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Become a Bus Driver: How to Get a Bus Driver’s License

bus driver
To become a bus driver, you need to get a bus driver's license (or a CDL license). Learn about the process of how to do so in this guide.

There is a growing demand for bus drivers in the United States. These are usually highly flexible positions that are some of the highest-paying jobs you can get without a college degree.

Whether you are considering shifting careers to become a commercial bus driver or looking to make extra money on the side as a school bus driver, there are specific requirements you must meet. Once you understand what these are, you can take steps to achieve them.

This article breaks down the different types of bus driver’s license requirements, as well as the types of vehicles you can operate with each. Keep reading to find out which ones are relevant to the type of position you are seeking.

Advantages of Being a Bus Driver

There are many advantages to choosing a career as a bus driver. First, it can be very rewarding to provide a needed service to customers, the general public, or school children. If you like interacting with people, bus driving is a great option.

A related benefit of being a bus driver is that it keeps you connected to the community. It also is a great way to learn about the nuances of public transportation or business (depending on the type of position you take).

Bus driver positions vary in terms of pay and benefits. A full-time position with a private bus company will inevitably have a different pay structure than a part-time gig as a school bus driver.

Most positions, regardless of the employee, pay relatively well. This is especially true when you consider they rarely warrant any type of college degree.

Bus Driver License Requirements

There are several steps to becoming a bus driver. Here are the main requirements you should be aware of.

Commercial Driver’s License

To become a bus driver, you must get a commercial driver’s license (CDL). These allow you to operate different types of vehicles, including school buses and large passenger buses. There are different types of CDLs, but in general, there are two main certifications you will need to achieve.

The first has to do with the size of the buses you plan to operate. In most locations, you would need a Class B CDL to operate commercial passenger and school buses. This allows you to drive vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 26,000 pounds.


A CDL license largely has to do with the SIZE of the vehicle you are operating. For bus drivers, you also will need an “endorsement” certification.

This is for the specific TYPE of vehicle you plan to operate, namely one that carries more than 16 people. You can complete this step after receiving your CDL or in combination with the certification.

In most states, passenger and school bus endorsements are distinct. In both cases, there is a separate application process and associated fees. There also is a written and driving skills test for each.

State and Federal Regulations

Beyond the CDL requirements, there are federal standards for anyone operating a school or commercial passenger bus. These include being 18 years of age (you must be 21 if you plan to transport people across state lines) and having at least 12 months of driving experience. You also must be willing to submit to random alcohol and drug testing.

Note that state standards can vary. Most require that you submit a medical assessment when applying for a CDL.

They also may need you to undergo a background check. They will want to confirm that you have a clean driving record with no “red flags,” such as driving under the influence convictions.

They also may have separate requirements for classroom and behind-the-wheel training. These can vary among states and with different types of positions, including whether you want to be a passenger bus driver or a school bus driver. Likewise, different municipalities and school districts can have additional standards for bus drivers.

Bus Driver CDL and Endorsement Certification Process

The first step in the bus driver CDL and specific endorsement certification process involves education. There is a federal requirement that you complete Entry Level Driver’s Training (ELDT) for Class A and B licenses, as well as for Passenger (P) and School Bus (S) endorsements. There also is mandatory behind-the-wheel (BTW) ELDT training you must pass for each of these as well. 

You can take the theory portion of the ELDT training in person or online. Reputable theory training courses will ensure that you have all the knowledge and skills necessary to continue with the behind-the-wheel training. This also is a good way to ensure you pass the CDL permit test as well as all assessments specific to passenger or bus driver endorsements.

Once you have completed the theory training, you will need to apply for a CDL permit through your state’s department of motor vehicles. There are usually application fees. You can expect fees for CDL licensing, endorsement licensing, and any testing and training assessments associated with each (these also vary by state.)

After you have obtained your permit, you can schedule ELDT behind-the-wheel training at an FMCSA approved training provider for your Class A or B CDL and for the Passenger and School Bus endorsements. Upon completion of the BTW training, you can take the skills (driving) test for the CDL and P and S endorsments. Once you complete the examinations, the state will issue you your CDL license and endorsement certifications.

Note that this process is separate from applying to specific bus driver jobs. School districts, municipalities, states, and private bus companies may have distinct requirements for drivers that they wish to hire. These will be laid out in job descriptions for these specific positions.

Start Bus Driver Training Today

Now that you understand the steps to take for becoming a bus driver, you can begin the process. With a little time and effort, you can begin your career or start earning extra money on the side. provides you with all the ELDT theory training necessary to obtain a CDL and Passenger and School Bus endorsements, all in an online forum. We will also help you find an approved training provider for ELDT behind-the-wheel training which is federally required to secure a CDL and the bus driving endorsements. Sign up for a class and start your training today.

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