(5.4 out of 10)
|Number of Jobs:||83,000|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Social Services Jobs||#20|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#80|
Stanley Carpenter says he always wanted to be a bus driver. “When I was a kid, I looked up at the tall bus driver and told my mom that I wanted to be a driver, too,” he recalls. His first job was with Continental Trailways, then with Greyhound, once it acquired Continental Trailways. He then switched from doing intercity bus travel to working for DART, a North Texas-based local transit system that services 13 cities in the Dallas area. According to Carpenter, he’s been a DART bus operator for so long that “everybody knows me. They don’t have to ring the bell to get off, because I know where they stop. ... I’ve met two generations, almost three, of families riding my bus.”
Relating to people is one of the best components of this profession, Carpenter says, and having this skill also helps when a driver must manage a mosaic of personalities and commuting problems. In other words, the inpatient need not apply. “I just keep an even keel,” he says. “I stay right in the middle. It’s about the way you talk, and the sound of your voice [when calming riders]. ... I always try to sympathize with the customer.”
The job’s good days can include sunny skies, pleasant riders, and calm streets. The less-than-ideal days might feature slick-with-black-ice roads, rubbernecking cars, and amped-up school kids on a field trip. Good drivers provide safe passage no matter the situation, while still tending to responsibilities like collecting fare, announcing stops, and staying on a stringent route schedule. Most drivers also have light paperwork to complete to record trips, delays, and mechanical problems. They also usually fall into one of two categories: transit, intercity drivers, who are charged with transporting people within or across metropolitan areas; and school bus drivers, who transport children to and from school-related events. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 12.8 percent job growth for this profession between 2010 and 2020. The employment bump is due to several factors, but the largest motivators are the increased number of children who need transport to and from school and the expensive cost of gas, which causes more commuters to rely on public transportation. An additional 83,000 jobs will need to be filled within that time period, either for transit drivers or school and special client drivers.
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for a transit and intercity bus driver was $35,720 in 2011. The best-paid 10 percent made approximately $57,410, while the lowest-paid made approximately $21,080 in a year. The field’s best-compensated are usually charter bus drivers, but competition for those positions may be higher. The highest-paid in the profession work in Spokane, Wash., Olympia, Wash., and New York City. School bus drivers earn slightly less, with an average salary that is a little less than $30,000 per year. The highest-paid in that profession earn around $43,640, and work in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New Bedford, Mass.
Driver qualifications vary by state. Many employers prefer drivers that have a high school diploma (or its equivalent) and are at least 21 years of age. A clean driving record is a no-brainer prerequisite, but a clean bill of health is also often required, to ensure drivers don’t have a heart attack or fall asleep behind the wheel. A commercial driver’s license is the other prerequisite for landing a position. Once hired, new drivers usually receive one to three months of both practical and classroom instruction.
Driving record aside, Carpenter insists that customer service skills set prospective drivers apart from other job candidates. “I believe I could teach a person to drive [a bus]. But I can’t teach you how to deal with people. I’ll never forget when I was going through training, we had a class that was just about different scenarios of dealing with different types of people.”
|Upward Mobility||Below Average|
|Stress Level||Above Average|
Last updated by Jada A. Graves.