How Do I Become a Substitute Teacher?

Learn how to get started as a substitute teacher in your local school district. Read on for more information about application and state requirements, job duties and professional challenges. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Substitute Teacher?

Substitute teachers fill in for a permanent, full-time teacher when they take a leave of absence due to illness, vacation, maternity leave, etc. They may work in public or private schools. Substitute teachers may fill in for a particular teacher for a day, week, month or whole school year. They enforce class rules and supervise students outside of the classroom, as well as handle any discipline issues. Substitute teachers typically follow a lesson plan left by the full-time teacher, and are expected to follow their instructions and teach the children to the best of their ability.

Education Required A high school diploma is common in many states; some states require a bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Education; elementary, middle or secondary education with subject-specific concentration
Key Responsibilities Teaching students in lieu of permanent teachers, taking disciplinary measures when necessary, filling out paperwork as needed
Licensure/Certification A substitute teaching license is sometimes required
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) 6% (for K-12 teachers)*
Median Hourly Wage (2016) $11.00 (for K-12 teachers)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Research What Substitute Teachers Do

Before you begin to fill out a job application, you might want to see if substitute teaching is a good fit for you. Becoming a school volunteer may help you determine if you like working with students and if you're comfortable in a classroom atmosphere. These visits can give you visibility and networking opportunities around the school as teachers and administrators learn your name and face.

As a substitute teacher, you'll ensure the continuity of education by performing an absent teacher's duties for a day or more. You may be called to teach on short notice, in which case you'll have to quickly familiarize yourself with the lesson plans. In addition to having a flexible schedule, you will also need to provide adequate supervision to a classroom full of students.

Learn About State Requirements for Substitute Teachers

Although educational requirements vary by state, many states require you to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some states require substitute teachers to have bachelor's degrees or at least some college-level experience. School districts often have additional requirements, so you may have to meet other qualifications, such as submitting to a background check, completing a certificate program or passing basic skills tests. You can contact your local school district to familiarize yourself with its specific requirements.

Apply for Substitute Teacher Positions

The substitute teacher application process can also vary according to state, but applications for most school districts are available on the school district's website or from the school where you'd like teach. Supporting documentation, including high school or college transcripts, may be required. You might find it helpful to know beforehand which subjects and grade levels you'd like to teach. A school's principal may need to nominate you before your application is processed.

Once your application has been accepted, you may have to pass through an interview stage. Some states will also require you to successfully complete a short training program. You could be able to bypass this training requirement if you have a teaching license or the necessary experience.

Begin Teaching

As you start substitute teaching, you might encounter challenges in different schools and classrooms. The Substitute Teaching Division recommends that you try to stay consistent, patient and fair as well as keep a sense of humor (www.stedi.org). When you gain experience and recognition in your school district, the demand for your skills may grow. Your substitute teaching ventures also represent a possible avenue toward becoming a regular teacher.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A childcare worker is a related job that only requires a high school diploma or equivalent. These workers care for and in some cases help educate children, while their parents or other family members are unavailable. Those interested in alternative careers may also consider becoming a particular kind of teacher, such as a special education teacher or middle school teacher. Special education teachers need a bachelor's degree and educate children with various kinds of mental, emotional, physical or behavioral disabilities. They often adapt lesson plans and work with children at their own pace. Middle school teachers also need a bachelor's degree and typically educate children in the 6th through 8th grades.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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