How To Become a Substitute Teacher

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Education
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Before you become a full-time teacher, it’s a good idea to learn how to become a substitute teacher. This type of teaching position is a great choice for those wanting some experience with teaching without going through the schooling.

You can become a substitute teacher and get an idea of what it would be like to be a teacher. This is also a good position for someone looking for part-time work on an as-needed basis. Most substitute teachers do it for a little extra money and for the experience.

If you like the idea of working with students, this might be a good option for you. Let’s look at the job duties of a substitute teacher and how you can become one.

How To Become a Substitute Teacher

Job Duties of a Substitute Teacher

As a substitute teacher, you will be an educator in charge of leading the class. You will step in when the permanent teacher is placed on a short-term leave or is absent for another reason. Sometimes, it could be due to maternity leave, an illness, or another reason.

Usually, the permanent teacher will leave behind a lesson plan you will follow as the substitute teacher. You may work with multiple age groups as a substitute. Most substitute teachers will work at multiple schools, as well.

Your job duties may be impacted by how long you will need to be a substitute for the same class. It may also depend on the subject and grade level you will be filling in for. Some of the common duties include:

There are many job duties you might need to take on as a substitute teacher. It will depend on how long you will be with the same class, the grade level, and the subject of the course.

If you become a long-term substitute teacher, you will likely create lesson plans and grade assignments, too. This type of substitute teaching position will require more qualifications and comes with more job duties.

How to Become a Substitute Teacher in 3 Steps

Step #1 – Meet Your State’s Requirements

Every state is different when it comes to the requirements for substitute teachers. In some cases, a high school diploma or GED is all you will need. Other states may require you to hold an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree.

Some of the common requirements you will find in most states include:

The actual requirements will be determined by your state. Make sure you check the requirements before you try to apply to become a substitute teacher.

Step #2 – Get your Bachelor’s Degree (if required)

You may need a bachelor’s degree or some college credit hours to become a substitute teacher. This will depend on your state. If this is the case, you will need to get your degree or complete the necessary college courses.

In some cases, you will need a degree in the area you plan to sub for. Other states will use you at specific grade levels based on the type of degree you have. If you want to become a long-term substitute teacher, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree in the areas that you will be teaching.

Step #3 – Become Licensed or Certified

After meeting all the state requirements, you will need to become licensed as a substitute teacher. This may require specialized training or even passing the right examination. In some states, you will need a specialized permit, such as Illinois and Ohio.

The training will often include an orientation program with instruction on leading lessons and classroom management. You will gain the help you need to become better prepared for the classroom with this training.

If you have to pass an exam, you will likely need to study classroom management, instruction techniques, and pedagogy. Other topics may also be covered on the exam and will be discussed during the training program.

Necessary Skills to Become a Substitute Teacher

If you want to work as a substitute teacher, you will need the right skills. Some of the most common skills you need include:

These skills will help you be successful as a substitute teacher.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Substitute Teacher

How much can I make as a substitute teacher?

The average hourly pay for substitute teachers is about $15, according to Some school systems pay more with top systems paying over $20 per hour for substitute teachers.

Your location will also help to determine how much you can make as a substitute teacher. New York City pays the highest with Los Angeles and Las Vegas both paying above the national average.

If you have the right certifications, you might be able to make more as a substitute teacher. BC/BE certification is the top option with the ESOL and ESL certification also helping you earn more.

How often will I get paid as a substitute teacher?

You will likely get paid weekly or monthly. It will depend on the school system you work for and how they pay. Some may give you a choice on how often you get paid, while others may not.

Do substitute teachers become permanent teachers?

Yes, it’s possible to use substitute teaching as a way to enter a career as a teacher. Of course, you will need to be certified to become a permanent teacher for the subject and grade level you are subbing for.

Do I need a teaching degree to work as a substitute teacher?

No. You can become a substitute teacher without completing a teaching degree. You don’t even need to complete any type of teaching education program. Substitute teachers don’t have to meet the same requirements as a permanent teacher.

How many hours will I work as a substitute teacher?

Your hours will likely vary depending on how much need the school system has for substitutes. You will most likely work Monday through Friday, but you may only get called on to sub once or twice a week. Sometimes, you might get called all five days per week.

Most school systems will have you working six to seven hours per day when you sub.

Do I need a college degree to become a substitute teacher?

While you don’t need a college degree to become a substitute teacher, you will need one if you want to become a long-term substitute teacher. This will require a bachelor’s degree or higher. A long-term substitute teacher has to be able to get a license good for five years.

About 54% of substitute teachers hold a bachelor’s degree with 29% holding a high school diploma or GED. Only 13% have an associate’s degree and another 4% do hold a Master’s degree.

If you’re considering a career as a teacher, learning how to become a substitute teacher can provide many benefits. It’s not only a good way to make some money while waiting for a teaching position to open up, but it’s also a great way to gain some experience. Check your state requirements and follow the steps above to become a substitute teacher.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.