Driving Instructor

The Job and What's Involved

Driving instructors tutor members of the public who want to gain their driving licence. An instructor's main task is to educate others to drive, equipping students with practical vehicle and road safety skills to pass the practical and theory driving examinations.

While there are set elements that driving instructors must cover during a course of lessons, they adapt their teaching style to each student's ability. This typically involves:

  • Planning routes and lesson content.
  • Explaining and demonstrating specific driving techniques, such as manoeuvres, gear changing and pedal control.
  • Outlining how to handle vehicles on specific roads and in various weather conditions.
  • Teaching observation skills and how to react to road hazards or potentially dangerous situations safely and quickly.
  • Assessing performance.
  • Providing constructive feedback and correcting students' mistakes.
  • Advising on the Highway Code and preparing students for the theory test.
  • Monitoring progress, updating client records and putting clients forward for examinations.

It is also important to recognise that only a small part of driving instruction is about actual technique. Driving instructors are also responsible for helping students to develop the ability to assess different driving situations and for encouraging a correct driving attitude.

In most cases, instructors sit alongside students in a dual-control vehicle, fitted with a set of controls in the passenger seat that can override the driver's controls.

In order to teach driving for money, instructors must be registered as Approved Driving Instructors (ADIs) with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). Most driving instructors are self-employed, although some are employed on a franchise basis by driving schools. Consequently, many are responsible for marketing their business, maintaining financial accounts and vehicle upkeep.

Hours of work vary. Full-time established instructors may work around 40 hours a week, including some weekends and evenings. Approximately 15 per cent work part time. Work can sometimes be seasonal, with shorter working hours during the winter months.

The demands of maintaining a regular income can affect the amount of annual leave self-employed or franchised instructors take. On average, driving instructors working full-time can expect to give around 35 one-hour lessons a week.

The majority of the time instructors remain seated in their vehicles, travelling locally to collect students. Back pain can be a common ailment. Vehicles are generally warm, well ventilated and clean.

Newly qualified instructors may earn around £16,000 in their first year. Fees per driving lesson vary from around £17 to £27 an hour. When calculating income, instructors need to factor in buying a vehicle or leasing one from their employer, fuel, running and maintenance costs. Franchise fees can be around £300 a week; however, a car is usually provided.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

It is estimated that there are around 42,500 qualified driving instructors in the UK, of whom 39,000 are ADI's and around 3,000 are vocational trainers. There are also 7,000 licensed trainees and around 11,000 probationary driving instructors (PDIs) attempting registration.

Opportunities for work exist throughout the UK, particularly in and around large, populated areas. Demand for ADI's remains constant, with some shortages in major urban areas. With no regulation or restriction on the number of instructors operating in one area, there can be some competition for students.

Driving instructors may work for large transport companies or tour operators. The emergency services and the Armed Forces also employ driving instructors, as well as the growing fleet trainer market.

The minimum age for registering with the DSA as a licensed trainee is 21 years. Car ADI's must have held a UK, European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) unrestricted car driving licence for at least four of the past six years and must not have been disqualified at any point in the four years prior to application.

All convictions, motoring or otherwise, are taken into account when the DSA assesses applicants' suitability for the ADI register. Criminal record checks are now conducted on all potential driving instructors. ADI's already registered have to undergo a criminal record check when renewing their registration.

Training opportunities for potential driving instructors may be advertised in the local and national press. Larger employers and franchise opportunities are typically promoted on websites.

Education and Training

No academic qualifications are needed for driving instruction and people with qualifications at all levels enter this career. However, it is not a career open directly to school leavers, due to the minimum age restriction of 21 for ADI licensed trainee registration.

Good numeracy and literacy abilities may be beneficial. It may also help to have some customer service work experience or vocational training skills. Working in a driving, logistics, passenger transport or training environment beforehand can also provide relevant industry experience.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Once application for registration as an ADI with the DSA has been processed, there are three stages to the ADI qualifying exam:

Part one - a theory and hazard perception computer-based test. The pass mark for the multiple-choice theory test is 85 per cent and 75 per cent for the hazard perception test.

Part two - driving ability test. This is an advanced driving test and applicants have to demonstrate that they can drive safely to a high standard for at least an hour. The applicant can make no more than six 'less serious driving faults' in that time. The applicant must also show that in good daylight they can read a new car number plate from 26.5 metres or an old car number plate from 27.5 metres. They are also asked questions relating to vehicle maintenance and must demonstrate that they know how to check the condition and safety of a vehicle.

The number of attempts to pass part two is limited to three. If applicants pass part two they can choose to apply for a six-month trainee licence, which enables them to gain some instructing experience in advance of their Part Three test.

Part three - every potential driving instructor has to give two driving lessons to an examiner. In the first half hour they deliver a lesson for an early stage student and in the second half hour, they deliver a lesson for a student at the stage of driving test readiness. They must pass both parts. If they fail, they have two further attempts to pass.

Trainee driving instructors must pass parts two and three within two years of passing part one.

Many trainees fund their training and exams independently. It can be expensive and costs can amount to several thousand pounds. Some receive specialist training from ADI training establishments. Each gives candidates the flexibility to study at their own pace, attending college or residential courses either full-time or part-time, or studying via distance learning. Preparing for the exams can be lengthy - part three alone is estimated to require at least 40 hours with an experienced trainer. While some trainees can pass in as little as nine months, most people take around 18 months.

Once ADI status is reached, registration must be renewed every four years. Instructors are regularly re-assessed. Advanced training is available on a voluntary basis. Continuing Professional Development is encouraged and the DSA are reviewing formalising this in the future.

Drivers or people working in passenger transport may also be able to work towards an NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in Driving Instruction.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Driving instructors should be:

  • Competent and experienced drivers.
  • Excellent communicators, able to give clear, concise instructions.
  • Patient, encouraging and tactful, in order to keep students' confidence levels up.
  • Able to concentrate for long periods at a time.
  • Capable of adapting teaching styles to suit clients' needs.
  • Organised and good at managing their time.
  • Self motivated.
  • Familiar with all the road rules and the Highway Code.
  • Able to react quickly to situations.
  • Practically minded, possessing basic vehicle maintenance skills.
  • Proficient in handling financial accounts and maintaining business records (if self-employed or franchisees).

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, it is possible for instructors to further their careers. Advanced driving instruction is usually a natural progression. Different training is required for instructors delivering training for passenger carrying vehicles (PCV), large goods vehicles (LGV), corporate or fleet driving and compulsory basic training (CBT) for motorcycles.

It is possible for experienced ADIs to instruct trainee instructors or become driving examiners. If employed with a driving school, there may be senior management opportunities. Some choose to work freelance or establish their own driving school.

Get Further Information

Driving Instructors Association (DIA),
Safety House, Beddington Farm Road, Croydon CR0 4XZ
Tel: 020 8665 5151
Website: www.driving.org

Driving Standards Agency (DSA),
Stanley House, 56 Talbot Street, Nottingham NG1 5GU
0115 901 2618
Website: www.dsa.gov.uk

GoSkills, Concorde House, Trinity Park,
Solihull, West Midlands B37 7UQ
Tel: 0121 635 5520
Website: www.goskills.org

Motor Schools Association (MSA),
101 Wellington Road North, Stockport,
Cheshire SK4 2LP
Tel: 0161 429 9669
Website: www.msagb.co.uk

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