How to become a substitute teacher

Last updated: July 13, 2024
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Ashley Wilson
Bullet point
Content Manager at Jobcase
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How to become a substitute teacher
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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work as a substitute teacher?

Substitute teaching can be an amazing opportunity for part-time and even full-time employment.

But can just anyone become a substitute teacher? What responsibilities are involved? And how do you even begin to craft a resume that will help you stand out from other substitute teaching applicants?

Let’s uncover substitute teacher job responsibilities, what salary you can expect, which qualifications you need, and how to write a great resume to increase your chances of getting the job!

What is a substitute teacher?

Substitute teachers are the individuals who manage a classroom and provide instructions while the regular teacher is absent.

Typically, a substitute teacher will need to perform the same duties as the teacher for whom they are subbing. When you work as a substitute teacher, you’ll report to the principal of the school at which you work.

Substitute teachers often replace a teacher for a single day, but sometimes, it can be for a week, a month, or even for an entire school year. It all depends on the needs of the school and the length of absence of the regular teacher.

Due to the nature of the job, becoming a substitute teacher can provide a great part-time job. That’s because a part-time employee works under 30 hours a week, or fewer than 130 hours a month.

Substitute teacher job responsibilities

When you work as a substitute teacher, you’ll have similar responsibilities to the teacher you’re replacing. You’ll be responsible for the learning environment and the students in it.

Those responsibilities will vary depending on the length of the replacement and the instructions he/she provides. A long-term substitute will naturally have more responsibilities. For example, if you're replacing for an entire year, your substitute teacher job responsibilities may include grading students’ work, meeting with parents, etc.

No matter the length of the replacement, you’ll have the following responsibilities:

  • Follow the regular teacher’s lesson plans, curriculum, and classroom activities, and teach as instructed

  • Prepare educational materials when they aren’t already prepared

  • Keep the classroom tidy and clean

  • Handle classroom management and maintain order and respect in the classroom

  • Follow usual classroom and school procedures

  • Consult with the principal as needed if more support is required

  • Record all student attendances, but also keep track of accidents or incidents

  • Leave detailed notes for the regular teacher once you're done for the day

  • Protect the students, but also the equipment, materials, and school facilities by maintaining a safe classroom environment

  • Occasional other responsibilities such as lunch or recess duty may occur in elementary schools where you support another teacher in protecting the students.

When you show up to teach as a substitute, you'll also be required to maintain a professional appearance and demeanor.

Substitute teacher skills and experience requirements

The skills and experience you need to become a substitute classroom teacher depend on which state you want to teach in. Some states, like Arizona, California, and Ohio, require a bachelor’s degree for you to become a substitute teacher.

For other states, like Colorado and Utah, only a high school diploma, GED, or an equivalent is required.

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Several states — 27 in total — require a license, permit, or teaching certificate before you can start teaching.

Most states will also require a background check, which can include fingerprinting, criminal background checks, and drug screens.

In addition to these requirements, here are some of the soft skills you should focus on if you want to become a substitute teacher:

  • Punctuality

  • Empathy

  • Patience

  • The ability to remain calm but commanding

  • Discretion

  • Dependability

Substitute teacher salaries and employment rates

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for a substitute teacher is $17.35. The average annual wage is $36,090.

In 2020, 512,030 substitute teachers were employed in the US.

Most substitute educators get employed in elementary and secondary schools, but some also get employed in:

  • Employment services

  • Local government

  • Child care services

  • Educational support services

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The top-paying industries for substitute teachers are:

  • Business schools

  • Computer management training

  • Technical and trade schools

  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools

  • Junior colleges

  • Residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities

However, most of these industries have more requirements than at the elementary and high school levels.

What should a substitute teacher put on his/her resume?

Interested in taking on substitute teacher job responsibilities? Here are four tips to help you craft an effective resume to increase your chances of getting the job.

1. Show how adaptable you are

Substitute school teachers need to be adaptable people. Unlike a regular teacher who will teach the same classroom for a year (and perhaps more), substitute teachers could end up in any classroom on a daily basis. You will be expected to lead the classroom with the teacher's plans and keep your class in order.

You’ll also have to deal with a variety of students whose needs are vastly different from each other. Because of this, your resume needs to show that you’re capable of adapting to any teaching situation. If you don’t have experience as a substitute teacher, use some of your other work experiences to showcase your adaptability.

2. Include key skills that are important for teaching

While you should include the required education, you should also add skills that are crucial for teaching.

These can include:

  • Strong communication skills

  • Problem-solving

  • Creativity

  • Strong organizational skills

  • Tolerance and patience

  • Leadership

These skills will give you a competitive edge over other entry-level substitute teachers who don’t have them.

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3. Add your technology skills

Schools will also be interested in how you implement technology in the classroom. If you have experience with technology, make sure to include it in your resume.

In addition to writing down those skills, you can quickly explain how you used this technology to help your students learn to support your skills. For example, you can create multimedia lessons and presentations to fit a wider range of learning styles.

4. Show interest in professional development

Teachers need to constantly develop themselves and pursue lifelong learning. As a teacher, the learning NEVER stops.

As a substitute teacher, you should show interest in doing the same. Schools want someone dependable on whom they can rely for a long period of time. They can count on more than you showing up, but to do a great job.

If you show your interest in professional development and lifelong learning, you’ll indicate that you care about education and that you don’t see this work opportunity as a one-time way to make a quick buck.

Substitute teaching jobs hiring now

Substitute teaching opportunities pop up all the time on Jobcase. Check out all the available substitute teacher jobs near you so you can start applying quickly. However, before you do so always make sure to check with your state's department of education to look for any specific requirements they may have before you begin.

Take up substitute teacher job responsibilities and start a fruitful career

Becoming a substitute teacher can be a fulfilling job for those who enjoy helping kids learn and develop themselves. But if you’re interested in becoming a full-time teacher, becoming a substitute teacher is a great starting point that can evolve into a fruitful career with the proper education and certifications.

Would you consider becoming a substitute teacher?

1 Comment


Malcolm Magri
Bullet point
Controller at Magazine

excellent. I need the certificate though