How to Become a Substitute Teacher in 5 Steps

Substitute teaching provides a way to gain teaching experience and make some income. Read on to learn about the various state requirements for substitute teachers, and get info about job options in this field. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Substitute Teacher?

Substitute teachers are qualified teachers with a bachelor's degree and a teaching license. These teachers do not assume daily responsibilities for the same class. They are available on-call to fill in for full-time teachers who are absent. In some cases, they may fill in for a few classes, or they may fill in for several days when a teacher will have a prolonged absence due to illness or personal matters. They are normally left with lesson material to instruct students, and they're provided with assignments for the students in their care to complete. They take attendance, teach the class, monitor student behavior and performance, address any issues within the class and assist students with their work.

Education Required Many states only require a high school diploma; in some states, a bachelor's degree is required
Education Field of Study Education; elementary, middle or secondary education with subject concentration
Key Skills Public speaking, organization, leadership, critical thinking
Licensure/Certification Substitute teaching licensure is sometimes required
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) 6% (for K-12 teachers)*
Median Hourly Wage (2016) $11.00 (for K-12 teachers)**

Step 1: Research Your Options

As an aspiring substitute teacher, you'll have to decide what subjects and age groups you'd like to teach. You can confer with regular teachers and experienced substitute teachers to explore these options. Substitute teaching has a flexible schedule; you can fill in for short-term absences or long-term personal leaves. Substitute teaching duties range from supervising students while they work on independent projects to teaching lesson plans and answering questions.

Step 2: Learn State Requirements

Educational requirements for substitute teachers vary by state, and you'll need to contact your school district for specific guidelines. Most states expect you to possess at least a high school diploma or GED, but you could be required to earn a bachelor's degree or college-level credits. Additionally, you might have to submit to a background check, complete a certificate program or pass a competency exam to qualify as a substitute teacher in some states.

Step 3: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Since many states require a college degree, you can give yourself a wider range of substitute teaching options by completing a bachelor's degree program. These programs typically take four years to complete, and you don't have to pursue a specific field of study to meet state requirements. As a student, you can seek courses covering topics that you'd be interested in teaching.

Step 4: Complete a Training Program

You might need to receive a recommendation from a school administrator before applying for a substitute teaching position. Be prepared to submit your transcripts and know which subjects, grade levels and days you'd be willing to teach. Many states or school districts require that you complete a mandatory training program, especially if you're new to the profession or you'll be providing long-term teaching services. In some cases. this requirement could be waived if you have adequate experience or a state teaching license.

Step 5: Start Working

Once your substitute teacher application has been accepted, you'll be called when your services are requested by a school. You could be asked to fill in for suddenly sick teachers on short notice, such as the evening before or the same day. As you gain experience in classroom management and lesson plan delivery, you might find your skills in higher demand. Substitute teaching can also be a possible gateway for you to advance into full-time teaching.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The work that preschool teachers do is similar to the work of a substitute teacher. They may also opt to work as a substitute and assist when a regular teacher is absent. They do not need a bachelor's degree, but an associate's degree is commonly required. Librarians may also perform duties that are similar to the work of a substitute teacher. School librarians may be asked to sit in with a class when a teacher is absent, or may supervise a group of students who are in the library for research projects. They usually need a master's degree. Teaching assistants also perform some tasks that are similar to the work of substitute teachers. They may need to lead a class during a teacher's absence, and perform tasks such as taking attendance, assisting students and monitoring student behavior. They do not need a degree, although some postsecondary training is common for these education professionals.

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