multiple runs if schools in their district each open and close at different times. Others make only two runs, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so their work hours are limited.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for transit and intercity bus drivers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals  $45,270
Interurban and rural bus transportation 35,910
Urban transit systems 35,340
Charter bus industry 28,910

Transit drivers may work weekends, late nights, and early mornings.

Motor coach drivers travel with their vacationing passengers. The work hours of motor coach drivers are dictated by a tour schedule, and drivers may work all hours of the day, as well as weekends and holidays. Some intercity bus drivers have long-distance routes, so they spend some nights away. Other intercity bus drivers make a round trip and go home at the end of each shift.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, bus drivers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2014.

Job Outlook About this section

Bus Drivers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Bus drivers, transit and intercity

6%

Bus drivers

6%

Bus drivers, school or special client

6%

Motor vehicle operators

6%

 

Employment of bus drivers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment of school or special-client bus drivers is projected to grow 6 percent, largely because of an increase in the number of school-age children. However, growth will most likely occur for contracting services that provide school bus transport as more school districts outsource their transportation needs. In addition, the demand for special-needs transportation will continue to increase because of the aging population. 

Employment of transit and intercity drivers (including charter buses) is projected to grow 6 percent. Some new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems are opening throughout the country, which should create some employment opportunities. In addition, population movement towards large metropolitan areas will create more job opportunities for transit drivers.

Intercity bus travel that picks up passengers from curbside locations in urban downtowns should continue to grow. This form of travel is expected to remain popular due to the cheap fares and passenger conveniences such as Wi-Fi.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities for bus drivers should be favorable, especially for school bus drivers, as many drivers are expected to leave the occupation. Those willing to work part time or irregular shifts should have the best prospects. Prospects for motor coach and intercity drivers should also be favorable as the industry struggles to attract and retain qualified drivers.

Employment projections data for bus drivers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Bus drivers

53-3020 665,000 702,500 6 37,500 [XLSX]

Bus drivers, transit and intercity

53-3021 167,800 177,600 6 9,800 [XLSX]

Bus drivers, school or special client

53-3022 497,300 524,900 6 27,700 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of bus drivers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers

Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers

Delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers pick up, transport, and drop off packages and small shipments within a local region or urban area. They drive trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW)—the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo—of 26,000 pounds or less. Most of the time, delivery truck drivers transport merchandise from a distribution center to businesses and households.

High school diploma or equivalent $27,760
Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers

Heavy and Tractor-trailer Truck Drivers

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers transport goods from one location to another. Most tractor-trailer drivers are long-haul drivers and operate trucks with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) capacity—that is, the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo—exceeding 26,000 pounds. These drivers deliver goods over intercity routes, sometimes spanning several states.

Postsecondary nondegree award $40,260
Train engineers and operators

Railroad Workers

Workers in railroad occupations ensure that passenger and freight trains run on time and travel safely. Some workers drive trains, some coordinate the activities of the trains, and others operate signals and switches in the rail yard.

High school diploma or equivalent $55,180
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs

Taxi Drivers and Chauffeurs

Taxi drivers and chauffeurs drive people to and from the places they need to go, such as airports, homes, shopping centers, and workplaces. They must know their way around a city to take passengers to their destinations.

No formal educational credential $23,510
Water transportation occupations

Water Transportation Workers

Water transportation workers operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water. The vessels travel to and from foreign ports across the ocean and to domestic ports along the coasts, across the Great Lakes, and along the country’s many inland waterways.

See How to Become One $55,000

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about school bus drivers, visit

National School Transportation Association

National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services

For more information about transit bus drivers, visit

American Public Transportation Association

For more information about motorcoach drivers, visit

United Motorcoach Association

For more information on federal regulations for commercial vehicle drivers, visit

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

O*NET

Bus Drivers, School or Special Client

Bus Drivers, Transit and Intercity

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bus Drivers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/bus-drivers.htm (visited May 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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Work Environment

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How to Become One

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Pay

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State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

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The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.