Substitute teacher shows young children a book as children raise their hands

The Truth About the Salary of a Substitute Teacher

As a substitute teacher, your responsibilities will vary based on the assignment. Some teachers will leave you detailed lesson plans and expect you to continue instructing students in their absence. Others, however, will leave busy work or schedule a movie on sub days, in which case your assignment may feel more like babysitting than educating. Whatever you do on your work days, the National Substitute Teachers Alliance claims the average salary for it is around $105 per day. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this worked out to an average annual salary of $29,350 in 2013. There are many factors that can influence a substitute's salary, however.

Work Schedule

Substitute teachers are needed only when the full-time teacher is ill, in a meeting, dealing with an emergency, or unable to work for other reasons. This will affect your salary, as there will be days when there is no work for you. On the plus side, this gives you great flexibility in your schedule. This can be a negative, however, if your phone doesn't ring often enough and you rely on substituting as your sole source of income.

Qualifications

The education and certification requirements for substitute teachers vary by state. Some states, such as Alabama, Florida, Maine, and Vermont require only a high school diploma or GED. Others require a bachelor's degree or 60 semester hours of coursework at an accredited university. State teaching certification may also be required. Even when not required, be aware that more education often translates into more assignments, which means more money. It also increases the likelihood of getting long-term assignments, which often pay better. Many states set higher educational requirements for long-term substitutes and increase the pay rate on long assignments to reflect this.

Location

In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that substitute teachers earned the highest average annual wages in Alaska ($44,630), Hawaii ($44,220), Oregon ($43,220), California ($39,850), and Maryland ($37,690). Substitutes can often earn more if they work in areas experiencing substitute shortages, such as Illinois, New Hampshire, and Louisiana. Be wary of states like New Mexico, however, where the shortage of substitutes is attributed to low pay. You may also be able to find more long-term work and increase your earnings in states experiencing teacher shortages, such as Nebraska and Nevada, where many substitutes are enjoying long and lucrative contracts.

The National Substitute Teachers Alliance reports that the pay rate for substitute teachers ranges from an astonishingly low $20 per day to a lucrative $190 per day. Your location and education level will both impact your substitute teaching salary, as will the number of assignments that you accept. Because there are so many variables that affect substitute pay, you'll need to get the facts from local school districts and fellow substitutes before embracing this career. You can do well as a substitute teacher, but only if you do your homework.

Last Updated: April 14, 2015