Do you remember the first time you ever drove a car? What it felt like to be behind-the-wheel and having the power to go wherever you please? From going on your first road trip, to moving out and working in a new city, driving is undoubtedly an important part of anyone’s life. And at the centre of all this activity is the humble but essential, driving instructor, without whom having these unforgettable memories wouldn’t be possible.
So, if you love riding behind-the-wheel and have the patience to teach other people about the rules of the road, then becoming a driving instructor could be a great job for you.
Here’s all you need to know to succeed in this career path.
1. Research the Profession
Before diving straight into this profession, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what’s at stake and how you can best prepare for what’s ahead.
Driving instructors are certified professionals who teach their students how to drive cars. Depending on the depth of their skills and their specialisation, a driving instructor may teach others to operate more than one kind of vehicle; including buses, tractor-trailers and motorcycles.
A driving instructor’s duties include:
- preparing lesson plans and routes for student drivers
- monitoring improvement and accompany students during their practice
- teach proper vehicle maintenance and road safety rules
- demonstrate what to do during emergency situations
- grade driving exams and provide recommendations
Essential Skills and Qualities
Not everyone can teach people how to drive (heck, some people shouldn’t even be allowed to behind the wheel!) but those who do possess similar traits and characteristics that you should also embody if you want to succeed in this path.
- Patience: Teaching someone to drive can make anyone go insane (just ask your parents) but you must be able to deal with all kinds of students with patience and grace.
- Mindfulness: It’s important to pay attention to all that’s happening when you’re teaching on the road. Being mindful is key to preventing accidents and ensuring both your student and yourself are safe.
- Respect: An effective driving instructor knows the importance of rules and respecting other drivers. They must exude this type of behaviour so that their students will follow their example.
- Excellent coordination skills: Good driving instructors have great dexterity. They’re able to adapt quickly on the road at a moment’s notice.
- Great spatial abilities: No matter the type of vehicle you’re driving, you must be good at determining how close or far you are from a car at all times to avoid accidents.
- Excellent memory: You must know all the rules and different symbols related to driving which may be taxing for some.
- Good communication skills: Being able to clearly articulate yourself to your students is one of the best traits of a good instructor.
Working Hours and Conditions
Depending on where they work and if they have a minimum required quota, most driving instructors work long hours, including weekends. If you work for a driving school, you’ll be given shifts which can last anywhere between two to eight hours per shift. Most driving schools are also open daily which means you’ll have an erratic schedule.
As a driving instructor, you have the option to work for yourself and have more control over your working schedule for a better work-life balance. However, competition is a lot stiffer when you have your own business. Plus, you’ll need to factor in other costs including the time spent driving to and from your student’s house, the wear-and-tear of your car, petrol expenses and insurance. This profession can get a bit risky, especially if you have an unruly student.
There are also some driving instructors who don’t go on the road at all. They’re only qualified to teach driving principles within the classroom setting and are prohibited to join behind-the-wheel training. These kind of instructors can be found in speed-awareness classes.
The average annual salary for a driving instructor in the US, according to PayScale is $42,423. Whilst in the UK, according to the National Careers Service, a driving instructor can earn £15,000 to £30,000 a year, depending on their level of experience.
Your salary can, of course, increase depending on the skills you accumulate and the type of vehicles that you’re licensed to operate. If you’re also a freelancer, you’ll be cutting out the middle-man and may end up earning a higher salary by the end of the year.
Even with the rise of urbanisation and the growing popularity of alternative methods of transport, the majority of people still want to learn how to drive. Because of this, the projected demand for this career remains relatively high for the foreseeable future.
2. Get the Qualifications
While you don’t need a four-year degree to become a driving instructor, you will still need to adhere to a few requirements and pass a number of exams before you can become licensed to teach.
If you live in the US, the age requirement for a driving instructor differs per state. Typically, however, you must have a high-school diploma and be at least 19 to teach in classrooms. To conduct behind-the-wheel training, the minimum age requirement is 21. Most states also require a two-year, clean driving license and a spotless criminal record.
Before taking on the licensure exam, you should first determine if you’d like to teach non-commercial or commercial driving. Non-commercial vehicles refer to cars, SUVs and motorcycles while commercial vehicles refer to buses, trucks and the like.
Once you’ve determined which kind of vehicle you’d like to specialise in, you must go through a driving instructor training program that’s credited by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The length of your program will depend on your specialisation. As soon as you’ve completed your classes, you can apply for a license. Apart from your licensure exam, you’re also required to pass the vision test, the road sign test, the written test and the behind-the-wheel instructor’s driving test.
The UK has very similar requirements. You must be at least 21 years old with a high school diploma and at least 3 years of driving experience, as well as, a spotless driving and criminal record and the ability to read a number plate from 90 feet away. Once you’re cleared of these requirements, you must undergo a training program that’s credited by the Department of Transport. After which you’ll have to pass two exams to become an approved driving instructor (ADI).
3. Land Your First Job
There are plenty of driving schools everywhere and provided you have the license to teach, you’re sure to find an opening and get a job in one of them. However, if you want to increase your customer base and open your own business one day, it’s not a bad idea to create a website that you can fill with testimonials from past students. It’s a great marketing tool - one that’s sure to get you more students (and revenue!)
4. Develop Your Career
As mentioned throughout this article, one of the best ways to develop your career is by adding to your specialisation. The more vehicles you know how to operate, the bigger your paycheck will be.
Who or what inspired you to become a driving instructor? Let us know in the comment section below!