Substitute Teacher Education

Those seeking careers as a substitute often do not need to meet the same requirements as full time teachers. Depending on the state one resides guidelines, many can be substitute teachers with an associate’s degree. Due to the shortage of substitute teachers many states only require a background check, associates degree, or even a high school diploma. As there are many options available to a substitute teacher, read on to learn more about entering the substitute profession in your state. Here are some helpful tips about substitute teachers:

  • Age – One must be at least 18 years of age. The flexibility within a substitute-teaching career also includes retired educators who wish to remain active in the teaching community.
  • Most states require a substitute teacher to have worked at least twenty (20) hours per calendar year to remain active, as well as a substitute certificate.
  • Substituting can be an excellent alternative job for those outside of education or relocating to a different state to teach.
  • Substitutes tend to work on a “need” basis.
  • The benefit to being a substitute teacher in any state is the possible option to become a provisional (full-time or part-time) teacher if proved worthwhile for both schools and teacher.

It is a fact. Educators are human and may become ill, need personal time, or vacations during the school year. As teachers, the classroom and students depend on you regardless of what personal matters may be at hand. As a substitute teacher, one is able to provide coverage at various lengths of commitments while continuing on the regular classroom routine. If you’ve thought about becoming a teacher, you might find that being a substitute teacher is an excellent first step. Substitute teacher requirements have a wide variety from state to state, so always check with your local district or state’s teacher oversight board for the exact requirements that might apply to you.

Topics On This Page

1. Get The Right Substitute Teaching Education

Substitute teachers come in two types:

  • Regular, licensed, certified or long-term substitute teachers are those who make a career out of filling in for regular teachers that need leave time. These positions require a candidate to complete a traditional teacher education program as set by the state. This may be a bachelor’s degree in education, or the completion of a post-baccalaureate credential/certification program.
  • Emergency or short-term substitute teachers are designed to provide brief coverage for teacher absences. Candidates for these positions don’t need to complete the same degree process that a regular teacher does. While a full-time teacher needs to complete a formal education process (that includes a degree or credential in teaching or education), you can be a short-term substitute teacher with the degree you already have.

Not all states delineate between the two types of substitute teachers, and some states let individual districts set the requirements for their substitute teachers. In some states the requirements are exactly the same as a regular, full-time teacher. Most states require that a substitute teacher have a bachelor’s degree, although there are a few that will register a substitute teacher with an associate’s degree or a certain number of college course hours, and several that require only a high-school diploma. In the cases of emergency or short-term credentials, there are no requirements that your degree be in education, and most states do not limit being a substitute teacher in the area where you hold your degree.

2. Take the Required Teaching Exam

There are two types of examinations a full-time teacher may need to pass: a basic skills test, or a subject area test. In many cases, the tests have multiple components and a full-time teacher will need to pass them all. The requirements for substitute teachers passing the examinations are set by the states. In some cases, the substitute teacher license requires the same eligibility as a regular full-time teacher, so passing the full series of examinations is necessary. But in some states substitute teachers are only required to pass a basic skills test for academics (reading, writing, mathematics) or an examination on local laws. In many states one can apply to be a substitute teacher without passing any examinations at all.

3. Experience and Other Requirements

In any state that requires substitute teachers to meet standard teaching requirements, the education program will include a thorough rotation of student teaching experiences. In those states that do not require their substitute teachers to meet the regular requirement, experience requirements vary. Some states want to see that a candidate has had some experience working with children before he or she can apply to become a substitute teacher, others do not.

Some state will require the candidate to complete an orientation or training program sponsored by the school district before an application to be licensed or registered as a substitute teacher will be processed, Additionally, some states have age requirements for substitute teachers.

4. Get the right Teaching License, Credential or Certification

In some states substitute teachers apply with the local district, and in some the application is made with the state’s educational oversight department. This may be a state board of education or professional standards board. The requirements vary greatly depending on the type of substitute teacher’s license you are interested in attaining. In a state where the substitute teacher’s license is dependent on meeting the same criteria as a regular, full-time teacher, or if you are applying for a regular or long-term substitute teacher license, you’ll need to meet the mandated education requirements and pass all required examinations.

Applications for substitute teaching licenses may require the following:

  • proof of education
  • proof of passing the required tests (if any are required)
  • a background check
  • fingerprinting
  • completing an application
  • paying a fee

In most states, the license or certificate has a validity period. Some states issue the substitute teaching license for one calendar or academic year, some states issue the permit for as many as five years. Renewal practices also vary by state, with some allowing a substitute teacher to complete a renewal application, and some requiring that a candidate fully re-apply for the license or certificate. There are states that only allow a substitute teacher certification to be issued once, and then require candidates to pursue regular teaching licenses. If your state’s substitute teacher requirements are the same as regular teacher requirements, you may be required to complete a specified number of continuing education hours in order to apply for renewal.

5. Going from substitute teacher to full-time teacher

Once you’ve spent some time in a classroom learning the ropes, you may decide that you want to be a teacher full-time.

If you live in a state that required you to meet the full-time teacher requirements, or if you’ve received a long-term substitute teacher license, you’ll already have completed the necessary education and passed the state mandated tests. In this situation, you may be working in a district that did not have openings right away, and now you’ve proven yourself to be a valuable and dedicated addition to the school’s education team. You’re probably in an excellent position to apply for a regular position when one becomes available.

If your license is a short-term or emergency type and you did not complete your state’s education curriculum to receive it, you’ll need to expand your education in order to become a full-time teacher. How this happens depends on your state’s requirements and what age and subject you are most interested in. You may need to pursue a second bachelor’s degree, or you may need to complete a post-baccalaureate credential/certification program. If you want to teach in the area where you hold an existing bachelor’s degree, your state may offer an endorsement program that allows you to use your existing degree to meet many of the education requirements. However, if your choice to become a full-time teacher requires that you pursue additional education, you may find that your experience as a substitute teacher enhances your application to a teacher education program. Some programs for teachers are very competitive, and experience with teaching demonstrates commitment and dedication to a profession that takes its position of trust in our society very seriously.