Substitute Teacher: Career Definition, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Discover what is involved in being a substitute teacher. Read further for educational requirements, key skills, job growth and average salary to see if this could be a good career for you. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Substitute Teacher?

A substitute teacher fills in for regular teachers who may need to take time off. Substitute teachers need to be flexible and willing to teach any type of class. Their services could be utilized for one day, one week or a full school year.

They must be willing to perform all duties of the regular teacher until he or she returns to the classroom. Substitute teachers are valuable to the school system because they keep the educational process going when the regular teacher is absent. Therefore, the substitute teacher may have to grade papers, assist students with assignments, and maintain order in the classroom.

Check out the following chart to get a good idea of what is expected if you decide to become a substitute teacher:

Education Required Education requirements vary by state but most require a high school degree or equivalent
Key Skills Empathy with students, patience, good communication skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for all teaching assistants)*
Median Salary (2015) $26,830*

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is My Career Definition as a Substitute Teacher?

As a substitute teacher, you fill in for regular teachers as the need arises. Your temporary teaching time may range from a single day to a full semester, based on the reason for the regular teacher's absence. Your primary tasks include adhering to lesson plans designed by the absent teacher and providing supervision for students.

As you monitor students, you may give out assignments, correct student work, update attendance records and answer questions. Classes may open up on short notice, so you may have to keep a flexible schedule. You may teach a variety of subjects to different grade levels, and you are expected to be comfortable with maintaining discipline in a classroom atmosphere.

How Is My Occupational Outlook?

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that education, training and library occupations are expected to increase nationwide by 8% from 2014 to 2024. The BLS doesn't release outlook information specifically for substitute teachers, but an estimated 2014-2024 job growth of 6% is expected for teacher assistants.

Your substitute teaching endeavors may also be a gateway toward becoming a full-time teacher. Although wages vary, the national average pay for substitute teacher services was $105 per day, according to the National Substitute Teachers Alliance as of 2017 (www.nstasubs.org). The BLS reported that, as of 2015, the median yearly salary for substitute teachers was $26,830.

What Are My Education Prerequisites?

Substitute teacher requirements vary substantially by state, but most states expect you to have a high school diploma or its General Educational Development equivalent. Many states also require an undergraduate degree or college-level credits. You can earn a bachelor's degree in any subject to give yourself a wider range of substitute teaching opportunities in more locations. Additionally, your local school district may have its own requirements, so it's best for you to research the specific requirements for your chosen district.

Frequently, you may have to complete a competency exam and short-term training programs before being cleared to teach. There may also be increased requirements for long-term substitutes. However, if you already possess an educator's license, you may not have to complete these training requirements. As part of your substitute teacher application process, you generally need to submit to a background check, provide transcripts and pass a few medical tests.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

An education career that is closely aligned to substitute teaching is a teacher assistant. Teacher assistants most often work under the leadership and supervision of a teacher. The teacher assistant works with the teacher to help students better understand their lessons, as well as, give help to busy teachers during the school day. A teacher assistant is sometimes referred to as a teacher's aide (TA) or education assistant (EA). Some of the daily duties of a teacher assistant include tracking attendance, grading papers, and supervising students during breaks, lunch, and recess.

If you enjoy working with children you can explore being a childcare worker. These professionals provide care and instruction to children when their parents are not available. Childcare workers will perform bathing and feeding to small children and they can assist older children with homework assignments. Childcare workers should ensure the safety of children and help them develop routines that may include physical activity, playtime, and sleep. Childcare professionals work in childcare centers, primary schools or private homes of individuals. They need to possess a high school diploma or GED to enter the profession.

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