If you ask a school transportation director what he or she majored in in college, chances are good that it was a subject not particularly related to transportation (art history, anyone?).

The same would be true for many other professions. What you choose to study as a young adult in college often has little to do with the career you wind up in later in life.

Many, but of course not all, transportation directors learned the ropes of their profession by initially getting a job as a school bus driver and then moving into other positions in the transportation department.

On-the-job learning is certainly an effective and essential way to become adept at an occupation, but there’s also great value in expanding your education in a classroom (or online) setting.

The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) has an array of programs for certification and professional development.

The association offers four certifications for different pupil transportation positions: director, supervisor, specialist and driver instructor. The programs provide in-depth instruction on a variety of job-related subjects.

For example, the certified director of pupil transportation program requires 92 hours of training, with core courses covering such topics as school transportation accounting, business writing, bus specifications and managing human resources.

The knowledge you gain through all of the training (among other requirements) makes the time commitment well worth it. This is practical, relevant information that can help you do your job better.

There are benefits of certification beyond the educational aspect. Like a graduate degree, a pupil transportation certification can give you an edge over other candidates when applying for a new job.

We recently came across a news story about a transportation director in Maine who was hired for a position at another school district. In the American Journal article, the district’s superintendent said that she was “the best and most qualified person for the position” and specifically noted that she was one of only three certified directors of pupil transportation in the state.

While that certification was surely just one of many factors in the hiring decision, the fact that the superintendent highlighted it in the newspaper shows its significance.  

In addition to NAPT’s certifications, there are numerous avenues of continuing education that are relevant to our industry.

Many technicians have furthered their careers by earning ASE certification. As another example, New York’s Mohawk Valley Community College offers a certificate program in transportation management.

NAPT also offers the Special Needs Transportation Training Endorsement, the Leading Every Day Initiative and the Professional Development Series (PDS).

In 2011, Peter Lawrence, director of transportation for Fairport (N.Y.) Central School District, became the first person to complete all of the PDS courses — more than 40.

In an interview with SBF at the time, Lawrence described the impact that the program has had on his career.

“I attribute a lot of my success in the industry to the PDS classes,” he said. “The knowledge you gain from others is huge.”