Certified Substitute Teacher Certification and Career Facts

Certified substitute teachers typically have varied day-to-day responsibilities in the field of education, filling in for teachers who are absent from the classroom. Read on to learn what's required to start your career, including certification and education requirements, and get the career outlook for this job. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What I Need to Know

Substitute teachers work primarily for absent teachers by filling in for them and following their lesson plans. Typically substitute teachers work on a short-term or part-time basis and often without much notice. You may wish to advance your career by earning a bachelor's or master's degree and becoming a licensed teacher which will allow you to work full time.

Certification Not required; substitute certification courses available through colleges and universities; bachelor's degree also accepted
Responsibilities Fill in for absent teachers, work primarily part-time, follow lesson plans left by the absent teacher, leave written report for the teacher
Future Career Options Earn teaching license; bachelor's or master's degree

Do I Need a Teaching Certification to Be a Substitute Teacher?

The requirements for substitute teachers vary from state to state. The education you need ranges from a high school diploma to earning at least a bachelor's degree. According to Utah State University's Substitute Teaching Institute and the Substitute Teaching Division (STEDI), most states require you to earn some form of licensure or permit to teach in a substitute capacity (www.stedi.org). You're recommended to research your state's board of education requirements for the most accurate information.

Though there are no national standards for substitute teachers, some college education is usually expected. Other prerequisites you might need to meet include health testing, a criminal background check, fingerprinting and skills testing. Most states have a minimum age requirement, and you might need to supply letters of recommendation.

What Education Do I Need?

Though formal training is not always required, you can take non-credit substitute certificate courses offered though some colleges and universities. The length of these programs vary from a single semester to a year. You could observe or aid a teacher as part of the program to gain practical experience. These courses could also be used as continuing education if your state requires it for your teaching license.

You can also earn a bachelor's degree in education. Many of these 4-year programs allow you to specialize in elementary or high school teaching. You'll usually participate in practicums as a teacher's aide or teach in a supervised capacity. If you already have a bachelor's degree, you could receive this academic training in a postbaccalaureate certificate or master's degree program. Many schools offer these certificate and degree programs online.

What Can I Expect from My Career?

You'll usually work on a short-term, day-to-day basis. As a certified substitute teacher, you'll be qualified to fill in for absent teachers in elementary and high school classrooms. You'll teach based on the lesson plans left by the teacher and enforce classroom management. You'll need to complete a written report to inform the regular teacher of what was covered and any issues you encountered.

Your salary could vary based where you live, the school district you teach in and your education level. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 substitute teachers made a median of $12.60 an hour or a mean of $29,760 per year. You could find permanent, long-term positions that offer health insurance plans and sick days, but are generally not represented by the teacher's union.

How Can I Further My Career?

If you're interested in advancing your career in the education field, you could consider enrolling in a teacher certification program to earn your teaching license. Most states offer provisional licensure if you haven't received any teacher training, though you'll usually need to complete an education program or earn a master's degree within a certain time period. Upon graduation, you'll have acquired enough experience to qualify for the certification exam. If you want to teach at the high school level, you'll usually need to earn a degree in the subject you want to teach.

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