Driving School Owners and Instructors

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QUICK FACTS about this job:

  • School Subjects: Business, Speech
  • Personal Skills: Leadership/management, Helping/teaching
  • Work Environment: Indoors and outdoors, Primarily multiple locations
  • Minimum Education Level: Some postsecondary training
  • Salary Range: $20,800 to $47,740 to $76,100+
  • Certification or Licensing: Required by certain states
  • Outlook: About as fast as the average
  • DOT: 099
  • GOE: N/A
  • NOC: 4216
  • O*NET-SOC: 25-3021.00


Driving instructors, also known as driving safety educators, teach people the rules of the road and skills needed to drive safely. Their teaching methods include classroom lectures covering driving theory, traffic rules and laws, and automobile maintenance, as well monitoring students as they drive a car. Some instructors specialize by type of vehicle (such as cars, trucks, buses, or motorcycles).


The need for instructors to teach people how to drive has existed for as long as there have been cars on the road. But it was not until the 1930s that formal driver education courses were created. Early traffic safety lessons were incorporated with general safety classes or taught as a separate class in a classroom setting (with no actual on-the-road training).

In 1932, Amos Neyhart, a professor at Pennsylvania State College High School, taught the first driving instruction course that included both class room and behind-the-wheel modules. By 1940, more than 20 states offered driving instruction courses, and several hundred high schools began teaching driver education.

In 1947, 200,000 students were enrolled in driver education programs at 3,000 public high schools across the United States, according to “Teen Driver Education,” by Dr. Richard Compton of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). By 1976, the number had increased to 3.2 million students at 17,000 public high schools.

In the late 1970s and early 198 Os, the number of students taking driver education classes at public schools declined due to questions regarding its effectiveness and its removal from a list of priority programs by the NHTSA. This decline created many opportunities for private driving instructors, and many new driving instruction schools opened in the following decades.

Today, driving schools and programs at public high schools continue to help people became safe and decisive drivers.

The American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association offers professional guidance and continuing education to many driving instructors. The National Driving Instructors Institute, another professional association, keeps members informed of new methods and techniques of driving instruction.


Driving instructors teach students the rules of the road and the proper and safe way to drive. Instructors can teach driver education at public high schools or through private driving schools. Instructors in public schools are often certified to teach driver education, but may also teach other subjects as well. Some instructors may be contracted by schools to teach driver education. Private driving schools employ instructors on a full- or part-time basis

Driver education is taught in two sections: classroom instruction and practical instruction. Topics covered in classroom lectures include rules of the road, signs and signals, traffic regulations, and basic operation of the car. Instructors also teach driver rights versus pedestrian rights, proper steps to take during road emergencies, driving techniques during inclement weather, and defensive driving. Time may also be spent teaching students how to change a flat tire, or how to mark a disabled car. Another important topic covered during classroom time is the danger of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In recent times, instructors have also addressed the hazards of other driving distractions such as cell phones, text messaging, or using headphones while driving. Instructors use a combination of lectures, movies or slide shows, class discussion, and projects to educate students. Some projects may include clipping current newspaper articles regarding automobile accidents and discussing each particular situation and how to avoid them in the future. Some high schools may also present live presentations demonstrating the tragedies of unsafe driving, including staged productions of multi-car accidents.

Once students are given a learner’s permit, they are ready for practical experience behind the wheel. Some schools have auto simulators that allow students to test their driving skills without actually leaving the classroom. Such programs help students hone their techniques by navigating their “car” in traffic, making turns, and parking.

When students are ready to tackle the road, instructors rely on specially designed cars that have dual steering wheels and rearview mirrors, and brakes located on both the driver’s and instructor’s sides. Instructors teach students how to start the car, check for oncoming traffic, and navigate safely onto the road. Students are also able to practice braking smoothly to a stop, making turns, and navigating through traffic. Other skills, such as parallel parking, merging onto traffic, and putting the car in reverse, are practiced until the students become comfortable with these tasks. Students practice driving on various types of roads such as city streets, high ways, and on rural roads to get a feel for different levels of traffic and speed. The instructor can also gauge the comfort level of students as they drive, and is able to use his or her own set of controls in case of emergencies. Other students often ride as passengers, and take turns behind the wheel.

Once all requirements of driver education are met, and students are comfortable behind the wheel of a car, instructors may suggest they take the state test to qualify for a driver’s license. The duration of driver education varies according to the school. In public school, driver education can last one quarter to a semester during the school year or six weeks in the summer. Classes taught at private driving schools usually last anywhere from four weeks to two months.

Some driving instructors specialize in a type of vehicle, such as a commercial truck or motorcycle. They often teach individuals the skills needed to operate these vehicles for work purposes, such as driving a bus or semi-truck. Such instructors must be certified and approved according to the specifications of their state’s department of motor vehicles. Commercial driving instructors are contracted or employed by commercial driving schools.


High School

A few classes can help prepare you for a career in driving instruction. You should do well in your own driver education classes, as knowledge of the rules of the road and familiarity of the maintenance and operation of a car is imperative. Communications and speech classes are also important since instructors must be able to convey ideas and techniques to their students.

Postsecondary Training

A college degree is not necessary except at certain high schools where driver education is taught by licensed teachers. In such cases, a degree in education, or comparable major, is required. If you aspire to operate your own driving school, you may want to consider taking college- level business courses. Classes such as accounting, marketing, or business management will help you set up a successful operation.

Certification and Licensing

A valid driver’s license is a prerequisite for employment in this field, as well as a clean driving record.

Licensure requirements vary from state to state. In Massachusetts, for example, all driving schools and their instructors must be registered with the state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles. Check with your state motor vehicle department for required documents.

Other Requirements

A desire to teach and help others is an important quality for driving instructors. They also need to be patient and level-headed in case students become nervous or panic when encountering different driving situations. Instructors are experts in the rules of the road, as well as basic car maintenance. It is also imperative to have a good driving record. Some schools may conduct a background check before employment.

Driving school owners should be organized, detail-minded, and have strong business skills.


To learn more about this career, try contacting a local driving school. You can interview instructors to learn what skills are needed to teach students of all ages and abilities. By spending time with the school’s owner, you can see firsthand what it takes to register students, make employee schedules, maintain a fleet of cars, and other tasks needed to run a business.

During your driver education classes, pay attention to the teaching techniques of your own instructor. Does he or she rely mostly on classroom lectures or bring in other sources or projects to spur interest and discussion? Ask yourself what you would do to add creativity when teaching this important topic. You can also ask your instructor to participate in an information interview about his or her career.


Driving instructors are employed by public high schools and private driving schools. Opportunities are available throughout the United States, but best in areas that have a large population.


As a new instructor, you may be scheduled to assist more experienced instructors before being given your own roster of students. With time and training, you may be given more teaching responsibility, both in the classroom and on the road.


With experience, instructors can advance from teaching high school-level driver education to teaching at other facilities such as state-run driving schools or driving facilities. Some instructors choose to teach a specialized group of students such as the elderly or disabled. Other instructors choose to teach driving techniques for other vehicles including commercial trucks, motorcycles, and race cars.

Some driving instructors may open their own schools. As proprietor, they may hire other instructors to handle class instruction, leaving their time free for the day-to-day tasks of operating a business.


The U.S. Department of Labor does not offer salary information for the career of driving school owner or instructor. According to limited information, driving instructors earn hourly salaries of approximately $10 to $20 an hour. Driving instructors at public high schools who work as salaried educators have the same earnings as regular teachers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median annual salary for secondary school teachers was $47,740 in 2006. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,760; the highest 10 per cent earned $76,100 or more.

Driving instructors who work for a company usually receive benefits such as sick leave, health and life insurance, vacation days, and a savings and pension program. Driving school owners must provide their own benefits.


Driving instructors work both indoors and outdoors. They give lectures and monitor simulation time inside a classroom. They also spend a great deal of time teaching from behind the wheel of an auto mobile, in a variety of driving situations ranging from side streets to busy highways.

While both private and public instructors work year-round, their hours vary significantly. Those teaching in public schools do so within the hours of a regular school day and week. Some instructors may also have other teaching duties aside from driver’s education. Instructors employed at a private driving school have more flexible hours—including evening hours and weekends. Summer months are especially busy as some students choose to tackle driver education separate from their regular school curriculum.

While public and private driving instructors are responsible for teaching groups of students, commercial driving instructors often teach students one on one.


Employment opportunities should continue to be strong for driving school owners and instructors. Students will continue to enroll in driver’s education, either through their public high school or at private schools. Another incentive is a discounted rate now offered by many insurance carriers to students who have completed a driver’s education program. Some school districts, because of budget cuts, have discontinued their driver’s education programs, spurring growth in private instruction.


For information on driver education, contact the following organizations:

American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association

Highway Safety Center

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

R&P Building

Indiana, PA 15705

Tel: 800-896-7703

Email: support@hsc.iup.edu


National Driving Instructors Institute

27762 Forbes Road, Suite 10

Laguna Niguel, CA 92677-1227

Tel: 949-278-5497

Email: info@NDI-Institute.com


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