A substitute teacher shows a student something interesting on a tablet

How to Get Started in Substitute Teaching

Many educators agree: substitute teaching can be a rewarding and inspiring career. Either as a stepping-stone to full-time teaching or a flexible career path in itself, substitute teaching is a relatively easy field to enter. The specific requirements to become a substitute teacher vary among states, school districts, and types of schools. However, the general information you need to know remains the same. If you’re interested in “subbing,” your first step is teaching yourself how you can land the first job.

Whereas full-time teaching positions generally expect applicants to hold advanced or specialized degrees, the educational background of substitute teachers is often far more varied. Exactly what you need to show on your resume will vary from one school district to the next, so it’s worth looking into the expectations of the districts closest to you. In many cases, substitute teachers only need to hold a bachelor’s degree, which may be in any subject. In more competitive areas, you may be expected to hold a license in education. Since many individuals use substitute teaching to transition from non-teaching fields to education, it’s often possible to undergo an accelerated training program, which awards a substitute teaching degree in as little as 30 days.

In addition to your educational background, most school districts will expect you to submit a resume and references from past employers. In some cases, you will also be expected to undergo a police background check and/or a drug use test. In general, the stringency of the hiring process depends on the particular profile of your local school district. In places where there is a high demand for substitutes, even the bachelor’s degree requirement may be reduced to partial completion of college-level coursework. In other places, where the competition for subbing positions is more intense, you may need to hold a teaching degree and have classroom experience.

In order to land your first substitute teaching job, your first step is to check on the exact expectations of your prospective employer. In most cases, you can find all substitute teaching requirements on the human resources page of your local school district’s website. If you live in commuting distance of multiple counties, it’s often worth checking on the policies of each school district. You may find that a slightly further commute entitles you to a more lucrative position. Likewise, it’s often worth contacting local independent schools. In many cases, private schools set lower requirements for substitute teachers than public school districts do. If you have experience related to a particular school subject, or you have other teaching experience, a smaller independent school may be highly interested in hiring you for their classrooms. Once you’ve identified the requirements of local employers, submit your application to join their roster of substitute teachers.

In essence, substitute teaching is a relatively easy position to attain. Once hired, remember to take as many subbing jobs as possible and build up your reputation in the county, so you can eventually qualify for their most appealing offerings.

Last Updated: April 15, 2015