How To Become A Driving Instructor: Steps, Earning Potential, Cost & Qualifications Required

An Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) is an individual licensed within Great Britain to take payment for teaching other people to drive. An ADI can legally earn income from paid driving lessons as a full or part-time occupation.Training and qualifying to become an ADI typically takes a period of six to twelve months. 

The first steps involve confirming eligibility, applying to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to begin training and finding a suitable trainer.

Once these initial stages are complete, there are 3 exams to pass in order to qualify. Having passed the exams, driving instructors must register and maintain their registered status in order to teach.In all, there are 9 steps for becoming an ADI within Great Britain. The process for Northern Ireland is different and not covered in this guide.

how to become a driving instructor

Table of Contents

Step 1: Eligibility - Who Can Become A Driving Instructor?

The requirements to become a driving instructor relate to your age, driving licence and record, eyesight and criminal record. Good people skills also help.

What are the Minimum and Maximum Ages for Training as a Driving Instructor

The minimum age to train as a driving instructor is 21 years. There is no maximum age.

Driving Licence Requirements to Become An ADI

To teach people to drive a manual car, you will require a manual licence. If your licence is for automatic vehicles, then you can only qualify to teach people to drive automatic vehicles. 

If you have an automatic licence because of a disability, you may need assessing to prove that you can keep control of your vehicle in an emergency.

Eyesight Requirements for Driving Instructors

You must be able to read a number plate on another vehicle from 26.5 metres for a new-style number plate and from 27.5m for older-style plates.

New-style plates were introduced in September 2001. They comprise 2 letters, 2 numbers, 3 further letters. For example, AB12 XYZ. You are allowed to wear spectacles or contact lenses.

Can You Become a Driving Instructor with a Criminal Record?

You must not have been convicted of a crime of a sexual, violent, financial or drug-related nature, nor must you have been banned from working with children.

Can You Work As a Driving Instructor in Great Britain if you Qualified in Another Country?

If you have qualified as a driving instructor in Northern Ireland or any member state of the European Union, you will be able to register as an ADI in the UK directly. Qualifications from other states are not accepted.

Do You Need Any Specific Vocational or Academic Qualifications?

There are no requirements for vocational or academic qualifications to become a driving instructor. 

What Personal Qualities Does A Driving Instructor Have?

A successful driving instructor will be comfortable working with others in a number of ways. The most important are:

Step 2: Apply To Become A Driving Instructor

To apply to become an ADI, you must first obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, then submit an application to DVSA. Surepass will provide support and guidance at each step, as this can be quite an involved process.

DBS Check for Driving Instructors

DBS is a part of the Home Office responsible for performing background checks  that may disqualify candidates from specific roles in work or leisure, including from becoming a driving instructor.

You must obtain a DBS check specifically for your application – any existing check you have will not be valid.

If the DBS check reveals a criminal record relating to sexual, violent, financial or drug-related crime, or that you have been banned from working with children, you will not be able to become a driving instructor.

The DBS check certificate is normally returned within 14 days. You can then apply to the DVSA to begin the qualification process to become an ADI.

Along with your DBS certificate number, you will need to provide:

Can You Apply To Become An ADI Again After Failing To Qualify?

You can sit the theory test (ADI Part One) repeatedly until you pass. 

However, you must pass each of the practical tests (ADI Part Two and ADI Part Three) within the first three attempts for each. Otherwise you’ll need to wait two years to apply again. 

There is no limit to the number of times you can reapply. 

Can former Approved Driving Instructors with Lapsed Approval Reapply Without Taking Tests Again?

You can simply re-register for your ADI licence if your ADI status has lapsed within the past twelve months. If it’s longer than 12 months, you must start the approval process again.

Step 3: Get A Driving Instructor Trainer

To increase your chances of gaining your ADI status, you should hire a driving instructor trainer.

There is no additional qualification required for a driving instructor trainer. At Surepass, we consider that the only people qualified to train new instructors should be from the Official Register of Driving Instructor Training (ORDIT).

ORDIT is maintained by the DVSA. For a trainer to be registered, they must pass rigorous additional assessment:

Because ORDIT trainers have been specifically assessed on their ability to teach other driving instructors, they are better teachers. You are likely to pass your exams faster with an ORDIT registered trainer. 

This is why all Surepass instructors are ORDIT registered.

Is Group Training or 1-1 Better For Driving Instructor Training?

A car only has one driving seat. One-to-one training will provide more hands-on time behind the wheel and more direct feedback on your approach and performance.

By contrast, in a group, the trainer’s attention cannot be on every individual at once. Inevitably, the trainee with the earliest test or assessment date will tend to prioritised for time behind the wheel. This means the others in the group are often little more than spectators.

So while group training is a low-cost course, it lacks the personal focus and so pass rates are likely to be lower than 1-1 training.

Is Virtual Training As Good As Hands-On Training?

Practical learning is sometimes offered in a classroom with the assistance of computer systems and perhaps even virtual reality glasses. Like group training, virtual training in a classroom will be cheaper, but is likely to leave you less well prepared than one-on-one, real-world training.

Are intense driving instructor courses effective?

Intense driving instructor courses typically seek to provide tuition within a very short period – typically a week. However, the biggest constraint to qualifying is not the training but the exams, which need to be booked up to 12 weeks in advance due to availability. Completing an intensive course and then waiting months for the exam gives far too much time to forget what you learn.  Surepass believes they are inferior to learning paced to suit you and reduce your chances of a first-time pass. Surepass does not recommend nor offer this type of course.

Step 4: Take The Theory Test (ADI Part One)

ADI Part One is the driving theory test. It examines knowledge of the Highway Code, traffic signs, the theory of driving and the theory of driving instruction.

The test consists of a 90 minute examination with 100 multiple choice questions followed by a hazard perception test.

You will receive the results of your ADI Part One at the test centre immediately after the test. To pass you must score at least 85 marks out of 100 in the multiple choice. To pass the hazard perception test, you must score at least 57 out of a possible 75 points.

If you pass ADI Part One, you will be issued with a certificate which you can use to book ADI Part Two. You will need to book and pass ADI Part Two within two years of the date on your certificate. If you do not book ADI Part Two within this time then you will have to reapply to become an ADI.

If you fail ADI Part One, you will be issued with a letter stating the parts of the test where you didn’t score enough points.

You will be able to book another test within three working days of your failed attempt. There is no limit to how many times you can sit the test.

Step 5: Take The Driving Ability Test (ADI Part Two)

ADI Part Two tests your driving skills and knowledge in a practical setting. It has five elements – an eyesight check, vehicle safety questions, general driving ability, manoeuvres and independent driving. The whole test takes approximately one hour to complete.

What Is The ADI Part 2 Eyesight Test?

You must be able to read a modern car registration number plate from a distance of 26.5 metres. Modern number plates, sometimes called new-style plates, start with 2 letters followed by 2 numbers, such as AK18 OJS.

You must be able to read older number plates from a distance of 27.5 metres.

You may wear spectacles or contact lenses during the eyesight test.

What are ADI Part 2 ‘Show Me, Tell Me’ Questions (Vehicle Safety Questions)?

The examiner will ask you to show or explain the answers to five safety questions during your test, three before you start and two while driving. You must demonstrate your ability to perform the requested driving task while maintaining control. Examples are washing the windscreen, or turning on the headlights.

What is the ADI Part 2 General Driving Ability Test?

You will be assessed on your driving ability on different types of roads and in different traffic conditions.

You will have to demonstrate expert handling of the vehicle, some specific manoeuvres, judgement of distance and speed, the ability to drive and navigate independently, consideration of other road users, driving in an eco-friendly manner. You may be asked to do an emergency stop.

What Manoeuvres are Included in the ADI Part 2 Test?

The examiner will ask you to perform two of the following manoeuvres:

What is the Independent Driving Part of the Test?

You will be asked to follow a route, either via road signs or a pre-programmed sat-nav, for about 20 minutes.

After passing, you can book the ADI Part Three or apply for a trainee driver instructor licence.

Step 6: Gain Teaching Experience: Including Option To Charge For Lessons by Registering For A PDI Certificate

The Provisional Driving Instructor licence (PDI) allows you to charge people for driving lessons before you are fully licensed as an ADI. When you register for this, you get a pink badge to put in your windscreen to show that you’re qualified to teach as a PDI.

Once you have passed ADI Part Two it is important to get experience teaching others to drive. By charging pupils while you are training, you can earn while you learn and contribute towards the cost of your training before you complete it.

The other significant benefit is that the ADI Part Three is a test of your teaching ability. Earning money from pupils while you are training gives you a strong incentive to gain valuable hours of experience teaching before your ADI Part 3 exam.

As a trainee, your teaching cannot be independent. You must work with an established driving instructor, known as your sponsoring ADI. Surepass will help you with this.

How long is the PDI valid?

Each trainee licence is valid for a period of six months. After this it is usual to take your ADI Part Three test.

It is possible to renew your trainee licence, but the DVSA are less likely to renew without good reasons for you not moving forward with your Part 3 ADI test.

Step 7: Take The Instructional Ability Test (ADI Part 3)

The ADI Part Three tests your ability to teach learner drivers to drive. It is the final test you must undertake before qualifying as an ADI.

For the test, you will give a driving lesson to one of your learners for approximately 45 minutes. You will explain the goals of the lesson with your pupil and then teach them a variety of manoeuvres during the lesson. At the end of the lesson, you will discuss your pupil’s performance with them. 

For the exam, your pupil must physically drive the car for at least 40 minutes.

Driving instructor training will help you prepare for the final test.

Your performance will be scored out of a possible 51 points by the examiner in 17 different topics grouped into 3 categories, which are:

You will be told whether or not you have passed as soon as the exam is over. You will receive either a Grade A or B pass, depending upon your performance. Those who gain a Grade A are able to later take further examination to become ORDIT registered, who are the highest qualified driving instructors.

If you fail, it is possible to retake the ADI Part 3 Test two more times. Surepass recommends that you take additional instructor training lessons to help you improve sufficiently to pass on the next attempt.

Step 8: Register And Start Working As An Approved Driving Instructor (ADI)

Registration as an ADI is the final step after passing driving instructor exams to become a driving instructor. This adds the new instructor to the register of approved driving instructors and provides the ADI badge to display in the window of the car when giving lessons. This badge is known colloquially as the green badge.

Setting up Your Driving Instructor Business

In order to teach learners to drive you need to operate as a business. While it is possible to work independently, there are benefits to joining Surepass, an established driving school, as follows:

  • Access to learners to teach.
  • Marketing support
  • Business advice and help
  • Accounting advice
  • A community of driving instructors to give advice and support
  • A refund of driving instruction fees when you join, making the training as a driving instructor effectively free.

Driving instructors are self-employed and this has specific tax and legal implications. Surepass help instructors with these.

Sourcing a Dual Control Car

Dual control cars provide pedals in the footwell of the passenger seat to allow the instructor to take control when a learner driving the vehicle is about to make a dangerous manoeuvre.

A dual control car is a necessity for a driving instructor.

A dual-control manual car provides a brake pedal and clutch for the instructor. A dual-control automatic car provides only a brake pedal.

A specific driving instructor insurance is required for a dual control vehicle.

Finding Learner Drivers to Teach

While every ADI will appear in the DVSA’s register, it is unlikely to be a source of work. An effective strategy to find new learner drivers to teach will include:

  • Online advertising (Surepass does this on behalf of instructors)
  • Social media, with the big names being YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook
  • Effective signage on vehicle
  • Asking for word-of-mouth referrals and introductions from pupils
  • handing out business cards
  • Business networking meetings to build your own network of referrers.

Step 9: Maintain Your Registered Status

To remain active as an ADI, every four years you will need to pass a standards check and renew your registration. It is also valuable to keep up-to-date with driving laws, skills and standards through continued professional development (CPD).

What is the ADI Standards Check?

The DVSA will notify you when they require you to take the ADI standards check. It is an examination of your teaching skills with a format that’s more or less identical to ADI Part Three (see above), with the same marking system and requirements to pass.

If you fail the standards check, you have a further two attempts to pass it.

Renewing Your ADI Registration

You can renew your registration from a month before it expires until 12 months after expiry. Renewal costs £300 and reviews information relevant to your ability to continue working safely as a driving instructor, the main two areas being 

  • Details of new driving offences
  • Changes to your criminal record.

Continued Professional Development as a Driving Instructor

CPD helps to maintain and improve your skills as a driving instructor.

CPD can be recorded against your name in the ADI register, highlighting your additional skills and learning to potential pupils. It includes both formal training courses as well as other personal development work, such as researching vehicles and equipment for your business, or attending networking meetings with other driver trainers.

Is it Worth Becoming a Driving Instructor? What are the Pros and Cons?

The key factors in favour of becoming a driving instructor include a strong earnings potential with no prior qualifications required, flexibility to set your own working hours and the ability to make this a full-time or part-time career. There are also tax advantages to running your own business, which for a driving instructor include vehicle costs as a legitimate business expense and so can be offset against tax, while it is also available for your own private use.

So while overall your career choice is a very personal decision, driving instructors can earn well doing a professional teaching job that is both enjoyable and personally satisfying.

What are the potential earnings of a driving instructor?

Subject to regional variations, a driving instructor can earn a gross income of approximately £50,000 working full time for 48 weeks per year.

How many hours does an ADI work?

As an ADI you set the hours you want to work and build your own work schedule around that. Those who want to focus on higher earnings will set aside more hours for teaching. Those who are aiming to balance work with home life limit the number of lessons they give and operate on a part-time basis.

How long does it take to qualify as a driving instructor?

Surepass have helped new driving instructors to learn and pass the tests within just 12-16 weeks. However, with waiting times for examinations, this is not common. It is perfectly feasible to pass the tests and become an ADI as quickly as six months after you apply, though. However, allowing up to a year for you to have plenty of time to learn and pass the exams is a very realistic time frame.

Do driving instructors work unsociable hours?

Many people wanting to learn to drive will have jobs or school. This means that some lessons will normally be outside of normal working hours. However, you have control over both your marketing and your schedule. So while there will be a higher demand for driving lessons at evenings and weekends, there will be lots of people learning to drive who can be more flexible.

Do driving instructors run their own business?

Your driving school will be your own business and you’ll need to keep on top of income and expenses. You will probably want to hire an accountant to help you with tax returns and keeping on top of the bookkeeping.

Is There Much Demand for Driving Instructors?

Yes, there is a strong demand for driving instructors that is supported by the statistics. In December 2022, for example, the number of approved ADIs is 39,450, while the number of tests for the previous quarter stands at 425,000.

Dividing the number of tests by the number of instructors gives 3-4 pupils per instructor per month. That’s one per week per instructor.

According to DVSA, each pupil requires an average of 45 hours professional teaching before they succeed in obtaining their licence.

Successful ADIs will not be short of demand for their services and can earn well from this respected profession.