How to Become a Substitute Teacher

Entering into the educational field is a decision that many people make. However, you aren't relegated to only one option if you want to venture into this niche. Some people decide to pursue full-time jobs at a university, but others may opt to act as substitutes. When the latter field intrigues you, learning the answers to important questions can help you to decide if the field is right for you.

How do I become a substitute teacher for preschool?

Generally, you need to have a degree in order to teach at a school. Therefore, you would have to attend a university and obtain a degree in early childhood education. Depending on the school, you may need to procure a degree in a second major as well. You may also have to obtain a graduate degree. Sometimes, an undergraduate degree allows you to work for a certain number of years; then, you have to obtain the graduate degree within that period of time to maintain your certification.

How do I become a substitute teacher for elementary school?

When you want to become a substitute teacher for elementary school, the requirements are similar to becoming a substitute teacher for preschool. However, your degree would be in elementary education as opposed to early childhood education. This degree usually allows you to teach kindergarten through seventh grade.​

What is the difference between a temporary and permanent substitute?

If you decide that you want a job as a sub, you need to define what exactly your goals are. Most schools have both temporary and permanent substitutes. A temporary sub is a person who is called to take the place of a particular teacher. You may receive phone calls late at night or early in the morning to ask if you can come in. You may be expected to be on-call. If you work as a permanent sub, you will report to the school every day. Then, the school will place you in a different classroom depending upon where the need is. If no teachers are out, you might act as a study hall monitor.

Which type can lead to a permanent sub?

Either type of substitute can lead to a permanent job; however, permanent sub jobs are more likely to help you reach this end. Since you have a presence in one school on a regular basis, you have a better chance to make connections. If you work as a temporary sub, you may be move from school to school within the district each day that you are called into work. Furthermore, you might not be in the school each day. A permanent sub position more fully exposes you to the environment of the school.

Are there different requirements by state?

When it comes to teaching, you will find that the requirements vary by state. Some states may have corresponding requirements, so you may not have to do anything more if you work in one of them. In other cases, you may need to take additional courses or examinations to make sure that you are certified to work in that state. Looking into the requirements of your home state and school is important, but you also need to consider if you want to work in those areas.

Are public and private schools different?

You are also likely to find that public and private schools vary regarding requirements. Public schools need to follow the requirements of the state whereas private schools usually have more freedom. The private schools may, however, still choose to follow the state requirements. On the other hand, they may allow you to work as a substitute even if you do not have a degree in education.

How long does obtaining a degree take?

If you want to work as a substitute, you may need to wait a period of time before you start doing so. In the event that you do not have a college education at all, then you will likely have to go through a four-year program. The graduate portion takes an additional two years. During that time, you will likely also have to student teach.

What is student teaching?

Student teaching is an experience that helps you to prepare for the real-world experience of the classroom. Other career paths encourage students to pursue internships; student teaching is essentially your internship. In most cases, student teaching will take up the last semester of your study. You will be expected to spend your days in the classroom. Therefore, even if you are not planning to teach full-time in the future, you may need to do so now.

What if I want to substitute for special classes?

You may want to act as a substitute for art, music or theater classes, or your interests may lie in other areas. In these cases, you usually need to have a degree in the subject area. At private schools or in some states, you may find that you can teach these classes without an education degree as long as you have a degree in the area of interest.

Are there any benefits?

If your considering a career shift into teaching, you should recognize that substitute teachers have very different benefits from full-time teachers. If you are a temporary substitute, then you are unlikely to receive many benefits from the school if any at all. As a permanent substitute, you may have limited benefits.

What is the salary?

The pay for substitutes is usually per diem. You are paid for the days that you work; therefore, you do not receive a salary in the traditional sense of the word. Permanent substitutes might receive a salary, but you are still usually only paid for the number of hours or class periods that you are there each day. The pay is also going to vary by state and the type of school, public or private, in which you work. Public schools tend to pay more than private schools do.

Why would you substitute?

The decision to substitute is one that might lead you to a full career in teaching. You may love substituting so much that you decide to pursue the job at a higher degree. However, you may also have a job that you already love but know that you could be good at teaching too. Substituting can offer you a flexible schedule. Having a passion for teaching and not acting on it can leave you with regrets.

What skills do you need?

You need to have lots of patience when you are working with young children. Furthermore, you have to be aware of the curriculum of the school and the district in general so that you know how to properly prepare your students. Strong public speaking skills and confidence are essential too. If the students can tell that you do not know the subject matter well, then they may doubt your abilities as a teacher. You also need strong problem-solving skills. Issues are going to arise in the classroom that you cannot plan for. Still, you must be a highly organized person who is also willing to execute the lesson plans that the regular teacher leaves for you each day.