How to Become a Substitute Teacher

Janelle Cox
Janelle Cox
M.S. in Education
Teacher in front of classrom instructing students

If you’re looking for a flexible job working with students, then pursuing a job as a substitute teacher may be a good job opportunity for you. You’ll get the chance to determine if teaching is the right career path without full-time teaching responsibilities. In addition, it allows you to learn the ropes and make connections that may lead to a full-time teaching position.

What Does a Substitute Teacher Do?

A substitute teacher job description is essentially an on-call teacher who fills in for a full-time teacher who cannot teach the class or is absent from work. As a substitute teacher, you can work part-time and the days you’d like to work or accept a longer-term position if a teacher goes out on leave.

To engage students while temporarily filling in for the permanent classroom teacher, you will have to follow the same specific duties and responsibilities of that as the classroom teacher.

These may include things such as the following:

  • Managing classroom behavior
  • Carrying out classroom procedures
  • Implementing and interpreting lesson plans
  • Supervising students both in and out of the classroom
  • Assigning homework
  • Taking attendance
  • Complying with classroom and school policies

Substitute Teacher Requirements: Skills

A job as a substitute teacher is a logical choice for those seeking a career in education. Still, those seeking a career outside of the education realm will also benefit from the many skills you will gain during this job position.

Specific skills include:

Public Speaking

Speaking in front of children can be less intimidating for some, and can help boost your confidence in engaging with an audience.

Time Management

You must pay close attention to the school schedule and will have a list of activities to accomplish in a specific amount of time.


You must be able to quickly adapt to any age, grade, and situation you are given at any point and time.

Problem Solving

You will be presented with a multitude of unanticipated situations throughout the day and need the ability to think on your feet.


It takes leadership skills to keep 20-30 students engaged all day long.


Being organized and prepared ahead of time will help the day go more smoothly and help prevent behavior issues.

Substitute Teacher Requirements: Education

Requirements vary by each state and school district. Some states that do not have any regulations for substitute teachers leave it up to the individual school districts to decide on the requirements. A common requirement is a high school diploma or passing a proficiency exam. Other states may require a bachelor’s degree or a teaching license.

However, unlike other states for example, New York state does not have a minimum education requirement or require a certificate or permit to substitute teach. What they do require is a criminal background check. Also, in the state of New York, if you do not hold a teaching certificate or are not working towards one then you are only allowed to work 40 days in a school district per year.

Check with the individual school districts in which you want to teach or consult your board of education for the best way to find out the specific requirements you need to pursue a substitute teaching job.

Why Should You Consider Substitute Teacher Jobs?

Taking a job as a substitute teacher can be an excellent career move if you plan on becoming a certified teacher. Not only are you gaining valuable teaching experience, but you’re also networking with other teachers and administrators which is a great way to get your foot in the door. That alone will improve your chances of landing a full-time teaching career.

As a sub, you also get to set your schedule so if you’re a stay-at-home parent or want to work on your master’s degree while gaining experience, this job position will allow for that. Beyond its flexibility, you get the opportunity to choose which grades and subjects you want to teach, which is a great way to learn what you enjoy teaching the most.

In addition to the experience you will receive, and the flexibility of the job, you will also benefit from a steady salary. Typically, substitute teachers make a set sum of money for each day that they work. Each school district decides upon its pay scale for substitute teacher salary.

If you’re considering becoming a substitute teacher jobs, then you can start the process by researching where you specifically want to substitute teach. This is important because as mentioned earlier, every state and school district differ in their requirements.

Once you meet your state or district’s requirements, you can apply as a substitute teacher. You will have to apply directly to a school or district and complete an application to be considered for the position. Once this is all in order, you can begin accepting assignments as a substitute teacher.

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