Shape the future: how to become a substitute teacher (2024)

Last updated: April 23, 2024
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Shape the future: how to become a substitute teacher (2024)
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If you’re looking for a job that will make a difference in your community and one that fits into your busy schedule, substitute teaching could be right for you.

Substitute teaching is a rewarding career that provides you with a work-life balance that you can’t find just anywhere. In this part-time, as-needed position, you’ll interact with children of all ages on a manageable schedule.

At Jobcase, we’ve compiled resources that offer insights into the substitute teaching field, including a substitute teacher’s typical daily routine, how to become a substitute teacher, and salary expectations.

Whether you’re a retired teacher, a college graduate, or a stay-at-home mom looking to get back into the workforce, a substitute teaching career might match your lifestyle perfectly. So feel free to check it out!

What is a substitute teacher?

Can you imagine stepping in and delivering a prepared lesson plan with flair? That’s exactly what you’ll be doing as a substitute teacher!

In short, substitute teachers are responsible for teaching lessons prescribed by students’ regular teachers.

And one of the best parts is that these professionals get to teach a variety of subjects to a variety of grade levels, which keeps things fresh and interesting.

Curious about how to become a substitute teacher and what the job entails? You've come to the right place! Let’s dive into the daily responsibilities that make this job an impactful and rewarding one.

A substitute teacher’s duties include managing classroom behavior. In this position, you’ll need to establish your authority and maintain order in the classroom. While this feels challenging, initially, a little bit of creativity and patience will help you promote positive interactions and foster an environment conducive to learning.

And promoting positive interactions is a key aspect of ensuring your students’ emotional well-being, as it helps create an inclusive atmosphere that encourages teamwork while supporting individual growth.

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Another dimension to your responsibilities as a substitute teacher is ensuring the safety of your students. Safety includes everything from handling minor injuries to supervising safe evacuation during emergencies. Consider yourself your students’ classroom guardian.

Of course, there are also administrative duties to consider. As a substitute teacher, you’ll take attendance, leave notes for the regular teacher about the day’s events, and follow special instructions. Sound like a lot? Don’t worry — you’ll soon become a multitasking pro!

If you find yourself in a long-term substitute position, you’ll be taking on even more responsibility. You’ll be responsible for it all — planning lessons, grading assignments, and maybe even attending parent-teacher conferences.

Yes, a lot goes on in a substitute teacher’s day. But the great thing about this career is that you’re in control of what jobs you accept — you can accept assignments for specialty classes like art or drama, or choose jobs solely in your preferred area. You also have the flexibility to decide if you want to work part-time or full-time. And, you can also accept jobs across grade levels.

Essentially, the variety and flexibility of substitute teaching makes it a career that can fit your lifestyle while allowing you to make a real difference in students’ lives.

The substitute teacher roadmap: your 7-step guide

Now that you know what a substitute teacher does, let’s dive into the world of substitute teaching? We’ll break down the process step by step, highlighting different paths you can take along the way.

1. Meet the basic requirements

Before anything else, you’ll need to meet some basic criteria. Generally, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED. You must also be at least 18 years old (though some states require you to be 21).

Some states and districts require substitute teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, while others may only need a certain number of college credits. Some areas have even lowered their requirements to the basics due to substitute teacher shortages.

It’s worth researching the specific requirements in your area before jumping into the next steps of this guide. Consider choosing your preferred school district and heading to their website to find out more about what you’ll need to qualify!

2. Gain experience and undergo training

Once you’ve met the basic requirements and checked out your specific district’s rules, it’s time to hone your teaching skills.

While formal teacher training isn’t always required, many districts offer training programs for prospective substitute teachers. These programs typically cover classroom management, teaching strategies, and legal issues.

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For districts that don’t require teacher training, another path to consider is to gain valuable experience through volunteer work or working as a teaching assistant. This hands-on approach helps you learn classroom dynamics and teaching techniques.

3. Pass a background check

Safety first, right? Schools must provide a secure learning environment, meaning teachers, including substitute teachers, must pass a criminal background check.

Requirements may vary by state and school district, so prepare yourself for fingerprinting and any other necessary steps. Some districts may require a wellness check or vaccinations, too.

4. Obtain a substitute teaching license or permit

You’re almost there! You’ll need a license or permit to work as a substitute teacher.

This process varies by state but generally involves submitting an application, paying a fee, and providing proof of your education and training. Some states provide an emergency 30-day substitute teaching permit to get you going.

If you already have a valid teaching license, check with your state to see how that license can transfer to a substitute license. Some states make exceptions for former teachers transitioning back into the labor force or retired teachers who want to return part-time.

5. Apply for positions in your area

Now comes the exciting part! With your license in hand, it’s time to apply for positions in your desired district.

We know job hunting can be daunting, but remember that persistence is key — so keep applying until you land that dream job Tailor your resume and cover letter to showcase your passion for teaching and any relevant experience you have, including volunteer work or teaching assistant roles.

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If resume writing seems too scary, let Jobcase help you create a resume. It’s easier than you think!

6. Ace the interview

Got an interview lined up? Congratulations! To make a lasting impression, brush up on your knowledge of the district’s policies and curricula.

Be prepared to discuss your teaching philosophy and share specific examples of how you’ve managed challenging situations. For instance, how would you handle a student who refuses to participate in a group activity?

Your answer to this question would also be a great time to talk about your vision of a productive classroom (hint: your teaching philosophy).

Nervous? Just take a deep breath and let your enthusiasm for teaching shine through.

7. Continue your professional development

Once you’re on the job, don’t stop learning Pursue professional development opportunities to stay current on best practices and enhance your skills, especially if your district offers courses or training.

There’s often no requirement for professional development, but we’re guessing that you love learning since you’ve chosen a teaching career. Schools look for exceptional substitutes, so expanding your horizons and delving into new teaching techniques can boost the number of job offers you receive.

And that’s it! Yes, there are several steps that make up this process, but just think how prepared you'll be to stand in front of a classroom. Remember, it’s not just about ticking off boxes — it’s about embracing a fulfilling and impactful career.

Mastering the craft: top skills every substitute needs

So you’ve got the basics down, but what skills do you need to excel as a substitute teacher? Let’s delve into the key traits that’ll set you apart and help you make a lasting impact in the classroom.

Adaptability and problem-solving go hand-in-hand with substitute teaching. You’ll be navigating ever-changing situations and tackling unexpected challenges. Embrace the unknown, think on your feet, and use your creativity to find solutions when things don’t go according to plan.

But problem-solving won’t be the only place creativity is crucial. As a substitute teacher, you have the unique opportunity to incorporate excitement into your lessons. By thinking outside the box, you’ll engage your students and create memorable learning experiences for them.

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Effective communication encompasses a range of skills, including listening, observation, and communication. As a substitute teacher, you must articulate complex ideas in a way that students can easily understand.

Pay attention to their concerns and questions, and observe their nonverbal cues to create a supportive learning environment. Students will rely on you to set the tone of each lesson.

Patience and empathy are essential for building rapport with your students. There’s a reason for the phrase "patience is a virtue!" It’s difficult to keep your composure during challenging situations and provide students with the space and time they need to grasp complex concepts.

But it’s through patience that you’ll allow yourself to slow down and have the empathy to connect with students on a deeper level. And this empathy is the key to understanding their individual needs and emotions.

These two skills combined create a supportive classroom community where students feel heard, appreciated, and encouraged to reach their full potential.

And with that patience comes time management. As a substitute teacher, you’ll juggle multiple tasks simultaneously. Effective time management is essential for keeping lessons on track and ensuring that you’ve taken care of all the required administrative duties.

So, to be a successful substitute teacher, practice being an adaptable problem-solver — someone who uses patience, empathy, and creativity to communicate effectively. And dust off those time-management skills.

While this might sound like a lot, you’ll be well on your way to making a difference in your students’ lives.

Substitute teaching: paychecks, job growth, and more

Wondering about the financial side of substitute teaching? Let’s take a look at the salary, job outlook, and regional variations for substitute teaching.

Because substitute teaching is often done on a part-time, as-needed basis, the average annual salary as of 2021 was around $29,360, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Salary can vary significantly, depending on your location, experience, and education.

For instance, states like Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii offer higher pay rates, with some areas reaching up to $52,000 per year. So, location matters. And if you’re only looking for supplemental income, the average salary of just over $29,000 could be perfect for you.

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Another factor that influences substitute teacher pay is the type of school district. Urban districts with a higher cost of living often pay more than rural districts. Additionally, long-term substitute positions sometimes offer more compensation than day-to-day assignments.

But keep in mind that since substitute teaching positions are classified as part-time, they rarely come with benefits.

Though the BLS doesn’t break down the job outlook for substitute teachers specifically, it does look at teaching assistants as a whole. With that in mind, the job outlook for substitute teachers is generally positive, with an expected growth rate of 5% from 2021 to 2031.

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This growth is on par with the average for all occupations. Some states, like Texas, California, and New York, have a higher demand for substitute teachers, so it’s worth considering where the best opportunities are for you.

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You should also keep in mind that the demand for substitute teachers can fluctuate depending on factors like school budgets, teacher retirements, and population growth.

Areas with growing student populations and teacher shortages may offer more opportunities for substitute teachers. And certain subjects, such as the special education and STEM fields, might have a higher demand for substitutes.

The bottom line is that it’s important to do your research. The salary and job outlook for substitute teachers depend on various factors, including location, experience, education, and school district. Check with districts in your area to determine whether substitute teaching would be a practical option for your lifestyle.

The final bell: weighing your options

We know this isn’t an easy decision. You might be sitting there, sipping your coffee and wondering if you have what it takes to step into a classroom and make a difference.

You might be imagining the challenges you’ll face, the unpredictable days, and the responsibility of shaping young minds. And that’s completely natural.

Take a moment to remember what brought you here in the first place. Think about the opportunity to inspire and empower students, the flexibility to create your own schedule, and the chance to experience different school environments. Imagine the joy of witnessing a student’s "aha!" moment and knowing you played a part in that.

Our team at Jobcase has armed you with valuable information on how to become a substitute teacher, the daily responsibilities, the required skills, and the salary and job outlook. You now have the tools to make an informed decision, weigh the pros and cons, and determine whether this career path aligns with your aspirations.

So are you ready to start looking for a career as a substitute teacher? Visit our job board. Your future students await!

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