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How to Become a Driving Instructor

Research the requirements to become a driving instructor. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in driving instruction.

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Do I Want to 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. Some hazards may exist when riding with inexperienced drivers.

Job Requirements

High school graduates may earn an instructor's license through completion of written and practical exams. Instructors must have a driver's license and in most cases should have a minimum amount of experience driving. Requirements may vary by state.

The following table describes the common qualifications and requirements for driving instructors:

Common 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 instructor licensure***; some employers prefer applicants with teaching experience*
Key Skills Communication, patience, teaching ability, listening skills, compassion**
Technical Skills Knowledge of motor vehicle operation and safety*
Additional Requirements Clean driving record, criminal background check*; pass a vision test, be at least 21 years old***

Sources: *Online job postings from September 2012, **State of CA DMV-approved Driving School Instructor Training Program, ***State driving instructor regulations.

Step 1: Obtain the Appropriate Driver's 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.

Success Tips:

  • 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.
  • 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 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. In either case, learning the safety requirements of the chosen type of vehicle is just as important as learning to drive it.

Success Tip:

  • 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: 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 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. Additional 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.

Step 5: 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.

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